Ten Years of Soviet Photography at the State Academy of Artistic Sciences

  • Aleksandr Rodchenko. Mother (Mat’). 1924. Gelatin silver print, 8 7/8 x 6 1/2" (22.5 x 16.5 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the Rodchenko family

    Ten Years of Soviet Photography was the first exhibition dedicated to photography in the Soviet Union. The juried show was organized by Yan Ernestovich Rudzutak, the deputy chairman of the Sovnarkom, or the Council of People’s Commissars; Anatoly Lunacharsky, the Commissar for Enlightenment; the artist Igor Grabar; the critics Anatoly Bakushinskii and Yakov Tugendkhold; and the critic and curator Aleksei Fedorov-Davydov. Originally, a series of smaller exhibitions was planned for 1927, to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution. Due to great interest in the project, a single large exhibition was mounted instead, in spring 1928, featuring the works of both amateur and professional photographers.[1] Ten Years of Soviet Photography included more than eight thousand works, displaying a variety of photographic styles.[2]

    At the center of the exhibition was the debate between the older Pictorialist or aesthetic photographers and the younger “factographers,” who aimed to accurately depict the realities of their proletarian existence. Aleksandr Rodchenko and Semyon Fridlyand exhibited in the documentary photography section and Vasilii Ulitin in the science and technology section. Roman Karmen, Alexander Grinberg, and Arkadii Shaikhet also participated. The exhibition took place on two floors of an eighteenth-century house on Vozdvizhenka Street, which was formerly the museum of the Red Army. The organizations invited to participate included the Russian Photographic Society (Russkoe fotograficheskoe obshchestvo), the All-Russian Society of Professional Photographers (Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo fotografov-professionalov), the Association of Moscow Press Photographers (Assotsiiatsiia moskovskikh fotoreporterov), the Trust for Photography and Cinema (Fotokinotrest), amateur photographic groups associated with the Society of Friends of Soviet Cinema (Obshchestvo druzhei sovetskogo kino), and more than twenty-five amateur photography clubs. The journals Sovetskoe foto and Fotograf were among the publications that covered the exhibition and the resultant debates in the press.

    —Ksenia Nouril

    [1] Erika Wolf, “The Context of Soviet Photojournalism, 1923–1932,” Zimmerli Journal 2 (Fall 2004): 110

    [2] Valerii Stigneev, Vek fotografii: 1894–1994 (Moscow: Izdatelstvo LKI, 2007), pp. 33–39.

  • Additional Venues
    Exhibition was also mounted in St. Petersburg

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