Photography Art Society of Lithuania: Vitas Luckus

Vitas Luckus, Holiday mood, 1980

Vitas Luckus, Anna, 1980

Vitas Luckus, It seems nobody of them to be alive now, 1980

Vitas Luckus, Different water, 1980

Vitas Luckus was born on May 29, 1943 in Kaunas, Lithuania. At the age of eighteen, after graduating with a degree in drawing and painting, his parents gave him an AGFA camera, which initiated his fascination in photography. In the following years he developed a great interest in art photography and became a member of the Kaunas Photo Club, to which he was elected president a few years later.

According to Luckus, the conventional use of light and visual arrangement of a photograph would leave out essential elements that could retrieve the vitality and different levels of reality. He advocated a style in which there was no hierarchy of meaning: every element in the photographic composition was of equal importance. Only then was it possible to capture the “truth” and represent the essence of a scene, of life itself.

For his series, and last work, Attitude towards Old Photography, Luckus made montages from a large collection of photographic images other than his own. In the book he created of these works, text and titles were deliberately excluded to maintain the unity of his constructed realism. In his diary he wrote:

In the beginning I tried to classify my work according to social phenomena and photographical style, emphasizing the topic of life and death. This made me feel like a Lithuanian artist carving statues of God or the saints. When I put everything on the table, however, I felt like a god myself. In front of me I had an Asian and a Red Indian, a Negro, a white, a Moslem, a Buddhist, a Christian, the Czarist army, the Polish army, the Kaiser, the war, funerals and weddings. I shuffled thousands of images into a heap an found they were an orderly heap of life, because everything here was life and because all of us, whether a boxer, a Czar, a beggar or a half-naked woman were disclosed here. Archive photography seemed to me to reflect a bottomless well, waiting for someone to look into it and understand it.

Luckus was known to drink excessively and experienced ongoing confrontation with the authorities. This battle was set off by his refusal to adhere to the conventional standards of beauty, regulations that were firmly guarded by the Lithuanian government. In 1987, during a visit from several men to his home, Luckus got into an argument with one of the men, who was later identified as a KGB agent. The fight became violent and Luckus stabbed and killed the man. Only moments after the incident, Tanya Luckiene, his wife, found Luckus: he had jumped to his death from their balcony.

Together with Aleksandras Macijauskas, Vitas Luckus is considered to be a reformer of the traditional romantic realism within Lithuanian photography.

Source: Vitas Luckus: The Hard Way. Photographer, Lithuania, 1943–1987. Zurich: Edition Stemmle, 1994

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About claartjevandijk

Assistant Curator, Collections at the International Center of Photography, New York
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2 Responses to Photography Art Society of Lithuania: Vitas Luckus

  1. microcord says:

    These certainly are interesting; as although the series is described within “Vitas Luckus: The Hard Way”, no example is shown there. I like the first and fourth of the four.

    I have mixed feelings about the book (which I received just today). The best of its content is good, but at the other extreme his pictures of people pulling funny faces for the camera bore me. I wonder what you think.

  2. Pingback: Vitas Luckus, fotógrafo asediado por el KGB, asesino y suicida | Punto de vista

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