Linas Vaitonis is a Lithuanian photographer who primarily works as an ecologist, but loves to explore the world through his photography lens. He focuses on surrealist themes and fantasies, action, mystery, spectatorship, the beauty of a woman against unusual locations, and atmosphere.
Q: Linas, you’re based in Lithuania. Tell us about how your environment informs your art.
A: I was raised in Vilnius, Lithuania. The city is lively, cozy, and relaxed. I’m lucky to live in its medieval old town, which is very beautiful and inspiring. I used to spend summers in my village, which is one of my favorite places to shoot even today.
Q: With a master’s degree in environmental sciences, the environment is something you’re clearly passionate about. Plus, you’ve worked as an ecologist with a number of companies and independent laboratories. Tell us a bit about your work in this sector and how it has influenced your photography.
A: There are quite a few biologists in my family, so I’ve been around this discipline since childhood. I just like to know how the environment works around us, and I’m interested in nature processes, connections, and the surrounding world as a unit. Nevertheless, it has barely influenced my photography path, I believe.
Q: Did ecology and environmental science lead you to photography?
A: No, not really. Photography was always a side thing to mix things up.
Q: How do you go about sourcing your locations for your shoots? Do you look for anything in particular?
A: The biggest difficulty I encounter is in making sure that the final images are just like I imagined them in my head. The biggest consideration when creating my images is whether I am doing it to satisfy myself, or to appeal to potential clients. I’m always driven by unusual locations, something unexpected. Also, I usually make a sketch of the photo that I want to take.
Q: Your style of photography often draws on surrealism, sometimes featuring elaborate interior setups in completely remote locations. Can you speak about your inspiration behind your style?
A: It’s my take on the world and my life happening around me. I guess you can’t add anything to it by theorizing about it.
Q: A number of your photos also have a retro feel to them. Your use of direct lighting helps center the focus and really brings you back to the nostalgia of using flash on disposable cameras. This is an aesthetic we are definitely starting to see reemerge. Can you tell us a little bit about this stylistic choice, and walk us through how you light some of these scenarios?
A: I find myself constantly returning to my dreams and fantasies, action, mystery, spectatorship, the beauty of a woman, unusual locations, and atmosphere. I also add some retro feel to them sometimes, though it’s like my gut’s guide telling me that it would look great like that. Lighting is pretty simple in most of these, since I use direct flash quite often. It just needs to be the exact amount of it. You can always find some weird lighting, like car lights, etc.
Q: You shoot a lot at night, which helps emphasize your use of light, but also brings a little mystery to your shoots. Can you talk a little bit about this choice?
A: In my opinion, the overall feel should be like in a movie, where the atmosphere plays an important role in transmitting the message. I’m striving to create a feeling that there is something yet to be revealed to come through in my work. And night shots work very well, in my opinion.
Q: Circling back to the nostalgia of disposable flash photography—you have a series of photos that almost feel like a wild night out, with a fashion twist. This style can be seen in the likes of highly sought after fashion photographer superstars who invoke similar nostalgic qualities in their work such as Petra Collins or Sandy Kim. Who are some artists that influence your work and incorporate similar stylistic techniques?
A: Salvador Dali, David Shrigley, Ryan McGinley, Justin Benzel, Alex Turner, Alex Prager, Neil Krug, Julian Hibbard, David Lynch, Haruki Murakami, Terry Richardson, Noah Kalina, Daniel Sannwald, Martin Parr, Juergen Teller. Even though most of them don’t incorporate similar stylistic techniques (or they are not even photographers…), I very much appreciated their work, and I probably like most artists primarily for the visuals.
Q: You feature a certain shoe in quite a few of your photos. It’s quirky and stylistically looks like something from the 60s/70s. Tell us about this shoe, why do you love to shoot it so much?
A: It was actually a shoot for one avant-garde shoe brand. And like always, I should thank the whole team that we succeeded in showing the best of it.
Q: If you could summarize your path through photography in one inspiring sentence, what would you say?
A: Photography is my playground. If it wasn’t for this game, I wouldn’t have done it.
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