About the Artist

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  • Unknown photographer. Portrait of Max Penson. c. late 1940s. Getty Images. Hulton Archive. © Maxime Penson

    Max Penson was born on March 17, 1893, in Velizh, a town in what is today Smolensk Oblast, Russia. In 1915, after the outbreak of World War I, Penson moved with his family to Kokand, in eastern Uzbekistan. In this remote Central Asian outpost he founded and was headmaster of an art school under the authority of the Kokand Revolutionary Committee. Penson took his first photograph in 1921, when he received a camera as a gift. In 1923 he began his photography career in earnest, opening a studio in Tashkent, the capital city of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. For two decades he published his photographs in the regional newspaper Pravda vostoka. His photographs were also syndicated in publications, including Ogoniok and USSR in Construction, that were available across the Soviet Union; in 1937 two of his photographs were awarded prizes by the magazine Sovetskoe foto. In 1934 Penson participated in the exhibition 10 Years of Soviet Uzbekistan, which was organized by Aleksandr Rodchenko, as well as the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne, in Paris in 1937. With Rodchenko, Penson documented the building of the Great Fergana Canal in eastern Uzbekistan. After World War II, Penson was a victim of rising anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union; by 1948 Pravda vostoka had ended its relationship with him, and rules preventing the employment of Jews ended his professional career. He died on July 19, 1959, in Tashkent.

    —Ksenia Nouril

  • Alternate Name(s) Maks Zakharovich Penson (Birth Name)
    Макс Пенсон (Alternate Name)

Meeting Points

Artist Chronology

March 17, 1893
At location: Max Penson
Lives in Velizh
At location: Max Penson
Moves to Kokand at the outbreak of World War I. Helps create and becomes principal of an art-production labor school under the authority of the Kokand Revolutionary Committee
At location: Max Penson
Studies in the department of decorative paint at the Art and Industrial School of Antokolsky
At location: Max Penson
Lives in Kokand
At location: Max Penson
Receives a camera as a thank-you gift for his dedication to the community
At location: Max Penson
Recalled to the city of Tashkent by order of the People's Commissariat. Opens a studio and trains as a photographer
At location: Max Penson
Works as a photographer for the newspaper Pravda Vostoka. His photographs are syndicated by national magazines and newspapers
Contributor: Max Penson
Included in Aleksandr Rodchenko's album 10 Years of Soviet Uzbekistan
Contributor: Max Penson
May 25–November 25, 1937
Exposition internationale des arts et techniques dans la vie moderne at the Trocadéro
Organizer: El Lissitzky
Visitor: Gustav Klutsis
Max Penson and Aleksandr Rodchenko photograph the construction of the Grand Fergana Canal
The canal was built by hand by 160,000 workers in forty-five days. The event draws many avant-garde photographers
Photographic license is revoked and he is fired from the newspaper because of rising anti-Semitism
At location: Max Penson
July 19, 1959
At location: Max Penson
April 26, 1966
Much of Tashkent is destroyed in an earthquake, burying his archive under the remains of a building. His daughter, Dina, and her husband save an unknown portion of the archive
At location: Max Penson

Walther Photographs

View this artist's works in MoMA's Online Collection

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