This is an “accidental” body of work, which started to grow since 2005 and continues until now. During his extensive travels Mindaugas Kavaliauskas – photographer and curator – frequently flying to and from exhibitions, festivals, portfolio reviews in Europe and beyond its borders, discovered that a camera could be used to depict life, where for most of us time stands still…
Mindaugas Kavaliauskas grew up in Lithuania, which was a part of a weird country, called the Soviet Union. It was a self-isolated country, the people of which could hardly make jokes about the system. One of these jokes was about a Soviet citizen, who addressed to a KGB office, asking for permission to travel to Israel. The fellow traveled to destination and back. Soon he showed up for another permission and was granted it again. When he showed up for the third time, furious officers imposed him a decision to make: to stay “here” or “there”. They asked him a question: “Which country do you prefer?”. The citizen answered: “What I LIKED BEST, was the JOURNEY”…
Back in those days, air travel was a matter of privilege and luxury. One of the most memorable moments of the young photographer’s teenage years was an episode of 1988, when from Lithuania he traveled to Moscow Sheremetyevo to say farewell to his grandma, for the first time allowed to go and visit her brother, living in the USA. Going across the border and, instead of taking a train, flying was considered a miracle…
In the 21st century, flying commercial aviation is regarded to be as usual as taking a bus. Nowadays, it is a part of our routine, which constantly reveals itself in new faces. It joins up space and time, in which the advertising image crashes into reality. Ease meets fatigue, comfort meets stress, luxury meets tawdriness, dreams hit into material reality and the feeling of safety is overtaken by that of vulnerability and discontent.
For the photographer, time spent in airports and airliners is unique experience. While traveling within Europe and occasionally traveling to America, Asia or Australia, Mindaugas Kavaliauskas was observing the life around him with a growing appetite for views to become images. Since most of the time his travel has been related to photography, he soon caught himself with a camera idling in his bag and started to take it out to freeze the moments of air travel.
The paradox goes that the alienation of society and the sense of fear of something unexpected has originated from an airplane – driven disaster of 9/11, that, among other things, transformed people’s attitude towards photography. Obviously, a person with a camera in today’s airports and on-board flights is far from always being welcomed. Often, the camera would be asked to be switched off, because “crew cannot be photographed”. Sometimes after x-ray control, it would be checked for explosives. In some cases, Mindaugas’ camera would become a means of extended communication or even a shortcut to friendship with fellow travelers, cabin crew members or agents of airports and airlines.
What today is a series of images about air travel, initially was a step-by-step accumulation of images about our world, the dwellers of which, to comfort themselves, would say “I fly, therefore I am”.
During the 2015 Auckland Festival of Photography we were pleased to show Travel’AIR by Lithuanian photographer Mindaugas Kavaliauskas. Here was a unique series, a photographic travelogue for one of our most unifying modern day experiences – flying. Be it to distant or not so distant locations, transiting through airports, customs, immigration, the long haul and the short haul, by exposing the mundane aspects of these mostly exciting experiences through his documentary photography, Mindaugas, offers the viewer both insight and reassurance for a common journey. The value in his personal view of this modern phenomena is in his ability to capture the beauty, serenity as well as the ugly chaos of modern air travel, of an experience that defies gravity.
Julia Durkin, director of Auckland Festival of Photography, New Zealand
Links to “travel’AIR” presentations on the Web
On OST SEE Mag
Speech of the Director General of EUROCONTROL during the reception of the “Travel’AIR” exhibiton at EUROCONTROL, Brussels, October 21, 2013
Press release about the “Travel’AIR” exhibition at EUROCONTROL in the portal of Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU
News about the exhibition in Prospektas Gallery of Photography in Vilnius in April-May, 2014 (In Lithuanian)
travel’AIR exhibition at Auckland Festival of Photography, New Zealand, June 2015
The New York Times LENS, USA, February 2016 (screenshot below)