Lithuanian photographer Andrius Repšys in his photo work series examines probably one of the most relevant topics in the world – the impact of coronavirus on people and their daily lives. Inspired by the COVID-19 hotline in Lithuania No. 1808, the photographer came out with the idea to organize the exhibition „Project 1808. Quarantine“. The creation of the photo series started at the beginning of quarantine in Lithuania. The photographer captured the central squares of different Lithuanian cities from a drone at the one exact time – 18:08 h. The series of photos not only documents a historical event, but also examines topics related to it and raises the questions that exhibition visitors can try to answer themselves.
Andrius Repšys is a professional photographer from Lithuania, mastered aerial photography, which has been his interest for more than a few decades. Known for his work in the fields of journalism, aviation, nature, and social topics. He began his career as a professional photographer around 1995, when started to work as a photojournalist in a daily newspaper. Later the photographer engaged in photography of extreme sports. The photographer is a member of the Lithuanian Press Photographers Club Board and Lithuanian Photographers Association. In 2019 he was granted the status of Art Creator by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania.
The photographer has become a multiple winner of the Lithuanian press photography competition on various topics, his works were awarded in many other photography contests both in Lithuania and abroad (including but not limited to “Budapest International Foto Awards 2020”, “Monochrome Awards 2020”, “Siena awards 2019”, “Drone awards 2019”, etc.). Moreover, he has organized more than 30 solo exhibitions and has been a co-author of numerous group exhibitions.
The author has been interested in photography from above for many years, the photos were taken from airplanes, balloons, parachute jumps, etc. Later photos were taken with the help of a drone. Having been well acquainted with the possibilities of the drone, it was not enough for the author just to take photos, therefore he started to look for something new. Thus, new compositions and unusual images with combinations of various shapes, shadows, and details creating symbols appeared in the photos. The author’s photo works stand out with their unique, recognizable style. „Project 1808. Quarantine“ is one of the latest photo series of photographers. There he delves into the issues typical of his previous series and explores the topic of social issues related to geographical spaces but this time the focus was Lithuania in quarantine.
The photographer in his works poses problems by combining geographical spaces and their specificity with symbolic meanings that are fairly easy to read to the viewer, revealed through the details of each geographical location. It is the exclusive feature of the photographer. Photography series “Project 1808. Quarantine” has been created since the beginning of the quarantine announced in Lithuania, capturing the central squares of the cities. The name of the project itself refers to the coronavirus hotline operating in Lithuania: 1808. Because of this number, the photographer documents selected locations at the same time every day – 18:08 h. At this exact time, he clicked the button and immortalized the completely emptied squares of the cities from the drone, where people were usually bustling and used to be full of action. The photographer visited fourteen Lithuanian cities every day for two weeks since March 16th, 2020 (beginning of the first quarantine in Lithuania announced for the fourteen days, later extended). Interesting architectural compositions of the empty spaces only with some “human footprints” were captured from the above. Later the photographer took photos in a few more cities and exhibited them with the whole photo work series.
Creating such a photo work series requires not only good equipment and skills, also there is a need to have a different perspective, creativity. It is not just a fixation of reality or a nice environment. There are details, artistic compositions, symbols, and ideas. It is a unique artistic experience, not the one anyone can simply repeat. Nowadays it is not easy to surprise us using the technologies applied in contemporary art. Equipment is available for everyone interested, we can simply use photo cameras, drones, even smartphones. But we may not necessarily have a unique approach in the context of various problems. That is what differs and excludes the photographer, creates his own recognizable artistic identity. Photo work series can be dedicated to any of us who have lived and are still living during the pandemic period, who in one way or another encountered it directly, perhaps survived the loss, experienced the feelings that are revealed in the photos. And further, the more we get used to living in this pandemic routine, the more different our insights, perceptions, experiences may be when looking at the photo work series. The photographer has also organized more exhibitions on sensitive topics. Exploring them you can tell those photos were taken by Andrius Repšys.
“Project 1808. Quarantine” received public attention. News about the project was shared by the major Lithuanian news portals, radio, and television. Exhibitions of this photo work series were organized in different cities of Lithuania. This was undoubtedly influenced by the chosen topic, which was relevant to everyone, and the author’s unique way of conveying it, using the symbolism and various compositions. Photos of the exhibition had (and still do) a symbolic meaning. We were all used to the daily “images”, views and suddenly quarantine changed that. We started to better understand that everything including ourselves is temporary and to feel more the state of loneliness and exclusion. Empty squares stimulated reflection on humanity. Human creations in the cities (parks, squares, streets, buildings, etc.) from above give us a different impression in the presence of a pandemic. The fundamental changes taking place around the world because of COVID-19 are also making us think about our changing values and attitudes. During quarantine various spaces opened empty and became the main object in this everyday life. Man seemed to be losing his importance. Therefore, questions raised – can we compare our homes to prisons in such a situation; do we remain honest in the face of the fear, or do we pretend that we are not under the threat; do we know how to live in the community even when we are alone? On the other hand, we have noticed other changes, such as a change in the importance of professions. Professions that we used to pay less attention to have suddenly become very significant and important. Thus, during the pandemic, bright and empty-filling changes can also be observed. Looking to the photo work series we all could try to answer the aforementioned questions for ourselves and/or look for a brighter side of the pandemic period. Information about the “Project 1808. Quarantine” (and more projects) with the photos can be found in the personal photographer’s web page: http://www.likelithuania.lt/project-1808-quarantine/.
The Photography series not only documents this historical event but also examines topics close to this period and will represent the period of pandemic for the future society. In the exhibitions people looking at photos are encouraged to have their own reflections on humanity, changes in the world and consequences for the future. When everything is “frozen” what is important then? What is important when we cannot enjoy all we built with our own hands? Do we feel hopeless? Can we find the brighter side in this situation? These and more questions may arise looking at the photos from the photo work series of “Project 1808. Quarantine”.
- Nagrockienė, daily newspaper “Sekundė”, “Didžiausią baimę išgydė fotoaparatas”, (January 24, 2021), https://sekunde.lt/leidinys/sekunde/didziausia-baime-isgyde-fotoaparatas/.
- Platform of relevant information for creators and their fans “Kultūrpolis”, “Koronaviruso ženklai kasdienybėje: Andriaus Repšio projektas „1808, karantinas” (March 31, 2020), https://www.kulturpolis.lt/fotografija/koronaviruso-zenklai-kasdienybeje-andriaus-repsio-projektas-1808-karantinas/.
- Lithuanian magazine of contemporary art online “Artnews.lt”, “Atidaromoje A. Repšio parodoje – 18:08 val. dronu užfiksuota karantininė Lietuva” (March 15, 2020), https://artnews.lt/atidaromoje-repsio-parodoje-1808-val-dronu-uzfiksuota-karantinine-lietuva-62644.
Plungė District Municipal Public Library, manager of cultural activities Rūta Antanavičiūtė, e-mail: email@example.com