Andrei Vasilenko looks at Vilnius cinematically, as if shooting an abstract film – melancholic, somewhat romantic, infused with 1990s nostalgia.
“In my photos, you can also see the [Soviet] housing estates. Some people were angry, saying, that the Vilnius I show looks like a desolate Russian city,” he says.
But “I try to show all sides of the capital city”.
Some Russian photographers, according to Vasilenko, have specialised in photographing Soviet-era estates, which became a style in itself.
“Maybe because some time has passed since the end of the Soviet Union, people started looking at things differently,” says Vasilenko. “New distance sometimes encourages one to romanticize” certain things.
“The city is as it is” in its entirety, Vasilenko says, and despite some questionable architectural decisions, it would be great “if Vilnius wasn’t only associated with the old town”.
Different generations coexist in the city, some identifying with the West, others retaining more of the Soviet legacy, Vasilenko says, but “people of Vilnius, and perhaps of Lithuania in general, are now trying to be themselves”, to do things they like.
To describe Vilnius, Vasilenko quotes words by the cinematographer and curator Gerda Paliušytė, which appear in his newly-published book:
“Vilnius in these photos is a bit like a ride in a car without a concrete goal; it’s as much personal, as it is universal, and the outflowing romanticism, humour or melancholy depend not only on social and cultural changes, but also from the everyday, individual experience of the city and the change of seasons”.
Andrej Vasilenko started the project – This is Vilnius – on Instagram following his studies at the Vilnius Academy of Arts and a return from London. He released a photobook under the same title on May 22, 2019.