One hundred years ago this fall, the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution shook the world, changing the course of history and the fate of photography in Russia. Soviet photographers were handed the monumental task of creating a new mythology for the people of Russia, founded on striking visual symbols of collective progress, patriotism, and self-sacrifice. The result was a golden age of Russian photography in the 1920s and 1930s, marked by the emergence of experimental and constructivist photography and by the birth of Soviet photojournalism. Photographers began exploring the vast possibilities of this new medium, which allowed them to probe the complexities of multi-dimensional space; to experiment with perspectives, diagonal compositions, and close ups; to reveal the interplay between light and shadow; and to capture fleeting moments and minute details. In this way, the revolution ushered in not just a new political order, but a new vision of the country and of the world.
As photographers travelled throughout the newly formed Soviet Union, photographing industrial projects, collective farms, sporting events, cityscapes, and military parades, they were not only documenting events, but were active participants in the construction of a new reality. With advancements in printing and publishing technologies, and the subsequent proliferation of magazines, journals, and posters, images and information were able to reach the vast, largely illiterate swaths of the Russian population for whom the sight of modern machinery and massive military and athletic formations was an extraordinary revelation. Photography became recognized as the most powerful and significant propaganda tool of the nascent government.
Russian Photography after the Revolution will feature rare, large-format gelatin silver prints by Boris Ignatovich (1899-1976), a master of the Soviet avant-garde; Arkady Shaikhet (1898-1959), widely considered to be the founder of Soviet photojournalism; and Aleksandr Rodchenko (1891-1956), perhaps the most acclaimed figure in early twentieth-century Russian art and design; as well as Abram Shterenberg (1900-1979), Georgy Petrussov (1903-1971), Semyon Fridlyand (1905-1964), Sergey Shimansky (1898-1972), Solomon Telingater (1903-1969), Emmanuil Evzerikhin (1911-1984), Yakov Khalip (1908-1980), and Georgy Zelma (1906-1984).
Russian Photography After the Revolution
September 7 – November 4, 2017