Aleksandras Macijauskas’ photographs have a dual character: they are modern in format, but traditional in content. Such a combination helps imbue his images with both drama and irony – but what does this mean? Created as a series of reportage photographs, Lithuanian Village Markets is a very good reflection of this duality.
Macijauskas brought modernity to his photographs by using a wide-angle lens to capture a broader image and distort the natural shape of reality; by using bold framing that often cropped the faces of people at the margins of his photographs; and by incorporating unusual angles and dynamic diagonal compositions. His photographs are also known for their sharp contrast of darkness and light, obtained through a traditional printing method.
But even as he created modern forms, Macijauskas chose traditional subjects. In the series Lithuanian Village Markets, he focused on animals and the lives of simple rural people, and the interactions between them. Avoiding any interference or staging of such scenes, Macijauskas often cast an ironic eye on daily life in Lithuanian villages. Abstracted, metaphorical photographs remained grounded and refrained from idealizing reality. These are not only works of art, they are often records of a harsh existence.
Such photography required considerable endurance. Macijauskas recalls how, upon glimpsing a suitable scene for a photograph, he would often have to climb up onto a carriage or crawl under a cow’s udder to capture the image. In the words of French critic Jean Claude Lemagny, the avant-garde photography of the day was created when Aleksandras Macijauskas pulled on a pair of rubber boots, marched off into a village market square and emerged with a basketful of photographs.