SCRATCHING THE SURFACE
When Kaunas Photo invited me to a two-week residency in Kaunas, a theme was given: Savanorių prospektas, the longest street in the city.
A plethora of businesses and offices and not too much of housing. A busy avenue where people drive their car, park in front of a shop, dive in, get whatever they need and off they go! The spots of activity are dispersed along many kilometres of dusty, grey, noisy street. Not that many people hanging around there.
It was spring 2016. I decided to photograph on the street and to make studio photographs of merchandise from the street—and see how these two types of pictures communicate with one another.
The street pictures represent the surface of Savanorių prospektas. Named The Red Army Avenue during Soviet times, also today its name is politically charged: Volunteers' Avenue. Yet the street seemed like an antithesis to its grandiose name(s): an aesthetically chaotic, kilometres long drive-through. The overall impression is somewhat run-down, albeit with signs of development. There are a few shimmering glass battlements and some Soviet-era apartment blocks have a recent touch-up, such as an extra layer of thermal insulation and corrugated steel cladding painted in bright colour. Even if I first thought there was something uninviting about Savanorių prospektas, soon I was spotting unexpected inspiring views. I begun composing tightly cropped, kind of drunken pictures of facades.
Meanwhile the studio pictures open up a view under the dull surface. A consumer's view, if you like. I photographed objects that I borrowed (or in some cases bought) from shops along Savanorių pr. and its immediate vicinity. Edibles, decorations, plumbing parts, counterfeit design items from charity shops, orthopedic products or services etc. Obviously I could cover only a fraction of the gems, but aimed for a fair variety, picking up whatever showed potential for a swell picture. As you can expect in a globalized world, majority of the offerings are imported. Oh, and nowhere else have I seen a long street so densely populated by dental clinics, hence including something teeth related in the series was a must! Anyway, the studio pictures contain the mundane necessities and the bric-a-brac sold to us, and the fantasies we are fed.
I spent those two weeks scratching the surface of Savanorių prospektas. With this series I want to share my impressions of the avenue, to show what I consider worth showing. This involves both the boring and the interesting.
Through the 1980's Henrik Duncker concentrated on music and architectural drawing before adopting an interest in photography. He attained his degree in 1993 at The University of Art and Design Helsinki (present day Aalto University). Since then he has been exhibiting internationally and his works are housed in KIASMA Helsinki, Moderna Museet of Stockholm, The Finnish Museum of Photography among others. His pictures have been printed in magazines and supplements such as The Independent, The Sunday Telegraph, The New York Times, Libération etc.