What is an artist? How could you name the fire lit in one’s heart? You would think that would inspire one to create. Sometimes life takes you on the journey that makes you believe that this is what you were meant to do, but then one day you wake up and feel you are ready for something new, for something to challenge yourself, to inspire, to actually move you… By willing and daring to follow your inspiration you suddenly begin to inspire others too. A well-known and celebrated Lithuanian photographer, Vilmantas Morkvenas, is eager to inspire people to not only see beauty from within themselves but also to rediscover beauty in forms never known to them. He uses photography to creatively express himself, even though originally it was not what he reached or hoped for. Nowadays photography is his craft. He uses it to find the hidden key to a human soul… He is the one hungry to preserve a real human emotion.
“Life is made of images,” he says, and I could not agree more. We take and absorb images of our surroundings and people who enter and exit our lives, images of sceneries and experiences and store them in our own private mind memory boxes the way that photographer saves the images he takes. To make one perfect shot, one perfect image often takes thousands of tries and years and years of practice. One needs passion and dedication for it. One needs willingness to try and fail and try and fail over and over again until the desired success is being achieved. Vilmantas Morkvenas is well known on his native land. He creates and breaths art. He not only loves what he does but he also believes in the power of one’s image taken and eternalized. It is his hobby, his fresh breath of air, his tool for self-expression, his talent.
The photographer says that he appreciates when people trust him with their ideas and allow him to realise their deepest hopes. He takes hundreds and hundreds of images until a wanted image is realised. However, the artist has his own ideas and understanding of what is perfect as well. So therefore, two different worlds of understanding and desire come and blend together manifesting a perfect piece of fine art. The photographer focuses on getting more than just the image. It does not matter to him whom he is working with – an ordinary every day man or woman or a famous person – for as long as people are real and honest he feels inspired. He searches for that one real human emotion often found in one’s eyes – that one unique glimpse of…something. No need to hide – just be, express, open up, be truthful.
Just recently Vilmantas has become inspired to work on men’s photography. He has recognised a dire need for it in the market. “Men are reluctant,” he says, “they seem to shy away from women photographers. I decided it is time for a creative revolution.” So therefore, Vilmantas initiated the project. He is fired up to bring to light men of all walks of life. He wants men to feel comfortable to model while yet staying true to themselves. “There will be found some famous faces among models too, but my goal is to mix all and everything together and show how special and extra-ordinary everyone is,” photographer says. “I want to show the gentler side of men. For example, a very masculine man reading a fairy-tale to a child or a man covered in tattoos doing a tattoo to another person and next to him you also see a baby bottle full of milk. I want to catch people in their everyday colours who through their perseverance and hard work accomplish great things in life, and yet, while reaching for the stars, they also lead normal everyday lives. I want to show the truth without words. Pictures will speak louder than any word ever uttered. I feel this urgent need to expose men in the most simple and yet profound ways. I am on fire!”
Apparently, Vilmantas’s talent dates back to his father and uncle who both were photographers. The trait is strongly seeded inside photographer’s blood. “I get many praises,” he says, “but I take it easy. Photography is something where I express my inner-fire. Thankfully, people tend to resonate with it, which is great. I want to create. Just let me create.” He did express his disappointment observing some of work from other photographers as well: “The town is full of photographers and sadly only very few are really good.” He enjoys taking pictures of everything and anything as long as it resonates with his creative ideas and challenges. Vilmantas does not shy away from challenges. He finds them inspiring. It is one thing that actually moves him forward to grow and prosper. “Photography is not something you learn and go by the book,” he says. “Photography has its own nuances and specifics. It is a form of art and it is also a part of a trade, where creativity, ideas, efforts, time and the end result get exchanged.”
He says he is an optimist by nature. He is fully focused on achieving his personal and career goals. However, Vilmantas is known not only for his photography. In the past he also did some professional modelling and was a multi-winning professional athlete/sprinter and became a champion multiple times in Lithuania and Baltic States. He played hard, and through sweat and pain he got things his way. Vilmantas is also a loving father to two off-springs of his own. However, the photographer modestly acknowledges that his ex-partner and he raise children separately: “Sometimes life takes its own turn and things change. Regardless of it all, I am grateful. The birth of my two little ones proved to me that miracles do exist.”
I felt at ease communicating with Vilmantas. He felt real to me – very easy to talk, very approachable and open minded. We chatted as old good friends – no boundaries, no shyness, no distrust. No matter what question I asked, he did not hesitate to open up to me. This is something I find in a person to be rare and yet very much welcomed by me.
I inquired what his greatest inspiration was. “Love. That crazy passionate love,” he answered. His answer made me smile. “You know, that sort of love that stops you from breathing. That sort of love where all you think and feel is your lover’s presence. That sort of love that inspires you to create and move mountains. That sort of love that often possible only once in a lifetime. That sort of love moves me!”
The support from his loved ones inspires him too. He spoke highly about his diseased grandpa who was a well-known catholic Monseigneur Priest – Jonas Juodelis. Vilmantas felt he could be fully honest with his grandpa. Photographer described his grandpa as a very open minded, non-judgemental, trustworthy and kind-hearted man. He also remembered the moment when once in his youth he admitted to his grandpa that he did not believe in God and how calmly the priest took to his truth: “He was my inspiration and an example of what kind of man I hoped to become some day. He was my shoulder, my listener, my dearest grandpa. Due to his significant role in a religious society I was granted a blessing to meet our Pope – John Paul II. I am not religious myself, but I respect people who follow in the steps of their own wisdom and faith.”
Vilmantas sees majority of Lithuanian people as quite pessimistic and at times gloom and doom. “I am a smiley person, so whenever a sun-ray of sunshine comes from a fellow human, I embrace it eagerly”. In addition, he noted that there is always something about one’s success that displeases even one’s best friends: “I observed that people tend to envy others their success. I am a simple man. I don’t need much, just a space to be creative and prosper in what I love doing”. Photographer loves creating. He embraces challenges and strives for creative perfection. “I just need more free time to manifest them all,” he says.
Most of us know a true artist never runs out of creative ideas. Those ideas flow like an endless river with no beginning and no end – challenge after challenge, spark after spark, fire after fire… It never stops. And the artist never wants it to stop. “It becomes your air, your livelihood, your only purpose for existence; it becomes your only drive and cause for living.”
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