Iveta Vaivode photography

Somewhere on a disappearing path

 “Come, child! Let’s listen to the bees singing.” my aunt would say every evening before we would go to bed. Her white hair always reminded me of dandelion seed heads, so beautiful and delicate you almost fear to touch them. I remember her singing while working in the garden, songs about the nature surrounding her. She would also spend long hours with me talking about the family I never knew, but always considered myself to be part of.

Looking at my parent’s family albums, I would imagine their lives before me. I constructed memories I didn’t have, playing them over and over again in my mind. Somehow I always felt that the people I saw in the albums differed from the people I saw next to me every day. These photographs, although connected with a particular history, triggered my own imagination, rather than gave me a specific knowledge of anything.

The ambivalence of photographs, their possibilities and limitations suggest we should not trust images as records of our lives and histories. In a quest to create my own version of a personal family album, I have travelled to where my mother and grandmother were born to meet these distant relatives in the place of our origin. I had never met them, but was told about them. My work addresses the idea of memory and ‘looking back’ through the creation of my own narrative based on my family history.

For several years years, I have documented people in the remote village ‘Pilcene’ in the Eastern part of Latvia. In my search for traces of my family there, I looked for the people who knew my grandmother. Through their stories I also became very aware of their attachments to the land, their homes and the importance of elements in nature to their being.



The Spectacle of Society.

Opera was once seen as the exclusive reserve of aristocracy, a polite social occasion or an event to attend to affirm your cultural capital as a member of a social elite.  Iveta Vaivode’s images tell a different story of intense participation by a more heterogeneous audience in a drama unfolding out of the frame. She watches the watchers, much as painters like Edgar Degas or Walter Sickert did at the music hall a hundred years ago. The long exposures she employs render the subject in a high contrast impressionistic way, like Édouard Manet, but instead of Baudelaire’s Flaneurs, Vaivode sees a more stratified contemporary audience. From box to balcony to stalls the make-up of the spectators clearly differs, but the difference from seat to seat is equally enthralling as many people sit virtually stock-still for the entire 45 minutes of the performance & exposure, whilst others move around to the point of visual extinction. Some sit forward in their seats wringing their hands as the narrative grips them, whilst others coolly recline, arms folded.


In one image Vaivode shoots looking down from the balcony on the red velvet curve that separates the orchestra pit from the stalls. The marked contrast either side of the line, one of light activity against dark observation, puts us in mind of Plato’s cave or Debord’s Society of the Spectacle, as those in the dark sit transfixed by the energy of others – passion by proxy. And yet the work is less social critique than affective visual feast as the audience is drawn into the play.

Jim Campbell

Senior Lecturer: Visual Culture and Photography


Simple obstruction (ongoing)

Once a year, on a midsummer night, I take a picture of bonfire. 

A Journey to the Nowhere

What does it mean to open other person’s world and become part of it? Is it possible to overcome the line between the self and the other? To become a double mirror where the only way to see another person is to look through the image of yourself.

“A Journey to the Nowhere” is a visual investigation of existing place named “Nowhere” created by Latvian artist Arturs Rinķis and his wife Inara. Within this story I act as a protagonist who, by exploring the place, slowly become a living installation inseparable from the place itself and the fantasies of Arturs.  The project includes photographs, videos, live performances, real life conversations between Arturs and me and also a written novel.

The main subject of our joint work is our relationships. What happens when two persons tries to merge within the works of each other. Do we create something, which is neither one of us? Both of us decided to start our journey that probably leads to nowhere, but at the same time acts as a final result within the process itself.

Sword-lilies (ongoing)

In a warm summer day I walk my way through the tall grass and brunches till I reach the house of my childhood. I notice a broken window and use it as a doorway to my own past. There is a served table with a coffee cups and untouched jam tray in the kitchen. I feel the house is waiting for somebody, maybe myself. Despite the emptiness of the rooms I can recognize lonely pieces of furniture.  A chair that was used as a bed when I was small or an old clock on the wall. Yet everything seems distorted, small and forgotten. By seeing the true witness of my childhood embodied within the presence of the old house, I see how every time places; events and even people were reinvented in my own memories.

It's impossible to return in your own past and still I search it within the smell of a hey stack, lonely swims in a forest lake or just within the face of an old priest. That process could be described as collection of the dinner table leftovers. You definitely can gain the idea how it looked when it was full, but it’s impossible to taste it.

Both of my parents come from Latgale (region located in the Eastern part of Latvia). Every year I go there to record the last blink of once familiar landscape. With every visit I witness its transformation and disappearance. In a way Latgale has become a metaphor for all the things I have lost.


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