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Andrejs Grants. Photo: Arnis Balčus

Just like today, when everyone clicks away with their digital cameras. Yet at a more conscious level, the beginning could be marked by my first years at the university, when I began to look around and search through the viewfinder. Around that time I also discovered the American magazine Aperture, which they stored in special collections at the library. Back then nobody could look at the magazine, but I had special access because I needed it for my thesis project in the Faculty of Law. And so I took advantage of this access to Western photographic thinking, and spent long days in the library. That was a completely different world, and, of course, it ideologically “disoriented” me. The other magazine there was Camera, from Switzerland, which reflected the European aesthetic approach.

How did this abrupt shift from law to photography come about?

It’s possible that, if I had had the opportunity, I would have chosen to study something else; yet at that age you don’t really know yourself fully. In any event, I don’t regret my course of study, because it gave me a more analytic and structured vision, and that has never bothered me. I was always interested in the cameraman’s profession, because during the Soviet era it was enshrouded in a romantic light. Yet I don’t regret that I got tangled up with photography!

You have taught many Latvian photographers and hobbyists. Is there anyone you can call your teacher?

Of course! Of the photographers with whom I have come into firsthand contact, that would be Egons Spuris. At that time he was like a white sparrow, who looked very differently at the world. Together with his friend Aleksandrs Sļusarevs, who in turn had influenced Spuris. In one of my last telephone conversations with Sļusarevs, we were talking about life and arrived at the conclusion that we were really influenced by each other, because there was very little information back then “from the outside.” That’s why precisely these personal contacts formed an important part of my education. Those are my two people. And then there are all the rest of the influences that come from our cultural heritage.

Aren’t these personal contacts with teachers precisely what young people today are missing in their studies? 

Yes, but that’s what this period is like; sources of information simply change. Once upon a time, a grandfather could pass on his wisdom to his grandson, but that’s unimaginable today. Nowadays, even fathers and sons live in worlds with different understandings of technology. That’s why this direct-contact education has diminished. Now it’s considered exclusive.

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