“Making images is an extension to everything I do”

“Making images is an extension to everything I do” 

A conversation with photographer Emilija Milušauskaitė

Emilija Milušauskaitė is a Lithuanian photographer currently based in Bogotá and a graduate of UAL's Fine Arts programme. Her work, inspired by everyday life, reflects her keen observations of her surroundings. Having lived in London for over a decade, Emilja now finds inspiration in Bogotá, where themes of belonging and identity deeply influence her creative process.

Favourite plant: Geranium, Wild Garlic, Borrachero

favourite film: Currently in her “Almodóvar era”

There is a certain delicate, almost whimsical quality present in your work. What serves as your inspiration for creating such pieces?

The mundane repetition of everyday life. At this point I feel like making images is an extension of everything I do, that is to say, I don’t necessarily need to be working to be working. It feels like keeping a close watch on my surroundings and day-to-day for glimpses of beauty. 

Having spent more than a decade studying and living in London as a Lithuanian, you now reside and work in Bogota. What significance does each of those cities hold for you?

London was the place that really formed me as a person, but as much as I hold it dear to my heart, having lived in Bogotá for over three years now I can tell how necessary it was for me to leave. It was a difficult decision, but I feel the rhythm of London had more control over my life than I ever did. I’m still unlearning many things that seemed like the ‘only way’ there, and it makes sense because I arrived very young and those were the only ways I ever really knew. I fly over any chance I get though, so I think that tells a lot about how I feel about it (laugh). 

How do you view the importance of exploring themes related to belonging and identity?

I think it’s hardly possible not to be exploring them in one way or another. Whether involved in the creative practice or not, I feel these are some of the main themes we overthink, explore, or struggle with as conscious beings. In my case, making images and sharing them is surely a way of looking for connection. To myself and others. I started thinking a lot more about these topics once I moved to South America and found myself over 6000 miles away from where I was brought up. We are, after all, everything that’s happened to us before. And my before is very, very different from the culture that I’m embracing today. Luckily, kindness and laughter are universal.

Could you elaborate on your connection with nature and how it influences your creative process?

I like to compare many things that happen daily to the cycles of nature. Almost as if ‘it makes sense’. I am definitely a city person, but I don’t think I’d be a content one if not for the getaways. It sets things in place. 

As a photographer, your presence on social media is relatively minimal. How do you perceive the significance of self-promotion in the current industry landscape?

I honestly think it matters as much as the amount of importance you give it. It is very obviously an amazing tool to connect, share and reach. I am a fairly private person and as much as sometimes I’ll think I’m missing out by laying low, most of my projects come to me by word of mouth, and I like it this way. I like that my work speaks for itself, and the values and views of people I connect with go hand in hand with mine without a need for discussion.

Lastly, what is your favourite plant? And what’s your current obsession?

There are many special ones, one for different moments in my life. Geranium always reminds me of the smell in the staircase leading to the flat where I grew up with my late mum and my wonderful sister. Wild garlic - a dear friend introduced me to it in London. Makes me think of our dinners and endless homemade wild garlic pesto. Borrachero native to Colombia, is a controversial one. Used as a hallucinogen and comes in a variety of colours, looking like an angel’s trumpet.

I have always been interested in human ways and psychology. I’m listening to a lot of Diary of a CEO lately. I’m also in my Almodovar era for it all, the narrative and the aesthetics. One of the last ones I saw, also one of my favourites - ‘What have I done to deserve this?’

interview: Iga szczodrowska