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Work / Photography

Photographer Justinas Vilutis’ saturated, hyperreal images explore subjectivity

Justinas Vilutis’ vivid and hyperreal photography is born out of a belief that there is no “authentic objective experience”. The Switzerland-based photographer remixes the subjects of his images by “erasing, cloning, extending and filling in gaps with substance,” to create abstract, yet sleek images that reflect his unique vision of the world.

Currently residing in Lausanne, Switzerland where he is studying MA Photography at ECAL, Justinas was born in Vilnius, Lithuania. It was here that he was introduced to photography, mainly taking photos of friends and strangers at nightclubs. Upon finishing school, he moved to London to study graphic design at London College of Communication, UAL. He never felt fully invested in the subject, however, and so found himself spending more and more time at Birkbeck, attending conferences and sneaking into philosophy classes while increasingly using photography as his main medium.

This philosophical interest is clear in Justinas’ approach to photography – he states everything from “Honey Boo Boo to psychoanalysis and dialectical materials,” as influences. His work exploits the medium as a way to materialise his opinions on subjectivity and provide a parallax view of his surroundings, using various focal points within an image to shift a viewer’s gaze through “multiple inter-located perspectives”.

His images are saturated in both colour and content, presenting objects that are often rotting or damaged and creating scenes that inhabit a sense of unease. This slightly grotesque aesthetic and subject matter allows the photographer to reflect how “everything originally starts as some sort of disaster, mistake or from a certain antagonistic gap.”

In order to achieve this aesthetic, Justinas uses film, digital photography and CGI as his tools: “I don’t mind completely reworking images if that is what they necessitate,” he explains, adding that, “when I was shooting at nightclubs, sometimes I would erase people if they were distracting from the image. For me, that just made the whole photograph more real and authentic as that was how I originally saw the scene.”

Objectivity and subjectivity are the main concepts explored in Justinas’ book Becoming a Dog, published by &editions. The book spans several years of work up until 2016 but is an ongoing project. Friends and family feature in the images, alongside strangers met at parties, empty interiors and landscapes – some staged and others more observational.

While undertaking the project, Justinas was shooting constantly. In a video commissioned by The Deep Splash to go alongside the book, he states that, “to take a photo means to hunt – I am constantly scavenging.” However, he is hesitant to call the book a diary or the photographs snapshots. Instead, he places himself within the frame by intervening in images (even if not physically appearing) ensuring that nothing is presented objectively. This sometimes manifests in the presentation of the images as pairs. Often this arises naturally when looking through the archives but sometimes he searches with a particular pairing in mind. This, in turn, creates connections between the disparate photographs, providing some sense of narrative, albeit convoluted.

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