/ Jānis Knāķis / Blog

Rēzekne – 1986

The photographs were taken in the fall of 1986 in Rēzekne. At the time, I was a young photographer working in an untraditional manner and the Central Committee of the Young Communist League sent me to have a look at the work of the progressive Young Communist League. I spent one week in Rēzekne. During this time the members of the local Young Communist League took me around to see the region and I took photographs of the best-achieving members of the League. They did not provide any instructions as to what had to be photographed – only showed different people and places. I have good memories about the current Member of Parliament Jānis Urbanovičs, who at the time was the First Secretary of the Rēzekne Young Communist League. He was a cool and active guy, who always gave a hand to pick the people for photographs. Usually I took photos of the people in their own environment, which was not a common practice for the pictures in printed media. As a rule, only portraits in the classical sense – without any background – appeared in newspapers. However, I was interested in a portrait taken with a wide-lens camera, which allowed for the surroundings to be included in the picture as well. From today’s perspective, it is the environment, indeed, that seems the most interesting.

All together I used twelve 36-exposure films. I have no information, whether any of these photographs was published at the time, but the entire process resulted in a photo exhibition in Rēzekne. The people in charge spent a long time in discussions about the photos, because somehow they looked extraordinary at the time – as if portraying mundane objects and environment, but it was not common to look at them on the wall in the exhibition.

There is a funny story related to the photo, where an empty hall with the leading officials can be seen. In fact, I was asked to take a photo of the handing over of the travelling flag. There was a visiting minister that had arrived from Riga. I took my place in the hall with a camera with 20mm lens. The scene was comic – the leading officials stand in front, but there are no people sitting in the first three rows in the hall. The hall was newly renovated and recently passed for exploitation and it was intended for huge numbers of audience, but on that occasion all the people had taken the seats in the last rows. I took a few steps away from the leading officials and used a half of the film with a shutter-speed of 1/15 from hand, because a flash couldn’t be used. It seemed, everyone was looking at me! There were no photos documenting the passing over of the flag, but no one even seemed to notice it.