Audrius Solominas – a well-known Lithuanian photographer whose eyeshot is always on national and international celebrities. In his archives – moments from the most important film events, Netflix film sets and many advertising and fashion projects. We are speaking with Audrius just before the Cannes Film Festival – here as always, he will photograph the stars walking down the red carpet. About the behind the scenes of the biggest film festivals and requirements, what does photographer do on the film set and the most memorable photoshoots – in conversation initiated by the Vilnius Film Office.
– Audrius, let’s start at the beginning – how and when did photography appear in your life?
– I was interested in this field in tenth grade – I was attending a video operators club, and the instructor suggested trying photography as well. I had a standard photo camera Zenit, for that time, the instructor additionally lent me a lens. A circle of friends, the club, J. Vienožinskis Art School attended at that time, naturally lead to thoughts about studying photography. I entered the Vilnius Academy of Arts, Department of Photomedia. Even now I am still quite a chaotic personality, and therefore, back then I was not the most hardworking student, even if I entered with quite high grades. I was interested in Applied Photography, so eventually I left to work in a photography studio, and it was followed by press photography.
– And how did film make an appearance in photography? What do the photographers do on film sets?
– Sometimes film scenes and behind the scenes are shot, sometimes – portraits of actors or shots for posters.
My very first project was Netflix film Tokyo Trial. By chance, I replaced a friend on the film set for a few days and I liked that experience. I remember that part of the filming was taking place in a large space – in Audėjas factory – where props were built, and historical interiors recreated. At that time, I was looking at everything wide-eyed, I did not understand what is going on so well.
The film set – is a large mechanism, providing an opportunity to learn a lot. You can move quite freely around the set, photograph the actors, talk to the crew, and that provides inspiration. Film interests me from various angles – the making of films, and the festivals, premieres, and of course being a part of the audience.
– I imagine that photographing on the film set can have unique nuances – confidentiality, stress, trying not to interfere in the process?
– Sometimes, the photographers on the film set try to be ninjas – so that no one notices them, so that the process is not interfered with, so that you remain invisible. Lately, though, I’ve been trying to be more daring, I’m getting closer to the actors, and I’m finding that it works. You need to understand that it is allowed to do that, to create the feeling of mutual trust and freedom, then the actor will truly be able to reveal their emotions.
It is very important to feel respect for people working around you. Sometimes producers warn you, that the actor does not wish to be photographed, maybe at that time they are really focused, maybe they are getting ready for a complex scene, demanding a lot of energy – you understand, that it is not a suitable time to approach that person.
Of course, there are certain rules – for example, it is not recommended to wear colourful or white clothing. In my opinion, it is essential to get to know the cameraperson, as you will spend the most time next to them, also the actors whom you will photograph.
Previously I would select a few hundred photos from a single shift, now I value selection, because I believe in certain shots, there is a desire to reveal your own point of view, sometimes a single shot can tell a lot.
– Is there a most memorable filming?
– A shift which I remember as the most difficult one – was the latest film project by Ignas Jonynas, filmed in late autumn in Šilutė and the surrounding towns. Filming took place on the water; therefore, I had warm clothing ready, however, I had to ask for additional clothing. Wind, damp, are particularly felt on the water, it demanded a lot of energy, maybe not so much in physical as in emotional sense, but the process itself was very interesting.
Pleasant discoveries, friendships, inspiration, on the film set are numerous, you learn a lot by observing other people’s work. It is a dynamic process, where respect, humanity and communication are of utmost importance.
– Soon, one of the most important film events will take place – the Cannes Film Festival, where you will be attending as a photographer. What will be your role?
– I am flying to the Cannes Film Festival for the eight time. The event can be split into three main areas – the red carpet, film industry fair and other related activities – parties, receptions and similar. Photographers participate in the same festival but may fulfil completely different tasks. My role – to photograph the red carpet and other events taking place within the frame of the festival, the premieres.
– You are photographing global film stars – does that lead to some sort of stressful situations?
– I never thought, that a film actor, who made an appearance on the red carpet before the premiere, can stimulate so many emotions for the people. I remember, when actors like Ryan Gosling, Russel Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt appeared on the red carpet – it is hard to describe what was taking place in the fan area. One needs to understand that for actors who are at their top of their fame it is work – to sign, to pose for selfies with fans and then to pose on the carpet.
Photographers, just as the actors, come to the red-carpet ceremony to do their work. Truth to be told, very little romance remains. Carpet coordinators tell the stars to turn this way or that, photographers shout to the actors, ask them to look at the camera. The rhythm, tasks, atmosphere are sufficiently heated.
Once you are on the red carpet, you end up amongst many photographers, many of them – from various agencies, therefore they have better positions than photographers who are there for the first time. Maybe that is why I started looking for my own angles of approach when photographing – why create the same, that other photographers are already doing?
– What are the requirements for the photographers at this festival?
– Red carpet photographers must wear a suit, black footwear, a shirt and a bow tie, without which you cannot enter the event. It is normal, because for another photographer you are the background of the photo. Cannes Film Festival has old traditions, is more conservative, sticks to resplendence. Other film festivals, like Venice, Berlin, are a little bit more liberal with the requirements.
– Cannes Film Festival, press photography, advertising, fashion projects – you have been photographing for 14 years. What series of photographs, or maybe moments were the most memorable?
– Maybe I would identify a few moments, one of which is related to film. During the pandemic I was working for the Vilnius International Film Festival (Kino Pavasaris). That period was touching emotionally, there was a lot of unknown. During the film screenings at Vilnius Airport a few photographers were allowed to climb up onto the roof of the VIP terminal. I saw all of the airport lines from a new angle and dreamt, that I would like to do a photoshoot there. That dream came true, and the photo was the cover of a magazine. This happenstance is about how the world of film leads you to the most unexpected locations.
Also, a photoshoot with a 103-year-old Elena Ūsienė was very memorable. At the end of the shoot, we drank coffee under a tree and the sharp mind of this woman, along with her sense of humour touched me not so much in a creative as in human sense. Photography is fun for that, because in the process you meet very interesting people and that enriches you.
– What plans do you have for the future?
– I am creating one project, which is set aside at the moment – I am photographing basketball courts in Lithuania. Everything began with me serendipitously seeing a basketball court among apartment blocks in Radviliškis – on a very rainy, cloudy day – it was a very cinematographic view. I began travelling to other cities, towns, villages, now I have photographs from 52 different locations in Lithuania. I hope, that in the near future, I will find the time to continue this personal project.
Lately, I am interested in video creation processes. Also, I am very interested in artificial intelligence, which will inevitably change our lives. I don’t look at it with fear, it is simply interesting what the situation will be like, how will the technologies evolve. Well, the immediate goal is to finally organise the archive of my work (laughs).