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EGONS SPURIS

Egons Spuris (1931–1990), whose name appears in the most important photography encyclopedias in Switzerland, Germany, and the United Kingdom, belonged to the generation that, in the second half of the 20th century, strived to restore the prestige of photography as an art medium.

Photography had great difficulty in insinuating itself into the art scene of that period. Paradoxically, even the old master Vilis Rīdzenieks, a tireless recorder of the historical and cultural events of the first half of the century and a sophisticated portraitist, was not accorded the status of a professional artist in the environment of new political doctrines. A new generation of photographers with artistic ambitions matured independently and slowly, availing themselves mostly of ideas found in the Polish and Czech photography magazines. The Riga Photography Club (Rīgas Fotoklubs), established in 1962, served as a social and aesthetic platform for this generation. Spuris also joined initially, but in 1975 he established his own aesthetic platform, becoming the artistic director of the Ogre Photography club (Ogres Fotoklubs) where such internationally renowned artists as Andrejs Grants and Inta Ruka developed their photographic thinking. Among the photographers of his generation, Spuris stands out also with a university degree: he graduated from the Riga Polytechnical Institute and worked also as a technical designer. 

From the beginning, Spuris pursued his own unique vision, rigorously registering the tensions inherent in reality, similar to some of the great American masters.  His laconic, compositionally perfect expressiveness of his black-and-white photographs Spuris developed from the slightly formalistic desire to recreate a kind of surreal atmosphere that surrounds an existentially stark portrait of an environment from which all the irrelevant has been removed. Even though he was an author of works in many genres, including portraits and nature compositions, his favorite topic was the workers’ districts of Riga, the inner courtyards of apartment blocks – life that he himself knew and lived. His pictures reflect not so much the life itself but emotions surrounding it in these particular locations.

This theme culminated in the series "Riga. Proletarian districts. Late 19th, early 20th centuries" (1970–1980).

The tectonics of brick walls, the play of light in the wall-enclosed shafts which it illuminates so rarely, an occasional person – more as a reminder about the insignificance of man in this impersonal environment, so alien to the individual and the personal and a few telling details as an attempt to overcome this impersonality – these works are small masterpieces dedicated to a city that holds one captive.

Laima Slava

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design: tundra