My Project 28 Experiences. Number Two - Vilnius Lithuania

02 October 18

Posted at 2:56

I made my first journey outside of the UK in September 2016 to the Baltic States of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. To minimise expense I planned wherever possible to travel on Interail passes and stay in AirBnB rooms throughout the project. The Baltic states were the only EU countries that are not part of the Interail scheme so I decided to use the bus network. I flew to Vilnius where I rented an AirBnB room in a grand old house in the centre, the host’s mother who also lived there is Alexandra Jacovskyte. I learnt that Alexandra is a renowned photographer and stage costume designer. Meeting Alexandra, talking with her and seeing her work was a pleasure.

Vilniaus VeidaiAleksandra , my landlady's photo book on Vilinius.

I would describe Vilnius as bohemian. Music and art seem to be everywhere. I took a walk along Gedimino Propspektus the evening I arrived in Vilnius. It is a main street that leads to the Cathedral and to Gedimas Hill during September the street becomes what must be one of the longest street markets in Europe. There is a wonderful atmosphere with food and drink stalls at regular intervals. Potato Crisps are fried in the open air using a contraption that slices a potato into a spiral, the potato is then stretched onto a wooden sort of kebab stick , the spiral open out into perfectly formed potato crisps that are then deep fried.

Early next morning I took a walk through the empty market to Gediminas hill and tower and opened my eyes to the Baltic Way. A human chain of two million people stretching from Gediminas Hill in Vilnius to Tallinn in Estonia via Riga in Latvia on 23rd August 1989. This ultimately resulted in the three states gaining their independence.

Gediminas TowerGediminas Tower


Gediminas castle and tower stand at the top of Gediminas Hill, the highest point in Vilnius Old Town. On 23rd August 1989 the tower was the starting point of the Baltic Way.

The Baltic WayThe Baltic Way

It was the largest and most effective demonstration in the Baltic State's campaign to regain their freedom.

So the Baltic Way started at Gediminas Tower and so did I. Having been pleased with aerial shots taken in Boston I thought I would take the same opportunity here.

New Town From Gediminas HillView of Vilius from Gediminas Hill

The view across the River Neris in the early morning light is breath taking.

View from Gediminas TowerOld Town from Gediminas Tower

A view from higher up in the tower looking out over the Old Town.

Vilnius is compact but also has a lot of variation. The skyline is notable for the numerous churches. They are predominantly Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox. There is only one Synagogue remaining in Vilnius following the attempted extermination of Jews by the Nazis and more latterly the Soviet Union occupations.

Choral SynagogueChoral Synagogue


Before WW2 there were over 100 synagogues in Vilnius, the city was even called the 'Jerusalem of Lithuania' but today only the Choral Synagogue remains standing and in use. Also of note is the absence of a Muslim presence. There are in fact four Mosques in Vilnius (although I never came across one). There is certainly an absence of the visibility of the Muslim religion that we are used to in Western Europe. Lithuania is the only Baltic State with any mosques. In September 2015 all three states discussed the possibility of banning the Burqa  following the influx of Syrian refugees to Germany. Politicians in Lithuania resolved it would be a nonsense as no one had ever seen a Burqa being worn in their country. It appears that to date migration from the Middle East and North Africa has not impacted the Baltics. Christianity though is always visible especially beneath the Gates of Dawn where from the street you can look up and see through a glass window the painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Chapel of the Gates of Dawn. Everyday locals and visitors stand in the street below praying, especially when services are taking place on Sundays. You rarely walk far in Vilnius without seeing clergymen or nuns.

In terms of history, the Kingdom of Lithuania was created on 6th July 1253. During the 14th century the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the largest country in Europe encompassing present day Lithuania, Belarus, parts of Poland, part of Russia and the Ukraine. For over two centuries a two state union of Poland and Lithuania existed as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. During the late 1700s the Russian Empire took over much of Lithuania. Then after WW1 Lithuania became independent with the Republic of Lithuania being formed on February 16th 1918. Freedom did not last long though in 1940 Lithuania was occupied by first of all the Soviet Union and then by Germany. At the end of WW2 the Soviets reoccupied Lithuania. Then in 1990 Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare independence. Lithuania joined the EU in 2004, it then adopted the Euro on 1st January 2015.

