The Images of Feasts in Lithuanian Humanist and Contemporary Photography

Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis




feasts, contemporary photography, Lithuanian school of photography, national identity, myth, Ugnius Gelguda


In Lithuanian photography, the motif of the feast has been prominent for quite several decades. Already in the interwar period, photography that idealized the reality of that time and captured its festive side contributed to establishing national identity and the idea of the national state. The depiction of feasts also played an important role in the Lithuanian humanist school of pho- tography since the 1960s till the early 1980s. The aspiration to preserve national identity continued to influence individual creative intentions of the representatives of the Lithuanian school of photography, despite the fact that in the Soviet times, photography (at least officially) had lost this purpose in the public field.

In his photography-based audiovisual installation Žalgiris, Ugnius Gelguda blends the motifs of the feast and national identity in a contemporary artwork. Referring to the cultural anthropologist Victor Turner, we could assert that in his work, Gelguda shows the communion experienced by the participants of a ritual of post-industrial society – a concert – and reveals the potential of formation of a subcultural community. Meanwhile, the title of the work associatively expands its meaning and turns it into a generalized image of the birth of the nation. In this respect, Žalgiris is a mythical image – it recreates the prototype of the very beginning, of the building of the nation, by means of contemporary art and in the context of contemporary visual culture. The work also encourages a reflective approach to the myth of national identity and the role of photography in its creation.

The comparison of Gelguda’s Žalgiris and the long-lasting tradition of depicting feasts in the Lithuanian school of photography reveals the differences between the former Lithuanian humanist school of photography and contemporary photography. Rather than actualising the mythical moment of the building of the nation, the Lithuanian school of photography created a myth in the semiotic sense – it “naturalized” national identity associated with festive rituals and showed it as a given fact, which can be captured by photography but its imagery cannot be created by it.

The comparison of examples of the Lithuanian school of photography and contemporary Lithuanian photography reveals a possibility to see the archetypal image of the building of the nation in the photographs of feasts and to understand how this archetypal image has been changing and playing different roles in the formation and actualization of the myth of national identity during different periods.

Author Biography

Tomas Pabedinskas, Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania

Tomas Pabedinskas obtained a PhD in Humanities at the Faculty of Arts of Vytautas Magnus University in 2009. Currently he is an associate professor at the same faculty, a lecturer on the theory and history, criticism and creative practice of photography, and the head of the Contemporary Art Department. Pabedinskas has given lectures at the institutions of higher education in Portugal, France, Estonia, Latvia and Poland. He published two monographs on contemporary photography in Lithuania and English: Žmogus Lietuvos fotografijoje. Požiūrių kaita XX ir XXI a. sandūroje (Vilnius Academy of Arts Publishers, 2010), and Contemporary Lithuanian Photography. Relationship between the Image and the Identity of a Person (Saarbrücken: Lambert Academic Publishing, 2010). He publishes critical and scholarly articles on the subjects of photography and contemporary art. Pabedinskas also curates photographic exhibitions and is engaged in creative photographic practice, takes part in artistic and cultural projects and holds exhibitions. Together with the anthropologist Rasa Pranskevičiūtė, he published the photography book Subkultūra (Kaunas Department of the Lithuanian Photographic Artists’ Union, 2012).



How to Cite

Pabedinskas, T. (2021). The Images of Feasts in Lithuanian Humanist and Contemporary Photography: Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis. Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis, (99), 185–205.