The Soviet Union Through the Camera

Oscar Niemeyer Museum

By Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Photography

Photographic Record of the Exhibition The Soviet Union Through the CameraOscar Niemeyer Museum

The year of 1956 was marked by two quite contradictory events in the former Soviet Union: Nikita Khrushchev denounced the crimes committed by Joseph Stalin and Soviet troops invaded Hungary. The first was of fundamental importance to the artistic production in the country, because the relative freedom that flourished from this episode, called the “Secret Speech”, allowed photographers and photojournalists to reformulate the role of photography in society. This technique was no longer a mere ideological tool and acquired a new aesthetics, rescuing techniques dating back to the avant-garde movement of the 1920s. Through the eyes of six different photographers, the exhibition “The Soviet Union through the camera” proposes a reflection on the everyday life of this “ghost country”, from the Khrushchev Thaw to Gorbachev’s Perestroika, as well as on the unique role played by photography in the post-Stalinist Soviet society.

Photographic Record of the Exhibition The Soviet Union Through the CameraOscar Niemeyer Museum

Marked by the desire to build visual identities and historical narratives, in which the public was identified as part of this reality, be it real or imaginary, images of Viktor Akhlomov, Yuri Krivonossov, Antanas Sutkus, Vladimir Lagrange, Leonid Lazarev and Vladimir Bogdanov can join masterfully opposite sides that made up the everyday reality of society: on one hand the Soviet myth about the bright future, and on the other, the inhuman conditions of the struggle for survival. Thus, beside the influence of Alexander Rodchenko and Boris Ignatovitch, visible in the construction and image composition, as well as in relation to light, one can draw a parallel between post-Stalinist Soviet photo and the French humanist photography.Evoking themes of extreme importance to the understanding of the Soviet society and avoiding a political narrative, this collection penetrates the thin space left for personal interpretation by the Soviet censorship. The complex palette of nuances in the eyes of each photographer goes from the insightful humor of Vladimir Lagrange and Viktor Akhlomov to the visual subversion in the works by Antanas Sutkus or to the prophetic sarcasm of some images by Vladimir Bogdanov. However, it is only because of the concerns of these artists with Man, or what was left of Man, that this chapter of Soviet photography can transgress all boundaries imposed by political contexts and historical periods, making it universal and timeless

Plisetskaya's triumph (1980) by Leonid LazarevOscar Niemeyer Museum

Leonid Lazarev

The Maestro's hand, Leonid Lazarev, 1970, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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The last day of work of a great actor, Leonid Lazarev, 1985, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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James Aldridge among Muscovite poets (1963) by Leonid LazarevOscar Niemeyer Museum

With nothing again, Leonid Lazarev, 1966, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Workday, Leonid Lazarev, 1960, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Older brother, Leonid Lazarev, 1958, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Childhood memories (1957) by Leonid LazarevOscar Niemeyer Museum

Sokol subway station, Leonid Lazarev, 1959, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Galina Ulanova, Leonid Lazarev, 1958, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Perplexity (1977) by Vladimir LagrangeOscar Niemeyer Museum

Vladimir Lagrange

Afghanistan - Friends, Vladimir Lagrange, 1989, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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We swear, Vladimir Lagrange, 1972, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Tiumen's oil, Vladimir Lagrange, 1970, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Geometry (1973) by Vladimir LagrangeOscar Niemeyer Museum

So we lived...
For a quarter century, I worked at the country's largest magazine, “Soviet Union”, whose main strategy was to promote the socialist way of life. My task was to familiarize the reader with the work and life of metalworkers, pilots, miners, doctors, farmers, etc. Places, as well as the heroes of the photographic shootings, were found spontaneously, relying on my understanding and good relationship with the people, which sometimes caused conflict with the opinion of local party leaders.

The shadow parade (1972) by Vladimir LagrangeOscar Niemeyer Museum

There was a personal life: parents, home, work, love, children, friends; and the country life: slogans, meetings, duties, decorations, party plans and the people. We were not surprised, because we were used to living like that. I did not know another life. They thought for us, depriving us of any autonomy, everything was familiar, everyone did their job. Blinders, created by the party leadership, did not allow us to think about what might be different.

