The Origin of Homo Novus in Latvian Photography

The Origin of Homo Novus in Latvian Photography,” in Helena Demakova, ed., Vilnis Vītoliņš. This is Latvia. Photographs 2007–2011 (Riga: Andrejsala. Riga Contemporary Art Museum & Satori, 2011), 14-27. ISBN 9789934804762.

The aim of this essay is to outline the historical background for the unusual photographic work of Vilnis Vītoliņš (b. 1955, Latvian) in the 2000s. In order to understand why his work is so outstanding and sometimes difficult to accept for the Latvian audiences, in this essay I offer a tour through the development of photographic aesthetics in Latvia during the second half of the 20th century. This "little history" of Latvian photography for this purpose starts in 1955, the year when Vītoliņš was born in Cesvaine, a small town in Latvia. Approximately at the same time, Edward Steichen opened the influential exhibition The Family of Man in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Vilnis Vītoliņš. The Bridge of Islands (then Moscow Bridge). Riga, 1984. Gelatin silver print. 18x18 cm. Courtesy the artist.