Dystopian Fiction

Steampunk Cosplay in Panevėžys, Lithuania

4 min read by Andrej Spilevoj. Published in Film & Photography.

My first encounter with dystopian fiction was George Orwell’s “1984.” The book inspired me to earnestly and continuously seek movies and reads on the topic until I saw Mortal Engines. The 2018 film, based on the novel by Phillip Reeve, finally pushed me to make use of my camera.

I decided to act out my vision of a dystopia through portrait series that you see in this article. It took some time and effort to bring these images to life. I hope that the experiences that I share here will inspire and entertain you as much as they did for me.

Note: Watch a short video from our photoshoot.

Costume design and models.

Organizing a fantasy-themed photoshoot isn’t a small feat. It requires cooperation between several artists with diverse skills and passions. I live in a small city of Panevėžys, a Lithuanian town with less than 100K in population. To get the right talent for my outlandish idea I had to seek beyond its borders.

I began by scrolling through various clothing styles, looking for a trend that would match my vision. After spending some time researching online, steampunk surfaced to the top of my list. The genre does not necessarily imply apocalyptical visions, however, it maintains the key element I was after — a stylized amalgamation of the future and the past.

I then searched online for people in Lithuania who are into or are working with the steampunk clothing. With luck, I came across Greta and her husband Donatas from Vilnius who agreed to help me with my project. We began by reviewing hundreds of images from various post-apocalyptic movies.

Greta crafted the clothes and her husband provided us with the armour to complete the image with a taste of a wild war. I’ve also invited Jurate, a makeup specialist, along with models Marija and Keralaina. My visuals assistant Marija Giliova and cameraman Dinas also joined our team.

Location, film, camera, lights.

I scouted a few possible places, one being an abandoned factory. Unfortunately, it was completely overgrown, which wasn’t good for the kind of visuals we were looking for. Eventually, I came across the train station museum in Panevėžys. The heavy, cold lines of old soviet machines turned out to look just right.

I wanted to recreate the grainy, moody look of the dystopian movies. To accomplish this I used Kodak Portra 400, which I pushed an extra stop to ISO 800 for additional contrast and saturation. With it, I used Mamiya ADF 645 and Sekor 80mm 𝑓1.9.

To be able to shoot wide-open, we avoided artificial lighting, aside from the warm ting coming from the oil lamp. It was a fairly bright day. Smoke bombs were added to some shots for extra effect.

The results.

The film gave me the exact look I’ve envisioned for the shots. I’ve added a few touch-ups to the scanned negatives in Lightroom while retaining the character of a classic cinema grit.

It was tremendously fun meeting and working with such talented people. I hope that my new friends and I will continue working in the near future.

The photographs are printed in large and displayed at the new pub in Vilnius, Garinis Angelas. Come by if you are in the area!