On the shortest night of the year in Lithuania, we pick wild grasses, weave them into wreaths, and wait to greet the dawn together, sincerely searching for a connection to our pagan past, or perhaps just enjoying time spent with friends. But in our celebration of what we in Lithuania call “Joninės” (St. John’s Day, also known as Rasos), we continue centuries-old traditions.
This and other non-material heritage began to be photographed as early as the first half of the 20th century and, over time, the recording of Lithuanian folk culture became its own unique movement within the Lithuanian School of Photography. Photographer Vytautas Daraškevičius participates in the Lithuanian ethnographic movement himself and is thus able to capture festivals and folk culture events from up close. Daraškevičius began taking interest in ancient Lithuanian traditions in the 1970, when he participated in a celebration of Rasos in Kernavė. This exhibition includes moments captured from Rasos celebrations, in which the transformation of nature’s cycle of life is connected to ancient pagan beliefs.
A different perspective on Lithuanian rural celebrations is evident in images captured by photographer Klaudijus Driskius. His view is more typical of contemporary photography: observing social details and creating images devoid of idealization and which even contain a light sense of irony. But what did celebrations look like in cities? Let’s move on to more modern surroundings where urban festivities took place.
Secrets of the Shortest Night. Skarbai, 1989
Frome the series “Secrets of the Shortest Night” (1971–1997)
Digital print, 30 × 50
Property of the artist
Wedding at the Dideliai Farmstead. Pakriaunys, 1985
Silver bromide print, 29,9 × 30
MO Museum collection