Symposium

The symposium Unretouched History of Photography was held on 14th of August 2020 at Elektriteater in Tartu

The Exhibition Silver Girls features ten early women photographers from the geographical region of Latvia and Estonia. However, rather than a historical overview, the exhibition cherishes the role that the lost and forgotten heritage plays in culture.

The symposium also has two points of focus: one being early female photographers in the Baltic region and the other the cultural phenomena that makes art indestructible. Works of art can be physically destroyed – burned or just neglected to the point of total deterioration – but they still continue to influence our current culture. Not only that: as absurd as it may sound, they will feature in exhibitions and in books. Manuscripts don’t burn and thus, like ghosts, archives will continue to come back from the future to find somebody to talk to.


Katrīna Teivāne-Korpa PhD
The Phantom Female Photographers in the History of Latvian Photography

The common way to research the history of photography in the first part of the 20th century is through periodicals, usually issued by photographic societies, and exhibition catalogues. This allows us to follow historical records, main ideas and, of course, to spotlight personalities considered to be significant in the field. Another and definitely most important way how to learn this history is by researching the actual photographic archives. But what are they? In her presentation Katrīna Teivāne-Korpa will draw attention to the problems emerging in the research process and will point out how the presence of female photographers or photographic workers can be traced.

Katrīna Teivāne-Korpa is an art historian focusing her research on early Latvian photography. She holds a PhD from the Art Academy of Latvia with her thesis The Development of Art Photography in Latvia and the Legacy of Roberts Johansons (1877–1959). In her everyday job she is working as the head of the Konrāds Ubāns Art Reading Room at the National Library of Latvia.



Mari Vallikivi MA
Four Women and a Man: Half a Century of Photography in Viljandi

One of the most important pre World War II photo salons in Estonia was situated in Viljandi. Owned by Jaan Riet, the salon and its story would be unthinkable without four women: Jaan Riet’s wife Marie Riet, her sister Anna Kukk, and two daughters who were born and raised in the studio, Hilja and Elma Riet.

Mari Vallikivi is an art historian and the head of Kondas Centre in Viljandi with expert knowledge of the city’s cultural history. Among numerous other exhibitions, she has curated an exhibition of Hilja Riet’s heritage.



Agnė Narušytė PhD
The Photo-Fiction of Veronika Šleivytė: A Rediscovered Archive 

In the 1990s, Veronika Šleivytė (1906–1998), known only as a sentimental painter of flowers, left several suitcases filled with prints and negatives to a local museum. They proved to be a major discovery for the history of Lithuanian photography: in the 1930s, Šleivytė had participated in the movement of art photography, experimented, documented her own life with family and friends, including her lovers – all women. In 2020, a book Foto Vėros Šleivytės was published by the Kupiškis Ethnographic Museum. One of its editors, Agnė Narušytė will discuss this fascinating archive and how it was turned into a book.

Agnė Narušytė is a Lithuanian photography historian, critic and curator. She has worked as a curator at the Lithuanian Art Museum, taught at Edinburgh Napier University, UK, edited the foreign culture page for the cultural weekly 7 meno dienos, Vilnius, and created programmes on culture for the Lithuanian National Television. She is the author of the book The Aesthetics of Boredom in Lithuanian Photography.



Sami van Ingen
Organic Matters: The Inherent Vitality in Decomposition

In his presentation Sami van Ingen will focus on some aspects of archival film making and his attempts to breathe new life into perished, discarded cinema as well as some of the cultural, visual and cinematic implications this can entail.

Sami van Ingen is a Finnish experimental filmmaker. Sami van Ingen has made over 30 moving image works, mostly dealing subtly with the act of seeing and using various strategies to manipulate found or forgotten footage.



Ieva Balode
Intimate filmmaking

Throughout centuries female filmmakers remained behind the curtains of world cinema. The situation hasn’t changed much even nowadays: the film industry is still dominated by men and women should put in extra effort to be allowed to enter into the film industry. Perhaps female gaze and filmmaking can be characterised differently and approached differently. Analog filmmaking within artist-run film labs has been a movement that from its very beginnings has been inclusive to all genders, nationalities or social groups offering an alternative way of making films which have been released from all conventional filmmaking patterns breaking the rules and questioning ways and structures of filmmaking.

Ieva Balode is an artist and founder of artist-run film lab Baltic Analog Lab which offers alternative ways of film and image making.


Film program at Elektriteater

The symposium ended with a film program. It started with two films on the topic of memories by Finish experimental filmmaker Sami van Ingen

Texas Scramble. 1996, 21’. The notion of memory as the basis for our perception, this film progresses through situations and moments consisting of various repetitions while clinging to an external narrative and letting chance associations form the path.

Texas Scramble. 1996, 21’.
The notion of memory as the basis for our perception, this film progresses through situations and moments consisting of various repetitions while clinging to an external narrative and letting chance associations form the path.

Manifest Destiny. 2019, 5’
Chance incidents of life in the darkroom collide, as found footage filmstrips take new shape under a flashlight. Poetic gestures in the source material and the manipulative body movements of the filmmaker form a new take on depicted relationships, a rite of passage and the artefacts of the process itself. As always, gestures become actions and these determine how we live our lives.

For the second half of the screening the stage was taken over by three Latvian female filmmakers who are members of the film collective Baltic Analog Lab. The programme that was curated by Ieva Balode, gave an insight into the experimental film scene in Latvia which is currently dominated by female filmmakers. Their films are existential journeys into the psychic realm of human existence as well as female bodies.

Equal Tense. Ieva Balode. 2018, 16mm to HD conversion, 7’
Commission. Ieva Balode, 2019, 16mm to HD conversion, 6’
Take-Off. Signe Birkova. 2016, 16mm to HD conversion, 9’
His Name Was Chaos Bērziņš. Signe Birkova . 2018, 16mm to HD conversion, 25’
28 Years Later. Lāsma Bērtule. 2019. 2018, 16mm to HD conversion, 10’
Ieva & Dainis crack the code. Lāsma Bērtule. 2018, super8, digital sound, 4’