Photography Articles

Translated to English by "Nafiseh Tabari", member of CPC.

This article is published in "Creative Photography" Quarterly Magazine, Spring 2005, Tehran. Visit photos at the same issue of the magazine.

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Portraits of Art & Culture (Portraits of the famous Artists and Literals of Soviet Union’s Photographers 1917-45)

Afshin Shahroudi

Tehran, Iran, 2005

Our existing photography sources are limited to the ones that constantly repeat the names of the same well known photographers. These names have been changed to taboos in a way that no one dares to doubt about. Unfortunately, we create these taboos, and then worship them. If we can abandon us, we could learn about the unknown remarkable photographers in the history of photography to improve our horizon of view. One of these useful sources is the Soviet Union photography, which was almost inaccessible in the past, regarding to political excuses.

The Soviet Union photography began just a few months after “Francois Arago’s” report on photography to The Science Academy of France. The first photos of this country were taken of “Saint Isaac Church” at Saint Petersburg in 1839, as well as two brief pamphlets on basics of photography.

“Maksim Dmitreyev” is the first remarkable photographer of Soviet Union. “Volga Characters” is a collection of his works including portraits and landscapes, related to the peasant’s life of the Volga Region, the victims of hunger, cholera and typhoid fever during the Tsars’ era, as remarkable works as FSA photographers’ works of the tragic life of farmers in USA after the dark decade 1930, like photographs of “Dorothea Lange”, “Jacob Rils” an “Lewis Hine”.

At the same time the Western photographers photographed the bitter realities of ordinary people life, even if not sooner, Dmitreyev pictured the same subjects, but because of the dark political relationship between East and West the importance of his works was ignored for about 70 years.

After October Revolution in the Soviet Union, photography improved both in documentary social field and social photojournalism, as well as illustrated documentary photography, which was mostly concentrated to landscape and portraiture. Regardless of the numerous photographs of the Revolution, there are lots of portraits of the well-known artists, scientists, politicians and lots of people, which worth to deliberate as documents of that historical era, 1917-1945.

There are remarkable similarities in photography evolution of the Soviet Union during the October Revolution and after that and Iran’s since 1979 revolution, so it would be useful to study their experience. Here were represent some portraits photographed by the well-known photographers during the Rebuilding Era of the Soviet Union, 1917-1945. These portraits of taken of famous artists and literals.

Photographers always have paid (and pay) attention to the famous people. Expressing the character of the subject is the base of success for the photographer in this field.

This collection (See the magazine please!) was photographed by the best Soviet Union photographers, who had great experience in social documentary photography and illustrated reports. All of them have started photography before October, and have witnessed great incidents of the revolution, as well as participating the revolution. This is a good collection to assess photographers’ works with common background but different views.

“Mikhail Nappelbaum” photographed for 70 years, and illustrated a vast collection of different social subjects of his country before October, during the Revolution and in Rebuilding Era. Collection of his works has been published in a book: “From Craft to Art”. His portraits of cultural and political leaders of his own era are almost unique. He had a great impact on portrait photography in Soviet Union.

Innovational impact of “Aleksandr Rodchenko” (1891-1956) on Soviet Union’s photography is undeniable. He believed in priority of usefulness of photography to the beauty and attractiveness. His works are based on his numerous experiences in different fields of photography. Aleksandr Rodchenko had great impact on almost all Soviet Union’s photographers after the October Revolution.

More experiences in photojournalism and illustrated reports were extended by “Abram Shtrenberg” (1984-1979). Even if he photographed in different fields, his reputation is mostly on portraiture.

“Dmitry Dyebabov”, like other photographers of his own generation, developed his photography during the social incidents

of his country. He photographed the progress and developments of northern regions of Soviet Union.

“Ivan Shagin” (1940-1982) was an optimist, who photographed the development era of his country and the execution of huge industrial projects. He believed that the photographer should not affect the subject.

“Olga Ignatovich” (1902-?) is the sister of another photographer “Boris Ignatovich”, a well-know photographer of Soviet Union. Both were impressed by “Aleksandr Rodchenko”. Her works illustrates the mental search of an artist, who is in pursuit of exploring and creating new compositions and beauties.

“Georgy Petrosov” (1903-71) is also among the photographers, who illustrated the Rebuilding era of his country, like “Ivan Shagin”.

“Arkadi Shaikhet” (1898-1959) is one of the great photographers of Soviet Union. His works were exhibited in all of the exhibitions inside and outside his country, like the Rodchenko’s. He should be considered as a perfect photojournalist. Due to his expertise, intelligence, capability, subtlety and speed, he was able to attend in many incidents and record them. Arkadi was the innovator of “Artistic Illustrated Report”, which filled the gap between “Reportage” and “Artistic Photography”. He was the creator of the “Artistic-Documentary Photography”, what the West intellectuals call it.

You can reach the photos at “Creative Photography Magazine”, No. 2, Spring 2005. These days Internet is the best source; just search the name of the photographer!