With a goat's head here and a pig's head there, Grimaces of the Weary Village is like Old MacDonald's Farm hitting the slaughterhouse. Shot in Lithuania, it is an unglamorous portrayal of life on the farm, a series of portraits of Viksraitis' fellow villagers, people who "...bear their cross without grumbling about their lot."
Cats, dogs, ducks and chicken mix with the crutches and wheelchairs of the village's more elderly residents. Pigs are slaughtered and bicycles are fixed as the poultry wanders in and out of the numerous parties that feature in the book. And it's the parties that lie at the heart of village life, parties where smoking, drinking and a groping of breasts are the main, and perhaps the only, attraction.
In the introduction, Martin Parr writes that if he could speak Lithuanian, he would join the party. Unless Parr is more of a drinker and swinger than we all take him for, I somehow doubt that. The drinking is hard-core, a mix of vodka and various brandies, and the sex is more than a little rough around the edges with an audience of indifferent children being the norm half the time. Men with hanging breasts and folds of belly flab jump on the nearest village wife, grabbing bared breasts, their veined cheeks reddening as they struggle to keep their dangling cigarettes in their mouth. And if they don't have a woman to jump on, then they head off to the tool room/kitchen to masturbate among the chisels and the planes.
Grimaces of the Weary Village is a fabulous book of rough and ready images, printed in a rough and ready manner on what looks like inkjet paper. You get the feeling the book will fall apart pretty soon and that the colours aren't quite right, but somehow that goes with the pictures of a village life that is gone for now, but not forever.
Colin Pantall is a UK-based writer, photographer and teacher - he is currently a visiting lecturer in Documentary Photography at the University of Wales. His work has been exhibited in London, Amsterdam, Manchester and Rome and his Sofa Portraits will be published as a handmade book early next year.. Further thoughts of Colin Pantall can be found on his blog, which was listed as one of Wired.com’s favourites earlier this year.