“Looking back”

Māra Brašmane (Latvia)

 From 17 December 2020 until 31 January 2021, Latvian Museum of Photography is pleased to present Looking back, a solo exhibition by a Latvian photographer Māra Brašmane. The exhibition will display unique black-and-white photographs of life in Riga and various Latvian towns from the 1960s through the 1980s.

The exhibition Looking back is reminiscent of a personal memory collection, the creation of which was motivated by the constant rhythm of time, changes in society and a fateful passion for the art of photography. Māra Brašmane’s photographs did not come into being for the eyes of others, but served as a way to discover oneself, one’s dreams, interests and, also, to learn to approach others, while documenting the world around and changes in it. Her photographs reveal her interest in the passing of time, the magic of the moment, youth, work, recreation, joys, worries and livelihood, in other words – her love for life and people.


The author has said,

I have lived and continue to live in a time of constant change. It has determined my desire to capture these processes, as well as changes around us - both in the city and the countryside. The passing of time constantly brings something new. Only when I look back, I can see and compare what has changed, what was gained and what was lost. I see how developed or degraded the city/countryside has become over time. How the perception of beauty is changing. Times come and go, the power and tastes change, same as the slogans and catchphrases. Through it all I don't stop being interested in life, people and the city as housing for us, people.

Author’s visual language did not fit into the prevailing artistic styles of that time. She extensively photographed her friends and now well-known people in her characteristic documentary style, trying to reveal the soulful beauty of each subject, rather than transform it. While working at the Rundāle Palace Museum, M. Brašmane learned the importance of documenting. For decades, she created and collected photographs that did not fit into the genres demanded by the era and photo clubs. She carefully stored them solely for herself, thus revealing the importance of this material to the author herself. Quiet small-town scenes, market squares, portraits of friends, urban hustle and private courtyards – Māra Brašmane has created one of the most authentic representations of Latvian society. Only later the cultural, social and documentary value of these images was revealed, rendering them as unique historical evidence of life in Riga and various small towns in Latvia, mainly in the second half of the 20th century.

The exhibition will feature black-and-white photographs made on film. The photographs cover period from nearly the artist’s first exposed photo film until 2013. However, most of the images displayed are from the 1960s to the 1980s. The exhibition reflects three aspects from the life of Māra Brašmane – love for the city of Riga, work at the Rundāle Palace Museum and visits to the rural regions of Latvia, which will be displayed for the first time in Riga.

Māra Brašmane (1944, Liepāja) is one of the most known photographers in Latvia. She started studying photography in 1962 and is entirely self-taught photographer. In 1984, she graduated from the photo – film department of the Riga Cultural Workers’ Technical School. She worked as a photographer at the Rundāle Palace Museum and the National Museum of Art (now the Latvian National Museum of Art). From 1995, she is teaching photo documentation at the Riga Construction College. Brašmane worked mostly in black-and-white documentary style. In the 1970s and 80s, she took photographs of people in an informal environment and created socially based reportages. Since the beginning of 1964, M. Brašmane has participated in group and solo exhibitions both in Latvia and internationally. Her works have been exhibited in the Exhibition Hall Arsenāls, Copenhagen City Museum, Glasgow International Festival of Contemporary Art, The Rencontres d’Arles, Austrian Museum of Contemporary Art, Bournemouth Art Institute in UK, Gallery No. 1 in Boston, USA, and elsewhere. Her photographs and reproductions of works of art have been published in more than 50 books, albums and catalogues.


The exhibition is supported by the State Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia, the Riga City Council and “Krāsu Sreviss” Ltd. We would like to express our gratitude to design artist Ieva Stūre.