Antanas Sutkus (born 1939) ranks among Europe's great humanist photographers. Although he lived and worked in occupied Lithuania on the periphery of the Soviet Empire, he profoundly influenced Soviet photography in terms of form and content. Sutkus developed his visual language in the 1960s, establishing the foundation for the Lithuanian school of photography. He was interested in absolutely everything. His book is a rich overview of photos of the people of his native Lithuania during its occupation by the Soviet Union. Sutkus is above all a humanist photographer, his “kosmos” his fellow citizens—children, lovers, the elderly; how they engage with modernity and tradition, nature and the city, and express their identities—all captured in a frank, empathetic style that is far removed from soviet ideals and forms the foundation of the Lithuanian school of photography.
By revealing individual lives of dignity and integrity behind the Iron Curtain, Sutkus’ work is as political as it is personal, a record of Lithuania’s assertion of its cultural self against the Soviet Union which occupied the country from the Second World War until 1990. That struggle has since come to fruition: in 2004 Lithuania became a member of both NATO and the European Union, and is today one of Europe’s fasting growing economies.
In spite of this seclusion, Sutkus’s work is anything but primitive. The sophistication of this largely self-taught artist is all the more remarkable because it grew primarily from his intuition, grounded in his strong feelings of closeness and empathy for the people and situations he photographed. - Carole Naggar New York Review of Books