FFO: VERY MEANINGFUL TEXT + EXPERIMENTAL PHOTOGRAPHY THAT CELEBRATES THE BEAUTY OF THE PHOTOGRAPHIC PROCESS!
Who are you and where are you currently based?
My name is Gabriele Zukauskaite. I am Lithuanian born and raised, and I’m currently based in England as a University undergraduate.
What influenced you to make the decision to study in England in oppose to Lithuania?
My visit to UK 5 years ago. I had a friend who studied in Durham at that time, so I came to visit early February 2013 for ten days. I don’t know what happened, but the whole journey was an adventure itself, (and I actually came back with 5 rolls of film after it), so when I decided to look up where I could study Social Anthropology, England has since ever been my first and main choice.
Since moving to England from Lithuania what cultural changes (if any) have you experienced? And what do you like/dislike most about now being based in the UK?
I have been exposed to living and socializing with people from all over the place, and of course a multitude of cultural backgrounds which could have not ever been the case if I was to remain in Lithuania.
If I was honest, at the beginning of my studies, I felt a lot of scepticism about UK, its values, mentality of the people – this questionably honest politeness, social awkwardness in certain cases, manic necessity to always assure safety and security and follow so many rules at every step, to mention the main ones. But later on, especially during my whole 3rd year spent away in Amsterdam, I started feeling affectionate towards these minuscule inconveniences, and I instead started focusing on my own questionable open-mindedness and accepting something the way it is; trying to look for the bright side in things that annoy me.
Having to work on that type of mentality myself I also felt keen towards travelling around the UK – going to the North, South West, Scotland, and I’m still planning to do some hikes around Wales. And then the things I really appreciate and respect kind of crystalized naturally in my mind – the sarcasm, the irony, I highly rate Brits for their particular sense of humour; as also almost every 2nd band or act in the music scene I ever liked were from the UK too. Altogether I think it has been versatile, but a great experience that I cannot imagine not having gone through.
What is your current photographic work about?
My work is based on my curiosity to challenge my own as a photographer’s position in front of the subjects I photograph, which is mainly street photography, and some documenting of my own environment and people. When I am taking photos I don’t really feel that I am engaged when making art, rather some social experiment; where holding the camera in my hands allows me to be in this acceptable role of an observer, where I can also simulate things I see, since I am taking a mere moment away as a record from the whole scene. It’s like photographing the reality, the world, but knowing that how I portray it can really change the perspective of how it is. Quite a paradox within.
Within your own style of working, would you say that you see and use the camera as more of a social scientific tool than an artistic tool? Would you therefore not consider yourself as an artist?
I would honestly consider myself as a rather experimental artist and I am definitely inspired more by my way of doing photography, rather than focusing on the results as some kind of art objects.
You state that you’re more interested in ‘taking the photos as a process than the actual photography itself’ – does this gravitate you to using and shooting film over using a digital camera, because of its physicality? Or do you instead not have a preference?
The way I work and approach it is the main factor that keeps me doing photography. I do enjoy seeing my photographs, but mainly for fulfilling an excitement to see how the things I noticed turned out once developed. I also started developing the B&W film rolls myself – something I could not be able to do with digital. I do definitely have a preference for film because it is raw, it has material substance, it is affected by so many factors when taking the photo, while digital to me is quite simulatable, so to speak – you can take so many shots of the same thing to get one good out of a couple dozens. With film, having only 24 shots to spare – you would never do that. It’s definitely more magic into capturing one and only moment, instead of making it into a sequence of better and worse outcomes.
What got you interested in photography and taking images?
Again – my long nose, restless fingers and massive curiosity for things. I have been going through a lot of stuff that is stored at my grandparents’ in their house in Lithuania when I was younger, there I found some old Russian cameras, like Kiev or Zenit. I was not that much excited about the photography, as I was excited about those particular cameras, how they work, that feeling of cocking the shutter lever, blurring and sharping the view through the lens, and the fascination of actually releasing the shutter button. From there onwards I would just want to see what happened, so taking the photo for the taking of it for me is more of a conditional that allows me to see what the camera actually did.