Hot day (1969) by Vladimir LagrangeOscar Niemeyer Museum

I was born in Moscow and lived in a street near Pushkin Square. And oddly enough, I keep warm memories of our communal apartment. This house is no more, only the linden tree is preserved, which was in the middle of the old courtyard. I remember what words were part of our everyday life: Stalin, the fall in prices – which everyone expected, kerosene, air raid shelter, firewood, bourgeois, skates, “pursuing”, ink-pencil, “Pravda” newspaper, queue, circus and so on. To convey these feelings is difficult, they are still alive in me. “This is nostalgia!”, someone says. No! That was my childhood and youth. So I remember everything with warmth in the heart. Is it possible to forget it?

Vladimir Lagrange

The victims of 1937, Vladimir Lagrange, 1962, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Evening tea, Vladimir Lagrange, 1989, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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The counters for the patient people, Vladimir Lagrange, 1991, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Photographic Record of the Exhibition The Soviet Union Through the CameraOscar Niemeyer Museum

Photographic Record of the Exhibition The Soviet Union Through the CameraOscar Niemeyer Museum

The children. Amur River (1964) by Yuri KrivonossovOscar Niemeyer Museum

Yuri Krivonossov

Moscow. On the road, Yuri Krivonossov, 1965, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Forty years of the Pioneer's organization, Yuri Krivonossov, 1962, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Tourists. Moscow (1967) by Yuri KrivonossovOscar Niemeyer Museum

Volga. The little housewifes, Yuri Krivonossov, 1957, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Kremlin. Moscow, Yuri Krivonossov, 1960, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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First of May. Red Square. Kremlin. Mausoleum, Yuri Krivonossov, 1962, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Moscow that reads (Undated) by Vladimir BogdanovOscar Niemeyer Museum

Vladimir Bogdanov

The pioneers' field, Vladimir Bogdanov, Undated, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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First steps, Vladimir Bogdanov, Undated, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Moscow in the 1990s. Currency exchange rate, Vladimir Bogdanov, Undated, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Boys (1989) by Vladimir BogdanovOscar Niemeyer Museum

Moscow in the 1990s. "The world is changing.", Vladimir Bogdanov, Undated, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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The feast of the White Nights. Leningrad., Vladimir Bogdanov, 1971, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Chopin (Undated) by Vladimir BogdanovOscar Niemeyer Museum

Actress Faina Ranevskaya, Vladimir Bogdanov, Undated, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Solzhenitsyn, Vladimir Bogdanov, Undated, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Soviet Sculptor, Vladimir Bogdanov, 1978, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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At work. Molodechno, Belarus (1972) by Viktor AkhlomovOscar Niemeyer Museum

Viktor Akhlomov

Victory Day, Viktor Akhlomov, Undated, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Long live to the Communist Party!, Viktor Akhlomov, Undated, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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GUM, Viktor Akhlomov, Undated, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Together by the century (Undated) by Viktor AkhlomovOscar Niemeyer Museum

Floating forest. Siberia, Viktor Akhlomov, 1970, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Before the beauty pageant. Moscow, Viktor Akhlomov, 1978, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Kalinin Avenue. Moscow (1977) by Viktor AkhlomovOscar Niemeyer Museum

Good news, Viktor Akhlomov, 1960, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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First subway passengers at the "Pushkinskaya" station. Moscow, Viktor Akhlomov, 1975, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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At the "Muzeon" Park. Moscow, Viktor Akhlomov, 1991, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Jean-Paul Sartre in Lithuania (1965) by Antanas SutkusOscar Niemeyer Museum

Antanas Sutkus

Untitled, Antanas Sutkus, 1965, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Untitled, Antanas Sutkus, Undated, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Untitled, Antanas Sutkus, Undated, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Untitled (Undated) by Antanas SutkusOscar Niemeyer Museum

Untitled, Antanas Sutkus, Undated, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Untitled, Antanas Sutkus, 1976, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Two ladies in front of the window, Antanas Sutkus, Undated, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Untitled (Undated) by Antanas SutkusOscar Niemeyer Museum

Actress Ruta Staliliunaite, Antanas Sutkus, 1974, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Conductor, Antanas Sutkus, 1971, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Song Festival. Dance Day, 1, Antanas Sutkus, 1975, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Photographic Record of the Exhibition The Soviet Union Through the CameraOscar Niemeyer Museum

Photographic Record of the Exhibition The Soviet Union Through the CameraOscar Niemeyer Museum

Credits: Story

Realization: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
Curatorship: Luiz Gustavo Carvalho
Photographs of the exhibition room: Marcello Kawase

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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