Crossing the Dunes with Andrejs Strokins
Conversation between Mindaugas Kavaliauskas, KAUNAS PHOTO festival director and Andrejs STROKINS, winner of KAUNAS PHOTO STAR 2013 on the occasion of exhibition at KAUNAS PHOTOGRAPHY GALLERY.
Where is the origin of the idea to document this area of Riga?
In the beginning it was my fascination about this strange place, that took me there. The area remained unchanged. It felt as if the Soviet times were never ended in this small area. In the long run, it became the subject of my the project. “People in the Dunes” – my very first personal project.
Your favourite photographers?
WeeGee! Also, Martin Parr, Alex Soth. Or, Rafal Milach – I was working with him for one year on a mentorship program. I was inspired by him, maybe even unconsciously… From Latvia, Andrejs Grants, whose classes I took, was one of the first ones who helped me orient myself.
Any of those with a personal impact?
A big inspirer for me was A. Gronski’s, with his landscapes “Pastoral”. He gave me the first Mamiya. It was like for a few weeks. Mamiya 7 with a rangefinder. At that time, he moved to Latvia, and I saw his work, spoke with him, and, I can say, he influenced me. I love his work, but I wanted to do things bit differently. I wanted to learn to use the same camera in a more distinct way.
“People in the Dunes”, where did the name come from?
I do not remember what was the name in the beginning. When I discovered that everything that was built there, was built on the sand, there came the title.
Does this area of Riga have any personal connection to you?
I have Polish and Russian roots. I have some melancholy of the past. So I relate to these people, I understand their situation.
Why did you use a slow method, using film… Why?
I was working at a news agency. I needed to always act very fast. Superfast. Bang bang… You upload images, caption them, send them. It was a never-ending story. When I started the “People in the Dunes”, I had a whole different method of work. I would go there for entire day, meet people I do not know the people.
When did you take your first picture and when did you take the newest one that’s in the exhibition at KAUNAS PHOTO?
In Sep 2011 I took my first image with the boys slingshots. I participated in European Borderland project and I proposed this theme of suburbs in Riga, so I got started. The last image dates of June 2014, again with boys swimming.
Kind of similar images – shooting and geing “shot” in to the water?..
Yes, in a way …
What is your working rhythm with “People in the Dunes”?
In the beginning, I used to go there when I had free time. would go there by bus – 20 or 40 minutes. I went there and would hang out for the whole day. I quit the agency work, when I understood that this project was what I wanted to do. During those three years, I worked a lot. It was my growth and new experience.
Any of the pictures that are particular to you?
The women with the dog, Olga. It was a freezing day (-31), and this is why the dog was hiding. I saw her walking on the frozen river. I asked for a picture – she told me yes, and she run away…
Do people recognise you when you’re working on location?
Generally, no, but “Yes” – in cafes and bars. When I came for the first time, they asked me what I was doing. It is a small place with a small community where everybody knows everybody. Friends? I acquired friends there, for example, Bolderājagroup of artists, real patriots of their place. They are not doing art, they rather fight against pollution of their harbour district.
Did you show pictures to the people in the dunes?
Yes, but I realized that it is not an important thing to them, and to me too. Some people were just asking stupid questions, like why bother?.. I think both – they have a different taste and understanding of what is good picture. Usually everybody wants to move, especially youngsters.
Do you consider this project complete?
I still will continue. I do not know how much time it will take. I like to go and shoot. Now, intellectually, it is more than just photography. Sometimes I simply go to the sea, to the beach, I visit friends.
More about the exhibition: 2014.kaunasphoto.com/kaunas-photo-star-2013-andrejs-strokins-to-open-his-exhibition-at-kaunas-photography-gallery/