Interview: photographer Gunars Binde

"He Lives in Photography." Interview with Latvian photographer Gunars Binde.

Published in Studija 34, no. 1 (2004): 16—23.

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Fine art photography is a concept that people associate in large measure with the salon photography popular in the 60s and 70s, and with some experiments that were seen as important at that time, involving the technical possibilities of photography. But such general opinion has no connection with the fine art photography that Gunārs Binde has been engaged in already since 1957, working at it seriously and perceptively, and this is best related by the artist himself. The master of the posed (or in his words "directed") photograph keeps with surprising constancy to his views on the essence and aims of fine art photography, and these views have not changed with fashion, politics or economics. In 1967 (in an interview in the February issue of Liesma magazine) Gunārs Binde said, "The art is in creating a photographic visual concept, raising it to the level of a symbol, a problem. The photographic concept rises above documentary truth, becoming a generalization." In early 2004, Gunārs Binde says the same thing in an interview in the magazine Studija.

On 27 December 2003, Gunārs Binde celebrated his 70th birthday. A decade earlier, the artist had marked his 60th birthday with a series of photographs, and this time too the occasion is connected mainly with photography. Binde envisages a series of exhibitions in the coming years under the title "The Subjective Encyclopaedia", where the works will be exhibited in alphabetical order of the titles, from A to Z. The first exhibition in this series, "The Subjective Encyclopaedia. A", has been shown at the Latvian Museum of Photography (10 December 2003 till 28 February of this year). In parallel, at the "Archive" exhibition in the House of the Blackheads (13 January to 8 February) one photograph was shown from each year (1957-2003), the exhibition "Erotica" was held at the Sarmīte Sīle Gallery, while the Daugava Museum on Dole Island saw an exhibition of landscapes and nudes entitled "Girls". After this, a series of photographs will be shown at the Motor Museum under the title "Flight", and there will be more.

As the artist himself says, the lasting photographs are those that study individual experiences and the force of relationships. Many of Binde's photos are classics of Latvian art photography, while countless others mark the road to the classic works. And this has not been easy or simple - no wonder Binde's views on the meaning of fine art photography have not changed significantly over many years. The artist doesn't wait for chance. Rather, he consciously seeks the possibility of creating the conditions for things to happen according to his will. In November 1971, Binde described himself in Liesma's "Chronicle of art life": "I was born in 1933 in a family of farmers from the Maliena region. From the people of that area I've inherited a thirst for truth and the perseverance of the slash-and-burn farmer, since all that I've gained has required much effort on my part." Binde has also created a newsreel "Art" (1966, No. 4) and a photo film ("Hello, Moscow!", 1966, etc.), and has taken part in the creation of documentary films by Ivars Seleckis. Photography is a means to realize ideals: this is what was brought home to me in our conversation.

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