The exhibition Scenes of Nature marks the beginning of the Open Collection program, launched by ROSPHOTO for its anniversary.

The exhibition provides insight into the formation of landscape photography genre in Russia in the second half of 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, showcasing museum-owned works by such outstanding photographers as William Carrick, Maxim Dmitriev, Evgeny Vishnyakov, Mikhail Nastyukov, Andrey Karelin, and others.

Landscape is the oldest and most beloved genre of photography. It was a Parisian street view that the inventor of the first photographic technique, Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, first captured on a silver-coated copper plate with a camera obscura in 1839.

William Carrick (1827–1878) was one of the first to photograph the streets of St. Petersburg in Russia. First and foremost, he was interested in real “street types”: peddlers, street sweepers, mailmen, etc. And in the 1870s, he took three trips along the Volga River, capturing not the beauty of the Volga landscape but views of poor villages with straw-covered houses, half-ruined river mills, narrow rural streets, and haystacks in harvested fields. 

This approach significantly distinguished Carrick’s photographs from the work of other masters, who sought to capture in their shots the majesty of the Volga, the beauty of cities and villages on its banks.

Photographer M. M. Nastyukov was one of the first Russian photographers to capture the great river in his fundamental work, Views of Settlements along the Volga from Tver to Kazan (1866–1867).

After a while, in the 1880s, many photographers began producing images of the Volga towns, selling their photographs at the famous Nizhny Novgorod Fair. The quality of these photographs is significantly lower than that of the work by Nizhny Novgorod master M. P. Dmitriyev (1858–1948), the most famous and consistent praiser of the Volga. Dmitriev’s large format photographs were created “with no retouching on the negative or the positive”, as catalogs would particularly point out. His landscapes are notable for their artistic approach and pictorial power despite the laconic nature of their composition, the frame almost entirely taken up by the infinite water surface, with the Zhiguli or Bogorodsky mountains, mounds, and a lonely boatman.

In the 1890s, photography became popular and prestigious: photographic societies were established in many towns to hold exhibitions, run contests, and organize photo tours, thus contributing to the active development of landscape genre.

Picturesque country roads, oak groves and banks of winding rivers, deep forests and mysterious lakes were captured in numerous photographs by unknown amateurs in the late 19th century. Many of the photographs of those years sing praise to the poetic nature of Russian estates, and often one can see members of noble families appear in landscape shots.

Many professional and amateur photographers have engaged with landscape photography over time, documenting landscapes of their motherland. As prominent scholar K. A. Timiryazev pointed out in one of his lectures,

“This feeling of nature, which brings all people together, encapsulates a mystery unsolved: neither a poet can put it into words, nor a scientist can make sense of it. An unconscious patriotism of some sort — not the narrow-minded and dark one that divides people, but a broader, brighter one that unites them, creating a common bond to their homeland”. 

The exhibition will feature more than a hundred photographs in various old techniques, while a multimedia section will show one-of-a-kind albums of landscape photography from the ROSPHOTO collection.

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