Vija Lietuvninkas ’14 has been taking photos for about 10 years. Growing up in a suburban area near Chicago, she had her first camera in sixth grade. She doesn’t know what kind of camera it was, describing it only as “that crazy little thing.” But it was good enough for her to go out and snap pictures of things around her. When she received her first point-and-shoot camera, a Nikon Coolpix, she read through the whole manual from front to back. “I wanted to know everything about that little camera,” she said. From there, her passion for photography gradually grew.
Lietuvninkas draws much of her inspiration from her uncle. When she discovered that he was also a great lover of photography, she began to look up to him as an inspiration. As she explained, her uncle is a semi-professional photographer who has done a lot of research on photography gear. As a Christmas present one year, her uncle allowed her to use one of his DSLR cameras for as long as she wanted. This experience marked a turning point in her photography. Once she had learned enough, she acquired her own camera. She now works with a Canon Rebel T3.
Lietuvninkas loves documenting events and takes pictures for the Daily Gazette. When asked if she felt as though there was a difference between taking pictures as a job and taking pictures for fun, she explained, “When I get into the zone, it feels the same. I am the type of person who also enjoys assignments, so I really do like having a reason to go out for photographs. So whenever the Daily Gazette tells me to go out and photograph for this event, I will go and I will take a hundred pictures.” A member of the women’s Ultimate Frisbee team, she enjoys capturing the emotions and the rapid movement of her fellow Frisbee players.
As a Lithuanian-American, Lietuvninkas likes to document the Lithuanian camp in Michigan where she has spent many summers. While working as a camp counselor, she took it upon herself to record everything that happened during the camp: all the events, the kids and the scenery.
Last semester, she took a course on film photography. In that class, she dealt with black-and-white film and worked with chemicals in the school’s dark room. She enjoyed film photography because she liked waiting for her final photographs to develop.
When asked about her favorite photographer, Lietuvninkas lapsed into thought, then decided upon Sebastião Salgado, the famous Brazilian photographer. She enjoys Salgado’s landscape photographs, since landscapes have always been a challenge for her. Lietuvninkas recommends Salgado’s “Genesis.” “He took a trip around the world and took photos of all sorts of remote places. They are black and white pictures, but they are somehow very vibrant, very eye-catching,” Lietuvninkas explained.
Lietuvninkas’ favorite picture is of her dog, Cisco, who has been living with her for her entire life. When asked why the picture of Cisco is her favorite, she said that the picture is good not solely for its quality, but because its meaning for her personally – Cisco is her best friend. Another reason Lietuvninkas takes so many pictures of Cisco is that she wants to keep the his image alive as he gets older. She also enjoys taking pictures of nature, especially on a micro scale. She likes to focus on very small details of the natural world.
Apart from taking pictures, Lietuvninkas plays for the Women’s Ultimate Frisbee Team, works as an RA and is a senior officer. But photography has always been her favorite and her passion continues to show in her work as she grows as an artist.