Two years working in a women’s photography studio in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, led Vilma Samulionytė to create the series Kosha (2009-2011), which was photographed exclusively on the female side of Riyhad’s gender-separated weddings. “Kosha” is the raised chair on which the bride sits during her wedding, receiving greetings from female guests while she waits for her husband. This is the most important, most visible and most decorated place in the wedding venue. Due to Saudi Arabia’s strict religious laws there are no figures in these photographs, but this enables a focus on architecture and design and the way they reflect local ceremonies, values, tastes and culture.
When she returned to Lithuania, Samulionytė continued to explore the idea of marriage through spaces in which weddings take place. Her series Sixty Monuments. Civil Registry Offices (2012-2019) depicts spaces established in the 1950s, the early days of the communist regime, to serve as an alternative to the traditional church. These civil registry offices utilized church-like architectural elements – stained-glass windows, wall reliefs, chandeliers and altars – but removed them from their religious context, decorating them instead with symbols of the couple’s unification, their future family and the state’s sovereignty. Post-USSR laws now allow Lithuanians to choose their own wedding venue.
Samulionytė’s photographic typologies examine the expression of the wedding ceremony through architecture and design and point to the similarities and contrasts in the ceremonies of widely different cultures. Though she deems these ceremonies important, her photographs question the things we have learned to take for granted, inquiring after the essence of the wedding ceremony, the role of each participant and the scope of choice and agency available in this meeting point.
In collaboration with the Lithuanian Culture Institute
Ya'ara Raz Haklai