Soviet photography of the 1960s–1970s

28.05 - 12.09. 2010

Featuring more than 350 prints by 70 photographers, Soviet Photography of the 1960’s–1970’s presents a comprehensive retrospective look at the explosive development of Soviet photography that occurred from1960s to1970s.

Vladimir Bogdanov. None of my dog's business, 1965

Taking as a reference point the exhibition “USSR: country and people in artistic photography”, which was held in 50 countries including the USA, Australia and Japan during 1969–1975 to promote Soviet photography and lifestyle, Soviet Photography of the 1960’s–1970’s revisits artists featured in this exhibition, showcasing already published prints and works previously unseen due to censorship.

Until the late 1950s, Soviet photography was dominated by an orchestrated style that communicated communist ideals. Relatively liberal reforms, launched by Nikita Khruschev, spurred the renewal of the medium. Photographers turned from fabricated benign views of society to documentary practices but, being employed by state-owned news agencies, they were still forced to work within ideological constraints.

Concomitant with the rise of photojournalism, photo-clubs sprang up all over the USSR drawing together local amateurs a nd propagating artistic approaches to photography. One of the leading clubs, Novator, enlisted the luminaries of Soviet photography such as Boris Ignatovich and Alexander Grinberg, to introduce newcomers to aesthetics of pictorialism and avant-garde movements.

Both reporters and amateurs sought new tools – unconventional standpoints, blur, rhythmical patterns – to convey the feeling of freedom that was in the air during this time. Influenced by early-20th-century avant-garde artists, some photographers, like Alexander Abaza and Lev Borodulin, were inclined to graphic style with its sharp contrasts, rhythm and bold silhouettes. The photographers also changed their subjects, switching from official ceremonies to private life of common people. With their technical perfection, deep-rooted traditions and constant search for unconventional forms and techniques, they paved the way for a new generation of photographers.

Drawing together social documentary and artistic photography, editorial images and personal work, the exhibition aims to encompass the full scope of photography from the period examined, revealing interrelationship of aesthetic movements and cross-fertilizing influence of the professional and amateur work. A catalogue in Russian and English accompanies the exhibition.