The objective of Project 28 is for me to visit, and photograph all 28 member countries of the EU at the time of Brexit before there is any change to freedom of travel for UK citizens throughout the EU, so before Article 50 is completed. Today Brexit, the stability/future of the EU, being brought about at least in part by migration across and into the EU, is seen as a major problem both within the EU and across the globe. We hear through the media about unprecedented change and unprecedented migration. Just looking briefly at Lithuania's history one can see that change on an even greater scale has happened repeatedly throughout history. This is not the place to go into the detail but each of the events referred to above have caused mass migration. As no doubt will become obvious as I visit more countries. The persecution of the Jews saw massive movements of populations and indeed the elimination of many. I intend to highlight where history has seen change with similar human and economic impact as some are predicting for the EU. But for now, back to Vilnius today.

Even within Vilnius there is an area which has declared itself and independent republic, with it's own constitution. The Republic of Uzupis. After reading about it I could not wait to visit. When I asked Aleksandra about it I immediately sensed her distaste for it and embarrassment that it even existed. I decided not to bring it up again but set of for a visit.

Republic of UzupisRepublic of Uzupis

Uzupis means "beyond the river". This small area of Vilnius is encircled by the Vilnele River, it is connected to the rest of Vilnius by seven bridges.

The area is described as 'bohemian and occupied by friendly artists'. Uzupis was declared a republic on 1st April 1997. The constitution is posted in nine languages on a long wall in the centre. Uzupis has a national anthem, a president, prime minister ambassadors and a sheriff.

The centre piece is the Angel of Uzupis

Angel of UzupisThe Angel of Uzupis

So it's a quirky tourist attraction I guess. On my three visits there I didn't really meet many bohemian artistic folk, I saw some evidence of sculpture and art alongside the river and many of the bridges are adorned with padlocks although I'm not sure that idea originated here. I did spend an enjoyable hour or two in one of the cafe bars chatting with locals. Chatting in Vilnius is not a problem, I didn't meet a single person who didn't have and grasp on English, whether young or old, busker, folk sleeping on the streets, whatever, everyone can understand and speak English - which was not the case when I visited the other Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia. Frank Zappa never visited Vilnius, he probably was unaware of its existence yet bizarrely Frank is the patron saint of Uzupis! There is even a  commemorative bust of Frank in Uzupis. He appears to represents the aspirations of Lithuanians post the soviet period!

Having said I didn't meet the artists referred to in the travel blurb I did find Vilnius in general was at one with all things artistic. My landlady was an artist and photographer. I met numerous street musicians and enjoyed random concerts on stages dotted all over the town and covering all genres of music (all part of the end of summer festival that appears to run throughout September and into October). There was also a lot of interest in Lithuanian culture and history, be it beer production, open air traditional food stalls, or folk in traditional dress. All could be found in the very long Gedimino Street during the fiesta period.

Then there is the street art. Vilnius has had a street art festival annually since 2013 and artists from around the world are attracted there. Some caught my eye.

Keule RukeKeule Ruke

The mural on the end wall is by Brazillian artists OsGemeos, twins who did this piece for the 2015 festival. Their grandfather was Lithuanian, he is depicted in the giant's left hand. The smaller piece of Putin and Trump with splif and enganged in blowback was originally a piece of them kissing, painted by Dominykas Ceckauskas (co-owner of Keule Ruke) and graphic designer Mindaudas Bonanu and was an interpretation of the 1979 photograph The Socialist Fraternal Kiss. The kissing image was defaced. In September 2016 Ceckauskas and Bonanu repainted "Trump-Putin V2.0" they changed Trumps election campaign words "Make America Great Again" with the phrase "Make Everything Great Again" Great being coloured green symbolising their pro-cannabis stance. The artwork has full backing of Vilnius's mayor. Post Soviet Lithuania, well at least Vilnius, values young creative people and values the freedom to criticise well known public and political figures without fear of reprisal.

Os GemeosOs Gemios


Sv. Dvasios StreetSv.Dvasios Street

One or two parts of the old town have buildings dating back to the 16th Century when this street was just inside the "Defence Wall" that surrounded the city until the late 18th century. This build and street featured in an episode of a TV series called Moscow Burning.

