Spuris, Egons 1931-1990

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SPURIS, Egons 1931-1990

PERSONAL: Born October 5, 1931, in Riga, Latvia; died May 20, 1990, in Riga, Latvia; married Lia Kimene, 1953; children: Egils. Education: Riga Polytechnical Institute, B.A., 1962.

CAREER: Photographer; VEF electro-technical factory, locksmith, laboratory assistant, radio technician and engineer-designer, Riga, 1947-62; Rigas Radioizotopu Aparatu Buves Zinatniski Petnieciskais Institut, design leader, Riga, 1960-72; Specialais Maksli-Nieciskas Konstru Esanas un Technologisko Projektu Biro JS, Riga, chief designer of projects, 1972-76, chief artist/photographer, 1976-78; Riga Polytechnical Institute, lecturer, 1962-64; People's Photo Studio, Riga, art director, 1975—. Exhibitions: Works included in permanent collections at Museum of Photography, Siauliai, Lithuania; Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, France; and International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY.

Solo exhibitions include City Museum, Tallinn, Estonia, 1973; People's Photo Studio Exhibition Gallery, Riga, Latvia, 1974; City Museum, Valmiera, Latvia, 1974; City Museum, Cesis, Latvia, 1974; Town Museum, Dikli, Latvia, 1974; Museum of Photography, Lithuanian Society of Art Photographers, Vilnius, 1975; USSR Palace of Culture, Prague, Czechoslovakia, 1976; USSR Palace of Culture, Helsinki, Finland, 1978; Gunar Binde/Egons Spuris/Peeter Tooming, Dum Panu z Kunstatu, Brno, Czechoslovakia, 1979 (traveled to the Museum of Olomouc, Czechoslovakia, 1979, and Kiek in de Kok, Tallinn, Estonia, 1980); Bremen, Germany, 1981; Ogre, Latvia, 1981; Kaunas, Lithuania, 1983; Bremen, Germany, 1985; Tallin, Estonia, 1986; Latvian Photography Museum, Riga, 1993.

Group exhibitions include Fourth Exhibition of Latvian Photographers, Kaunas, Lithuania, 1968; Vision and Expression, International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY (toured United States and Canada, 1969-71), 1969; 12 Top Photographers, Ghent, Belgium, 1971; City Museum, Liepaja, Latvia, 1973; Photographers Dialogue, Bielefeld, Germany, 1989; Moscow, Russia, 1989; Three Days of Awakening, Museum of Pharmacy, Riga, 1989; L'Année de l'Est, Musée d'Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland, 1990; Galerie Van der Berlage, Amsterdam, 1990; Photographs from Latvia and Other Soviet Republics, Santa Barbara, CA, 1991; Parmijas—Contemporary Art from Riga, City Exhibition Hall, Munster, Germany, 1992; Baltisk Fotografi, Museum of Photographic Art, Odense, Denmark, 1992, and The Memory of Images—Baltic Photo Art Today, Kiel and Rostock, Germany and Riga, Latvia, 1993.

MEMBER: People's Photo Studio (Riga, Latvia), Ogre Photo Club (leader, 1975-90), Latvian Designers Society, Natron (Maglaj, Bosnia-Herzegovina; honorary member).

AWARDS, HONORS: Gold Medal, Premio Michelangelo, Petrasanta, Italy, 1970; Prix de la Ville de Monaco, 1970; Grand Prize, Dzintarzeme (Amber Land), Siauliai, Lithuania, 1970, Riga, 1979; Gold Medal, Norwegian Photo Federation, 1971; Gold Medal, Photographic Society of America, 1971; Charles Kingsley Memorial Award, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 1971; Medal, 12 Top Photographers, Ghent, 1971; Artist Award, Federation Internationale de l'Art Photographique, 1975; Grand Prize, Latvia '75, Riga, and Latvia '77, Riga; honorary artist, Art-Photo Society of Ceylon (ANPAS).


The Woman I Left, [Riga, Latvia, USSR], 1971.

Sacred is Your Land (Armenian poetry), [Riga, Latvia, USSR], 1971.

(Photo-illustrator) Dance around a Steam Engine, text by Mats Traat, [Riga, Latvia, USSR], 1972.

(Photo-illustrator) Empress Ficke, text by Ivanov, [Riga, Latvia, USSR], 1972.

Also author of article, "Photography in Design," in Maksla, October, 1973.

SIDELIGHTS: Egons Spuris, whose photography expressed Latvian sentiment during much of the twentieth century, considered himself an artist for art's sake. He is considered important to Soviet Baltic Photography, which consists of Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian work. Spuris supported himself by working variously as a locksmith, lab assistant, radio technician and engineer-designer at the VEF electro-technical factory in Riga, as a lecturer in radio engineering at his alma mater, Riga Polytechnical Institute, and as art director of the People's Photo Studio in Riga. His work, which features wide-angle landscape photography, portraiture, and city scenes, heavily relies on black-and-white images, sharp contrast, and minimalist devices.

Spuris once said of his work, "Usually there is no action in my photographs. Compositions are mainly stable, even static. I try to see and reflect the character (not characteristic) of things or environment, the fascinating mood, inner dynamism, or stillness." Spuris' work was not known for reproducing reality, but instead for communicating his ideas about reality. Before 1970 Spuris shot mostly landscape photography, often with wide-angle lenses. He captured the haunting quality of empty seacoasts, sand, jagged rocks, wind-swept grass, the black curtain of the Baltic Sea. His earlier work celebrated the natural beauty of his region and, through portraits and fishing boats, its working man.

Spuris used the technique of photomontage during the late 1960s. He had learned color photography techniques but after 1976 ceased using them because he decided they made his process and public reception too smooth and easy. Instead, he worked almost exclusively in black and white and employed basic techniques of masking and bleaching to achieve desired tonal quality and intensity.

After the mid-1970s Spuris shifted his emphasis from themes of cultural celebration and observation to problems of urban life and expansion. New topics of interest included architectural structures, old and new, and urban surroundings, roofs, cement-paved roads, and wall surfaces. His later works contrasted ancient and modern Riga.

Spuris also liked to portray the arrangement of physical space, of subject versus background, and his attraction to ordinary objects, people, and sights. He published several books and received numerous awards. His work has toured Latvia, Germany, Lithuania, and Estonia.



Mangolds, Boris, Stepping out of Line (exhibition catalogue), 1992.

Parmijas (exhibition catalogue), Munster, 1992.

Skalbergs, Atis, Masters of Latvian Art Photography (Riga, USSR), 1981.

Zeile, Peteris, The History of Latvian Art Photography, (Riga, USSR), 1981.*