What do you hope to achieve when you take a photograph? What locations or subject matters attract you photographically?
When taking a photograph, I always hope to achieve contrast. So many times I have seen my photos being too light, too dark, too grey… So I’m still always having my fingers crossed that settings of a camera won’t fail me. I definitely enjoy the photo to look technically as good as possible, however, most of my photos kind of look the way they do only because of not being that technically purified.
Locations that attract me are usually a bit run down, aesthetically untidy places. I wouldn’t say ugly, but not preciously fixed and ordered, as some postcard type of city centres. Maybe that’s because then I feel I can ‘order it’ in a completely different way through my own unique perspective. It’s like granting a vision to the place to make it look beautiful, not in a conventional way, but add some kind of warmth, cosiness, longing and even sense of nostalgia to the location. Other than that, I am definitely fascinated by street photography, it’s an inexhaustible source of inspiration to me.
Lately, I have started experimenting by photographing interior spaces, like kitchens or bedrooms as a location, and then also with the body. I tried on taking nudes a couple of times; so far only female, and usually of some of my friend’s that I usually have to convince with a bottle of wine as a reward. But I have aspirations to try out photographing the male physique too, and maybe to have an experimental month of taking my own auto portraits every day, as that would be quite enthralling – to engage into a collaboration with myself as an object of my own photography.
Who are you inspired by?
Since I am more inspired by taking the photos as a process than the actual photography itself, I do appreciate and always feel there is a lot to learn from reading about other photographers, or other work. When it comes to seeing actual photos, I admire something seemingly simple, but genius. Photos that are acquired by point and shoots, or other cheap shit cameras, momentary, random, nonsensical moments of every day. I am inspired by well known and already recognized photography, just as I am by seeing my mates who feel so happy they got a nice shot after attempting to use a camera for the first time. It’s why one does and how one does photography that fascinates me, rather than only focusing on the results.
Have you/do you ever make tangible objects from your photographs, e.g. prints/zines/photobooks? Do you prefer to see your work in a tangible or digital form?
I have not made that yet, but a friend of mine, a really interesting artist based in Berlin, called Claudia Just, once asked me to send her my photos, and she produced a little portfolio for me via her blog. Though this was a while ago.
What are your future aspirations?
Recently I had a chance to make a short ethnographic film, and I was completely taken in by applying some photographic techniques I use for my photos for the moving, changing, alive, so to speak, images, to the stories that roll out of those images. Ideally, I can see myself as a documentary photojournalist, ethnographic filmmaker. This person in the middle that mediates through producing articles and visual footage the stories of other people’s crazy, simple, casual, extraordinary, and just endlessly captivating lives. It’s like being a detective to me, just an overground one.
Do you have any future ideas for projects? Both photographically or instead of applying your photographic approach through using moving image?
I am completely fascinated by making videos/creating ethnographic documentaries entering into documentary photojournalism, visual storytelling and all similar forms to these. It definitely includes working with a moving image a lot. That’s the only way I truly enjoy a good digital camera, for exactly this one reason.
For my Bachelor’s final project I chose a Visual Anthropology module, and the idea was to finish by having some tangible ethnographic short film made as a result. I did mine on Home Education in Southeast England. I arranged filmings, recorded interviews, and worked on the actual cinematography which was really my main fascination, since I never really even learned about it, apart from watching a lot of movies when I was a teenager.
What advice would you recommend to young photographers today?
I still don’t know what I could advice myself as someone like that, so not sure what could be useful for others. All I can say its that I do things for the mere joy of doing them, as for myself, not for the result or someone else’s opinion or appraisal of it. If I think something looks great or is interesting, that’s it, that’s my opinion for my very own reasons, or even without them. Just like this interview – I’m doing it because it’s an interesting and engaging thing to think of questions like that. I haven’t really sat down to think this before, but what happens to these answers – I leave it to them to sort it out themselves.