All images by Tadas Kazakevičius. Used with permission.
When Lithuania-based Tadas Kazakevičius fell in love with the iconic works of the iconic Farm Security Agency (FSA) photographers, he also realized that his country was going through similar migration trends. Inspired by this discovery, he embarked on a nostalgic project titled Soon to be Gone to follow the lives of those who have remained in the villages while others have decided to search for greener pastures and modern lifestyles. In this interview, we ask the 34-year-old documentary photographer to tell us more about his beginnings and motivations in his genre of choice, the idea behind the project, and his most memorable encounters so far shooting for it.
Phoblographer: Hello Tadas! Can you tell us something about yourself and what you do?
Tadas: I am a documentary photographer based in Vilnius, Lithuania. I am highly interested in humanistic photography approach and I tend to work with analogue cameras. In particular, I am in fond of medium and large format cameras.
Phoblographer: How did you get into photography and discover the kind of photography and imagery you make now?
Tadas: I became interested in photography not so long ago, around 10 years ago, and then it was pretty basic interest. I got a digital camera and started to shoot everything. When I got my first medium format camera I started somehow to be more interested in people and portraiture, and later, in their stories. So I started my first series (I started it by accident just walking around the area I worked while I was living in London, UK). So it happened that this interest grew bigger and stronger.
Phoblographer: We’re particularly interested in your project titled Soon to be Gone. How did the idea to tackle migration in Lithuania come to you? Which aspect of this topic did you find most compelling and most worthy of being documented?
Tadas: I was very interested in the work done by Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographers during the Great Depression. They documented the disappearance of USA’s rural people and documented their migrations. So I saw a small resemblance with the process happening in our country after the opening walls of EU. And before that, people migrated to the cities leaving our villages disappearing. I document what is left and how beautiful and wonderful it is. How people there a friendly and how close they are to the roots of our ancestors.
Phoblographer: While working on Soon to be Gone, was there ever a particular story/encounter you captured that made the most impact on you?
Tadas: I find most of the stories compelling and I try to put notes about it. Sometimes, I attach their thoughts next to images. But I really love the time I spent with Marijona and how open and friendly she was. She somehow even used letting me photograph her to “buy some time” for me to stay; her relatives do not often visit her. Sometimes it’s sad, but then I was a great amusement for her and I really heartily listened to her stories about her childhood and her life. Great memories.
Phoblographer: You’re currently working on turning Soon to be Gone into a book. Can you tell us briefly about your progress so far? What do you find most challenging and rewarding about it?
Tadas: It is not easy, as I try to put 5 years of chaotic travelling in one clean line. It’s a bit challenging. It’s still in it’s early stages but I have some really nice details for it, so I really look forward to make a stronger progress after scanning the last batch of negatives. I just came back from a long trip around certain areas of Lithuania, but it seems that it was my last one.
Phoblographer: There’s a lot of sentimentality and nostalgia in your documentary projects. Were you aware early on that these qualities would be the driving force behind your work?
Tadas: Funny enough, I always took these qualities as my biggest drawback until after some time (but it took long) I understood that it is something that I feel so strong and I made this thing my “personal touch”. In some way it is almost like my 6th sense.
Phoblographer: Where do you get the inspiration or story for the kind of photography you do? Which topics do you most relate to as a documentary photographer?
Tadas: I assume that it comes from my heart and passion of me being very curious about various things. As I already mentioned it’s often the people I meet and photograph really inspire me. But then I can’t say that my work in advertising industry for more that 10 years does not help me. I tend to think more conceptually and creatively.
Watching other photography gives me some ideas as well. I believe that two of my greatest inspirations are the work of the Lithuanian Humanistic School of Photography (Lithuanian authors like Antanas Sutkus, Romualdas Rakauskas, Aleksandras Macijauskas, Algimantas Kunčius) whose traditions I somehow tend to follow; and the great works of Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Arthur Rothstein and others for the American Farm Security Administration (FSA). But then I really am interested in contemporary authors and their way of telling stories in visuals.
Phoblographer: How do you see your work evolving in the next few years? Is there anything else you wish to achieve with the style and kind of photography you do?
Tadas: I suppose I am in the process of evolving already as this year I started series “Between Two Shores” that I see somehow are changing my approach to the style and the way of telling story. I believe it’s the way I want to more forward. I really want to start incorporating some portraiture done with large format cameras as well. It’s a new technical struggle that might give some interesting results.
Phoblographer: What do you consider to be the most crucial element that makes your style truly your own?
Tadas: That sentimentality and nostalgia you already mentioned.
Phoblographer: Lastly, what would you advise those who want to develop their own approach to telling a story through documentary photography?
Tadas: It might sound cheap but please do follow your heart. My heart gave me Soon to be Gone so I can strongly say that it is a fact. And also, please do look around you. Some stories lying under your nose might turn you into an author with your own style and view.