My Rural Lithuania: Soon to be Gone

Photos and text: © Tadas Kazakevicius


    “My Rural Lithuania: Soon to be Gone” series was inspired by the ongoing process that I saw happening when I came back to Lithuania after living in United Kingdom for almost 5 years. Lithuanian coutryside was dissapearing and dissapearing fast. Of course I saw this process earlier (I believe as soon as we got our independance), but at that moment I believe I was not moved by it so much.

    In 2013 I started to work on this theme and I carry it further. It is the theme that touches me very personally as somehow I really romanticise the rural human. I believe this romantisation started from the moment I saw the work of FSA photography department (Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange) work created during Great Depression Era in USA. Just because of it, americans can still see how coutryside and rural life looked when it still existed. I understood that it needs to be done here, because sooner or later rural side of Lithuania will be just something that we used to know.

    Somehow I find it very logical to put this work on a negative film, to have it as some sort of material as a prove of it and that is why I work with my beloved medium format cameras. It is an appropriate tool for that kind of slow work I am doing. All the talking, spending time together with people I photographed, all the work they do that I record on the film is not for zeros and ones.

    It is almost over 5000 km that I already travelled with my motorbike. And believe, it is a long journey for a motorbike that goes not faster than 50km/h. Still I find it very rewarding as I am not in a rush and a long trip to different regions sometimes takes ages but that’s how people are met and I believe I will not change anything about it. Do not forget, Lithuania is 5 times smaller than Germany and 5000km is a lot of roads. A lot of unpaved roads.

    But travelling on this trip takes me on my own memory lane. Reminds me of something I forgot from my childhood. Men with horses collecting hay, women taking care of their children, the smell of the fresh milk or freshly plucked chicken to be cooked in an oven with fresh potatoes from the garden. And I believe in these pictures we all find something very personal, we all at some moment had a touch with the soil and somehow we lost it on our way.

  • Official “My Rural Lithuania: Soon to be Gone” description

    As far back as in the 1930s, during the times of the Great Depression in the United States, a group of photographers such as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and Jack Delano, led by Roy Stryker, Head of the Farm Security Administration (FSA), kept restlessly recording views which were soon destined to fade into obscurity. The continuous migration of people moving around in search of easier conditions of life was relentlessly changing the demographical map of the States: homesteads, villages, small towns were disappearing right before the eyes. All this was photographed and put into extensive archives – the effort of those photographers proved not to have been in vain.

    A somehow different (thought the outcome is quite similar) process is ongoing in the present-day Lithuania too. Neither in the scope nor the conditions of life should those two situations be compared, though something still prompts us to look for similarities.

    Just within the last decade, this continuous migration has caused the population of Lithuania to shrink by almost one sixth. Towns that have usurped the whole economics and are sucking out young people to the cities, inappropriate lifestyle often adopted by the young rural generation – those who are still here – all this is inexorably changing our country. Just one question inevitably arises: for how long will our forests and valleys be adorned by views of homesteads and villages – places where a totally different understanding of time and closeness still exists? For how long will there still be found places where an unexpected visitor is met like a close relative and every passer-by is greeted with a heartfelt ‘hello’?

    Every time a thought like that crosses my mind, I, as a photographer, am driven by an instinct to hurry and turn those symbols and places into something more than just memories in the stories of future grandparents. Though a recorded image is incapable of reviving what has been lost, it still lets us remember something that perhaps once, while speeding by, momentarily caught our eye at the roadside. Maybe this monument to the Lithuanian countryside will evoke some sentimentality from the viewer and touch those deeply hidden corners in the memory which we, seemingly inadvertently, have closed up, being used to accept what can be gone very quickly.