Roll On, Time! The Soviet Photobook in the 1920s and 1930s

A curatorial project by a famous artist and photobook researcher Mikhail Karasik

The Soviet photobook of the 1920s and 1930s is a unique artifact of an era of the industrial breakthrough. The main criterion for selection in the present exhibition has been photographic material arranged in the manner of a screenplay with a precise plot line. The exhibited works include twenty photobooks selected from the collection of editions of 1920s and 1930s. These masterpieces reflect the photobook history as well as the main tendencies in photography and design of that period.

The exposition is arranged as follows: Prologue — Lessons in Constructivism — Industrialization — The Red Army — The Blissful Country — The Land of Abundance. The original photographs from the museum collection complement the exposition. Displayed works by Max Alpert, Dmitry Debabov, Georgy Zelma, Boris Ignatovich, Boris Kudoyarov, Alexander Rodchenko, Ivan Shagin, Arkady Shaikhet were repeatedly reproduced in the photobooks of the 1920s and 1930s.

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The ‘Zerkalo’ Photo Club. Forever after. Leningrad Amateur Photography of the 1970s–1990s as a Cultural Phenomenon

The project investigates amateur club photography in Russia in the second half of the 20th century. Amateur photo clubs began to emerge in houses and palaces of culture during the 1950s. In 10–15 years they formed a dense network spreading all over the Soviet Union. In the course of time, photographers’ skills improved, ties between clubs strengthened, and a space emerged for dialogue and the exchange of experience and ideas. Absorbing the traditions of European photograpric societies of the late 19th – early 20th century, by the end of the 1960s Russian photo clubs had reached a notably high level of expertise. The research project is focused on the ‘Zerkalo’ (‘Mirror’) photo club whose activity determined to a great extent the state of creative photography in Leningrad.

Named the best USSR-wide photo club of 1987, and winning 11 gold medals at VDNKh fairs, over the 18 years of its existence Zerkalo gave rise to a galaxy of talented artists whose works still influence the state of Russian photography today. So-called “artistic documentary” photography was the prevailing genre at the photo club, although two others emerged alongside with it: formalist and reportage. Artistic documentary genre was represented by Pyotr Lebedev, Sergei Podgorkov, Boris Mikhalevkin, Lyudmila Ivanova, Lyudmila Tabolina, Yevgeny Mokhorev, Alexander Kitayev, Andrei Usov. The “formalist” wing was made up of Yuri Matveyev, Sergei Arsentiev, Alexei Titarenko, Gennady Tkalich, Andrey Chezhin, Valentin Kapustin and Dmitry Shneerson. Boris Bulgakov, Alexander Nikolayev, Anatoly Medvednikov, Yevgeny Raskopov and others were mostly engaged in the “reportage” photography.

What did photographic practices mean for the Soviet people? What were the conditions in which photo amateurism developed in the USSR? What was the difference between creative experimental photography and a professionalised photography that could serve as a source of income? What were public photo clubs like, and what was their social function? Finally, is there a need for amateur vocational unions today? What role does communication play in the making of an artist?

10-sergej-arsent-ev-1980-e-bez-nazvaniya
10-sergej-arsent-ev-1980-e-bez-nazvaniya
Sergei Arsentiev
Untitled
Second half of the 1980s
Зеркало: Последняя
Зеркало: Последняя
Anatoly Medvednikov
Mass demonstration
Second half of the 1980s
5-sergej-korolyov-1986-elagin-ostrov
5-sergej-korolyov-1986-elagin-ostrov
Sergey Korolyov
Yelagin Island
1986
7-aleksandr-ignat-ev-1980-e-iz-tsikla-shkola
7-aleksandr-ignat-ev-1980-e-iz-tsikla-shkola
Alexander Ignatiev
From the “School” series
1-aleksandr-nikolaev-1980-e-utro
1-aleksandr-nikolaev-1980-e-utro
Alexander Nikolayev
Morning
1980s
Зеркало. Каталог
Зеркало. Каталог
Sergei Podmyotin
From the “License” triptych
1979

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Last updated on 18.09.2018