During the time of the Great Depression in the United States, a group of photographers—Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and Jack Delano, among others—led by the Farm Security Administration’s Roy Stryker, spread out across the country to record images that would otherwise fade into obscurity. At that time, the continuous migration of people searching for easier conditions of life was definitively changing the demographic map of America: homesteads, villages, and small towns were disappearing right before their eyes. All of this was photographed and put into extensive archives—the efforts of those photographers, ultimately, were not in vain.
A similar process is ongoing in present-day Lithuania. Just within the past decade, a continuous migration has caused the population to shrink by almost one-sixth. Cities are sucking the young people out of the country, and new lifestyles—often adopted by the young, rural generation—are inexorably changing our country. 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 places in this country where unexpected visitors are greeted like close relatives, places where every passerby is greeted with a heartfelt “hello?”
Every time a thought like that crosses my mind, I am driven by instinct to turn these symbols and places into something more than just the stories of our future grandparents. Though a recorded image is incapable of reviving what has been lost, it still lets us remember something that once momentarily caught our eye at the roadside. Maybe this ongoing monument to the Lithuanian countryside will evoke some sentimentality from the viewer and touch those deeply hidden corners in our memories that we have closed up. These days, we are used to accepting the disappearance of traditions.
Editor’s Note: Kazakevicius’s photograph ”Children, Laumenai, Ukmerge district” was shortlisted for the Sony World Photography Awards 2017. In 2018, the Lithuanian Press Photographers Club will publish a book on Kazakevicius’s project; there will also be an exhibition in Vilnius, Lithuania, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the country’s independence.
If you’re interested in seeing more work on this and similar topics, we’d recommend the following previous features: Naked Grimaces, Rimaldas Viksraitis’s uncompromising and honest look at rural Lithuanian life; Lands of No-Return, Viktoria Sorochinski’s award-winning series about the fading customs in rural Ukraine; and Happiness in Lithuania, a series by Mindaugas Azusilis on the country’s hunt for contentment.