It’s the Christmas season once more, which means most of us are getting busy decking our places to get into that cheery holiday spirit. Shopping lists are being written. Delivery schedules for gifts are being planned out.
However, there’s another side to this season that hardly crosses our minds during the festivities: the fleeting nature of our material needs. That didn’t stop Lithuanian photographer Simas Lin from exploring the topic through a short conceptual photography project he dubbed “Cemetery of Endorphins.”
The fading star of the season
According to Lin, he got the idea for the series from years of watching piles of Christmas trees end up on the streets after the holidays. Modern society, he said, is fixated on getting the best-looking tree as part of the preparations for the celebration. However, the best known symbol of Christmas ends up being unceremoniously dumped at the end of the season.
“We’re spending time looking for that one perfect tree, then we bring it home with the best care. We decorate them with the fanciest ornaments and lights. We spend time around them with our closest and after a very short period of time, we throw it on the street.”
So, that’s how he came to roam the streets at night for a few days in search of the discarded stars of the season. He carefully lit them up with a 1.2 meter-wide soft box and a strobe in reference to the glow they were dressed with to create the warm and cheerful mood.
The result is a rather sobering look at the reality of things in the afterglow of the holidays, particularly in places where the practice of using actual trees is still prevalent.
A portrait of absurdity and transience
At the heart of the series is a social commentary in which Lin brings to light his realizations on the nature of our material needs and wants. He found absurdity in how the meaning or value that we place on these physical things are mostly transient.
“Despite some of those trees looking exactly the same as when they were brought home, they are now not provoking any positive emotions in people. They become useless trash, which just a few days ago was a symbol of joy and sometimes even prestige. This made me question human needs.”
I’m sure that Lin didn’t mean to dampen the mood during Christmas through this conceptual photography project. Rather, I see this as an important reflection about our material needs in general. Do we really need to make things disposable? Does our happiness — not only during the holidays — really have to be tied to such impermanence and wastefulness?
I decided to ask Lin if he has also thought about expanding it to other similar traditions or cultural elements. He said it was only a quick exploration meant to stand on its own, made without the intention to branch out to related themes. It was a response to how the sight made him feel hurt at that point in time — hence the “endorphins” in the title. I think that resonates well in this body of work.
All photos by Simas Lin. Used with permission.