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Brave New World

'Brave New World' is a long term personal project documenting daily life in Lithuania, during the last year of her national currency, the Litas, the first years of her new currency, the Euro, and after more than 25 years of independence from the Soviet Union.

 

Lithuania has for as long as I've known it, been a country of high contrast. Where layers of history, both physical and psychological are tangible most of the time; largely due to the turbulence of the last 100 years. Change is indeed a constant in life, but in Lithuania some change seems quicker or more hurried than what I had previously perceived as normal.

 

Since independence in 1990 the country has developed dramatically, undoubtedly in a majority of ways for the better. But such rapid change is not necessarily the best way to reach widespread sustainable prosperity. In 10 more years when the oldest generations are gone, the country will have lost more irreplaceable heritage, but what will be the cost? For better or worse change will continue, as political will and a fear of Russia, bring deeper corporate, financial and political European integration. The infinite raw potential of a 'developing' nation however, in some way fades with the mass import of any standardised culture, currency, image and identity. I am looking for signs of the future, documenting what remains of the past, and questioning the gains and losses, while observing a population caught in the balance.

 

The project was initiated in 2013 out of a personal urge to document the rapidly changing human landscape of my new home. I felt compelled to document the changes I saw, to record how daily life slips into the future, before more old ways and generations are covered over, lost or forgotten. I was excited to move to Lithuania due to the potential for new and unique growth that was and still is present in a country, recently reborn and trying to reinvent itself. What appealed was the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past and the mistakes of other countries; to potentially build a utopian paradise in the Baltics, where leaders are not afraid to make unique decisions for the good of the country, despite fear of difference or outside influence. I am still inspired and excited by this idea, though quickly I became disheartened at the widespread though understandable yearning for europeanisation.

 

The project focuses on the everyday people of Lithuania, and consists of street scenes and portraits against the economic backdrop of a changing landscape. With an emphasis on street photography and using a panoramic film camera, my aim is to make a unique document of the social and generational complexities within the changing landscape, at this very unique point in time, and the events, locations, behaviours and seasons that shape the lives of local people. I am also looking for metaphorical images that allude to my own opinions and concerns.

 

Since I first started this journey I have felt that in a few more years things may be very different. This is mostly apparent when I look at the polar difference between the generations. The oldest Lithuanians, born in the interwar period, represent and remember the old days and the values that came with them, some of which were inherited from soviet culture and some of which have distinctly Lithuanian roots. The youngest generations however, born in the EU, inherit a completely different world. The rapidly developing country they are growing into has such fantastic potential but is also heavily influenced by an equal and opposite outside pressure. Ideologies, social classes and economic inequalities in Lithuania are highly polarised, and are most easily explained by this historical chasm of generational difference between Soviet and European Unions. But what will a future Lithuania look like? The answer to this question keeps me looking.

2020 © Joe Wood