Vilnius Full Of Space Vilnius Full Of Space

I've still not discovered the meaning of this slogan, I came across it a number of times in the town. At first I thought it must refer to the empty building(s) but on investigation I found it features in a couple of short films on skateboarding and ice-boarding. The phrase is often used on social media but I’ve been unable discover the origin.

Vilnius was the first town I visited for the project outside of the UK. If this was the kind of experience in store for me from the next 26 countries I was surely in for an awesome time. In just a few days I had learnt so much, me some wonderful people. I pondered why anyone would risk their freedom to travel!

Here are a couple more images of Vilnius;

Vilnius CathedralVilnius Cathedral

Traditional Lithuanian DressTraditional Lithuanian Dress.



Shutter Hub OPEN 2018

18 September 18

Posted at 4:14

Whilst documenting Riga in Latvia for Project 28 one of my most memorable experiences was a visit to the Salaspils Memorial.

Whilst in Riga I read about the Salaspils Concentration Camp  which is located just beyond the boundary of Riga. The concentration camp was run by the Nazis during WW2. The camp housed thousands of German Jews, Soviet POWs and left wing Latvians. The Salaspils Memorial on the site of the concentration camp can be reached by train to Darzini and then a walk of two or three kilometres. I took the train to Darzini and disembarked on to a lonely platform with a brick shelter and nothing else in sight apart from trees. Paths led in all directions through the woods. It took me a while to spot a tiny sign on a tree identifying the correct path to take. After a walk through the dense woods with just a couple of small signs confirming I was on the correct route I came a cross Salaspils and it was quite a shock.

At the entrance there is a concrete block housing a walkway it is a 100 metre long ramp signifying a stairway to heaven. On the front of it are inscribed the words in Latvian “AIZ SIEM VARTIEM VAID ZEME” English translation “Beyond this Gate, the Earth Moans”. As you proceed past the ramp to the left is a large black marble block which houses a metronome, the block is called the "Reminding Heart", the constant heart beat from the metronome breaks the eery silence, echoing throughout the vast area of the memorial. Ahead is a clearing in the forest, around the edges stone memorials and concreted slabs. In the centre there are massive stone sculptures built and left by the Soviets as a memorial. They stand in groups, square-jawed and arms outstretched, holding each other up in support, kneeling or stretching out in exhaustion across the grass.

MotherMother - Salaspils Memorial Ensemble


This image of one of the stone sculptures, Mother, has been selected for Shutter Hub's OPEN 2018 Exibition.

I have visited many war memorials around the world but have seen nothing on this scale. Being there alone with the heartbeat constantly booming is quite daunting. It creates an atmosphere provoking thoughts of what this camp meant to those imprisoned and in many cases dying there.




My Project 28 Experiences. Number One - Boston

29 August 18

Posted at 8:49

My Project 28 Experiences is a series of blog posts recounting my impressions of the towns I visited for the project. Anecdote, opinion and comment, sharing my personal journeys. I hope you find them of interest.

On 10th August 2016 I made the first of the eleven journeys that would be required to travel to all twenty-eight states

Boston 116 miles north of London and just 80 miles north of my home but this would be my first visit. I travelled by car. On route it was clear that local industries are food production, both agriculture and food processing factories. Arriving in the market square, dominated by St Botolph’s Church known as the Stump, the town appeared to be a typical English market town. Soon after arriving I climbed the 209 steps of the Stump’s tower and set a precedent repeated in many towns throughout my journeys of climbing towers to capture aerial images and to familiarise myself with the town layout.

Boston Market Square and the StumpSt Botolphs and the Market Square


Another precedent was for me to stay in an AirBnB room. Boston was my first experience of using AirBnB. Having now stayed on numerous occasions something that is common across Europe is the wonderful AirBnB hosts. Without exception I have found them kind, helpful and genuinely interested in their guests. James, my host in Boston was no exception. When he heard about my EU project he offered his opinion of Boston, the referendum result and plenty more.

