Tuesday, January 22, 2008Home

Socialist Realist photography from the the USSR

The Victoria H. Myhren Gallery at the University of Denver is set to present in March 2008 the exhibition by Semyon Fridlyand:On the Road: Photography of the Soviet Empire.” A photographer in Soviet-era Russia, Fridlyand has left us an impressive body of work from this time period which is shrouded in mystery for so mush of the American public.The exhibition of 70 photographs will be accompanied by a catalog and essay collection, as well as an online archive. The exhibition will run March 6 to May 4, 2008.

These black and white images serve as examples of photography steeped in the philosophy of Socialist Realism, which imagined the future of Soviet society with great optimism. The more negative aspects of Soviet society, which seem in no way buried in today's Russia, are glossed over in favor of images of heroism and working ambition.

From the Victoria H. Myren gallery:

"Strong parallels exist between early Socialist Realism and corresponding movements in American photojournalism of the 1930s. For instance, the celebration of the production economy in Soviet photographs could feature the monumental beauty of industrial plants and equipment in a style similar to Margaret Bourke-White’s work for Life magazine.

"In pre-WWII USSR, the elevation of the worker to heroic status was a principle objective of Communist Party propaganda—just as it was with the documentary projects of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression."

Later work by Fridyland, after World War II's near-absolute decimation of the USSR and unheard-of loss among its people, is no less glorifying of the State or the Communist message. In fact Fridyland started working with color photography at this time, creating glossy images similiar to the 50s-era advertising of the US. Fridyland died in 1964, while the USSR, just having sent the first man into space, was enjoying the peak of its technological superiority over the Americans.

To see more images from another era in time, from a photographer who lived wholly in that era, click here.

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