Ilme Vysniauskaite: On The Intimacy of Black and White Film Photography

All images by Ilme Vysniauskaite. Used with permission.

Black and white photography is so incredibly personal to some of us, and Ilme  Vysniauskaite generally feels the same way just about film photography despite mostly shooting in black and white. You see, she grew up in a post-soviet time and was shaped by many things around her during her younger days. Ilme submitted to be featured in her analog zine, and her submission is being featured here on our website.

Surely, my words do not even begin to do hers justice.

This is my submission, I don’t know if this is what you are looking for, but thank you for your time.

I tell stories, sometimes quite absurd, some other times quite funny ones, mostly ironic towards myself and my surrounding and it’s just because I come from a block flat, from a post-soviet country. We were used to hearing absurd tales since we are young. We were told to observe everything, read the body language, metaphors and be introverted. We were told that in a new independent world which my parents experience only in the second half of their lives, we can choose where to live, what to study, who to become, which languages to speak and who to speak to.

I am partly shaped by migraines and my addiction to observe and analyze. I spent a lot of time in busses coming home from music school since I was a kid and I always wanted to exchange one day of life with a stranger on the same bus as me, number 47, bringing me home to the suburb of Vilnius. The thought that I will have to do homework and practice piano made me wonder what other people do when they get home. I feel like I was making pictures before I even picked up the camera and when I did, I stopped making pictures and started to look for situations.

Everything gradually went from pixels to film and I am trying to reach the level of intimacy with the situation. I remember every image on the roll, all the colors in black and white film. I remember where I was standing and how it felt. I find film photography very exciting because of anticipation and the ritual. It’s like writing a letter for a friend and coming back home hoping that you will find an answer in your postbox in the next few days. It’s like going on a date with a person you know so well, knowing their deepest thoughts but still waiting to be surprised. That’s why I still write letters, that’s why I still go on the dates. That’s why I live in big cities. That’s why I carry my Canon AE1 camera, usually with Kodak Tri-x or AGFA 100, AGFA 400 ready to tell another story.

“I feel like I was making pictures before I even picked up the camera and when I did, I stopped making pictures and started to look for situations.”

I got into photography because I could tell stories without words, so I could escape from verbal communication. I admire photography of Alix Cleo Roubaud, Eugene Smith, Florence Henri, Lee Miller, Henri Cartier Bresson, Antanas Sutkus, Roman Vishniac, Robert Mapplethorpe and many others. My photography influences come from independent cinema, books, visual art, conversations with friends and strangers.

I have been shooting film for about 3 years, digital for about 8. Photography is something that I wake up thinking about, it gives me so much joy when I capture something special. It does sound so banal but I look for beauty in art, when I say beauty, I mean it in a very broad sense, it does not mean polished beauty. I dedicated my studies to contemporary music and art research, therefore my definition of beauty probably is a bit unconventional. I think photography is like my third eye and it’s always there documenting interaction and exchange of visual and sometime much more heavy content information.