James, himself is an immigrant, not from the EU but from the USA. James has lived in Boston for 25 years, he owns numerous properties that he lets as bedsits, flats etc. After I shared my project with James he took some joy in telling me that the vast majority of his tenants are from the EU, Polish, Romanian and Portuguese. None are ‘on benefits’ His only tenants on benefits are an English family. Also he has never had any trouble from an immigrant tenant. The only real trouble James has experienced was a local guy who rented a room, most likely for an extra-marital liaison, who ended up stabbing one of the fellow tenants. James added that was actually in the room I was renting – thanks for that James! He went on to share his view of the indigenous population, “They are mostly Boguns,” he volunteered.

I was determined to get the locals view so I spent an evening in a pub on the edge of an estate a short walk from the town centre. It was poker in the pub evening, a pastime I am quite partial to. As a stranger I was welcomed and I was pleased to see that the ‘school’ was made up of a disparate group in terms of age, gender etc. They appeared a fair cross section of the community. During my time in Boston I was struck by the totally different economic situation just 80 miles from where I live. I had witnessed the economic at the market held at Bargate Green on Wednesdays where an outdoor auction takes place between 09:00 and 13:00. The ‘goods’ to be auctioned set up in endless lines across the car park for inspection. The auctioneer and his assistant, both images of what comes to my mind when I hear the term ‘Bogun’ enthusiastically take bids on an eclectic and eccentric array of what can only be described as junk. Lots such as ‘three garden canes and a golf putter’, a ‘well worn Eddie Stobart jacket’, a ‘Sgt. Peppers album in a sleeve but minus the cover’. It reminded me of the street off of Brick Lane in the sixties.

UntitledAutioneers at Bargate Green with a nice glass table on offer


Back to the poker it was just £2 to play which included a sandwich at the break (where I live it would be £15 at least) prizes were simply points in the national league and pride. I told those assembled about my project and why I had chosen Boston. There was a consensus that had David Cameron arrived back from Brussels with an agreement to reduce, to stem the flow, of EU immigrants then the vote would have been to remain. Not to stop immigration, the Poles and Romanians contributed to the local economy, they did the jobs the locals don’t want to do. They were accepted and welcomed. There were simply a disproportionate number that meant they now were impacting local business and traders, and also changing the character of Boston too far too quickly. Only one amongst them, an out and out racist, did not subscribe to this theory. His peers even chastised him for his racist opinions. So the decision to leave the EU was down to David Cameron’s failings not the voters of Boston being anti immigration, they said.

During the evening a couple of young men, quite clearly Eastern European, enquired about the poker in the pub. I noted they did not receive the warm welcome I had experienced. The most moderate of the group, the one who had led the David Cameron debate, told them the rules and the process but did so with an air of negativity. He closed with “come along any Wednesday at 8pm, we’ll look forward to seeing you. The more the merrier." The manner in which he delivered those words clearly implied that he meant “you are not wanted round here, don’t come back”. Thank goodness the racist didn’t deal with them!

David Cameron indeed!! A few hours and a couple of beers here said to me James’s assessment was pretty much on the money. Of course I will still be free to travel to Boston once we leave the EU. Somehow I doubt I will.

Boston From St Botolph



Initial feedback on the book

23 August 18

Posted at 4:22


On page 7 and 8 is the first two page spread. The image representing Pireaus in Greece. 


The last image in the book is another two page spread from Gyor in Hungary.

Twenty two of the edition of forty books have now been purchased. The feedback has been most encouraging. Here are some examples;

" The unique binding is the first thing that struck me"

"The book is fantastic and I will always treasure it"

"Very impressive content"

"I love the way it is sewn together"

" The quality of printing is top class"

"A beautifully bound book"

28 The Book spines

The decision to invest in hand binding and to use the colours of the EU appears to have been a worthwhile decision.

You can order your copy here


The Book is now published

01 August 18

Posted at 3:25

28 The Book spines28 The Book

At last enough books have been printed, bound and delivered to meet all outstanding orders which have now been dispatched. The image shows the spines with coptic stitching using thread of blue and yellow of the EU. The tails have been left to reinforce that the books are hand made.

Tommorrow I will receive more books making up the full edition of 40 books. I am more than chuffed that over half the edition have been purchased already!

The book has fifty-two A5 pages containing twenty-eight images, one from each country of the EU, with nine two page spreads. Each copy is numbered and signed by the author.

Books are still available and can be ordered here


Book release put back a few days

17 July 18

Posted at 2:41

The release of the book, 28, is now Tuesday 24th July. I apologise for this delay. Pre-ordered books will be dspatched on 24th.

Books may be ordered here


July 20th

15 July 18

Posted at 12:10

Sosnowiec, PolandSosnowiec

An as yet unpublished image from Sosnowiec, Poland.

The book, 28, will be released this coming Friday 20th July. The pre-orders will be despatched soon after. I am overwhelmed by the interest and support there has been even prior to publication. It is looking as though the first edition will be a complete sell out. There are of course copies still available  here  or via the contact page.

The website gallery is slowly being populated with images from Project 28 along with anecdotes and information. 

The project has received more positive exposure recently from Shutter Hub in their 2018 Summer Good News blog, scroll down on the link to take a look and while you are there checkout the site there is some amazing photographers work there.


28 The Book is now available to order

27 June 18

Posted at 9:32

A hand made, self-published, first edition of thirty-five photo books. Fifty-two A5 pages containing twenty-eight images, one from each country of the EU, with nine two page spreads.
Indigo printing on Popset Brilliant White 170gsm paper creating the highest quality images coupled with lovingly crafted hand binding with exposed stitching and tails (in the colours of the EU) results in a most unique and rare book. Every copy will be numbered and signed by the author. The book is now available for purchase from the project website here or contact me direct
As there are only thirty-five available in this edition if you wish to avoid disappointment and reserve a copy now. The price is £55.
The book is the first output of my project. There will be an exhibition in March 2019 to coincide with the UK's exit (or not!!!) from the EU  - either way Project 28's reflection on the rich tapestry of the twenty eight countries of the EU in 2016/7 will still be relevant.


Book News

17 June 18

Posted at 3:50

Boston Market Square and the Stump

Boston Market Square and the Stump

On 11th August 2016 I took the first photograph of Project 28. Now in June 2018 nearly two years later I have reached a significant milestone as the book '28'  is about to be published. that is 'self published'. So long as I approve colour proofing next week the book will be available to purchase three weeks later. The travelling, shooting, processing, editing, stressing, negotiating, fretting, threatening to give up, designing, reviewing is now complete. Relief! My mind has now turned to an exhibition in March 2019 to coincide with the UK's exit (or not) from the EU. Well in actual fact my mind is currently focussed on creating a sales page on this website so folk may purchase the book but that will be sorted this week I'm sure.

It has been some journey and over the last few months it seemed I would never reach this point but here we are!


Liege and Book Progress

29 May 18

Posted at 7:52

Statue Le PlongeurStatue Le Plongeur

Liege is the project28 town for Belgium. With today's news of terrorist killings in Liege my mind goes back to November 2016 when I visited and documented the town. I enjoyed my stay in Liege. This image captures at least some of the diverse architecture in this most diverse of towns. I have for some reason an emotional attachment to this image so it proved tough for me when it did not make the final edit for the book.

Gare des Guillemins 1Gare de Guilliems

I arrived in Liege by train so like many visitors I was amazed whan I arrived at the futuristic Gare de Guillimens. The steel and glass structure is somewhat out of place. It looks as though an alien spacecraft has landed in Liege. This is another image that brings back happy memories and another that did not survive the edit. Liege will though be represented by an image of the Guillimemns architecture.

I've mentioned the book edit a couple of times. I'm pleased to report the edit and proofing are complete, a torturous execise. Torturous but a necessity! There have been many changes and rethinks along the way but now I am ready for the printer. I have decided that printing and binding will be undertaken by professionals as opposed to my fanciful ideas of late that I might make the books by hand. I am talking with two potential suppliers. A company in London with whom I have worked before and in whom I have a lot of confidence. Printing and bookbinding in the UK is notoriously expensive so I am also talking with a specialist company in Lithuania. I am about to take a short break. I hope by the time I return I will have chosen my preferred supplier and have an idea of when I will take receipt of the finished books.

As of today, other than choosing the supplier, the only outstanding piece of work was the cover design. I have been playing with an idea to have a washed out version of the now 'iconic' Project 28 EU Montage with 28 written over it. The 28 slipping off the cover on both front and back. This signifies the fact that 28 will by March next year have slipped down to 27.

What do you think?

UntitledFront Cover