Studia Culturae: Вып. 3 (29): Simposium: Джессика Вернеке. С - PDF

SIMPOSIUM: Джессика Вернеке 65 Studia Culturae: Вып. 3 (29): Simposium: Джессика Вернеке. С ДЖЕССИКА ВЕРНЕКЕ Кандидат философских наук Техасский университет Остин, США «СОВЕТСКОЕ ФОТО» И ФОТОКЛУБЫ

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SIMPOSIUM: Джессика Вернеке 65 Studia Culturae: Вып. 3 (29): Simposium: Джессика Вернеке. С ДЖЕССИКА ВЕРНЕКЕ Кандидат философских наук Техасский университет Остин, США «СОВЕТСКОЕ ФОТО» И ФОТОКЛУБЫ В ПОЗДНИЙ СОВЕТСКИЙ ПЕРИОД В конце 1950-х начале 1960-х фотография снова начала набирать популярность как хобби, спустя некоторое время после упразднения любительских объединений в 1920-х. Внимание Хрущёва к потребительским товарам обеспечило доступность фотоаппаратов и оборудования впервые за долгое время. В области профессионального образования как профессиоальных фотожурналистов, так и фотографов- - были активны журнал «Советское фото» и фотоподразделение Союза журналистов. Почти каждый выпуск «Советского фото» посвящал страниц любительской фотографии. Статьи выдающихся советских фотожурналистов, критиков и теоретиков рассказывали о технических сторонах съёмки и поднимали вопросы эстетики. В Москве, Ленинграде и многих других городах фотолюбители объединялись в клубы, которые в свою очередь организовывали лекции и занятия для фотолюбителей. Клубы устраивали выставки и участвовали в советских и зарубежных выставках. Любители могли послать работы в «Советское фото», чтобы получить отзыв профессиональных фотографов. К концу 1960-х некоторые из фотолюбителей стали ощущать скованность и недостаточную демократичность фотоклубов. Им было трудно совместить свои творческие искания с лояльностью к клубу, обеспечивавшей членство и возможности выставок. В конечном итоге, часть из них начали попытки реформировать клубы изнутри, в то время как другие обратились к неофициальному и нон-комформистскому искусству. Ключевые слова: любительская фотография, «Советское фото», фотоклубы, ВДК, «Новатор» JESSICA WERNEKE Ph.D. in Philosophy University of Texas Austin, USA SOVETSKOE FOTO AND PHOTOGRAPHY CLUBS IN THE LATE SOVIET PERIOD In the late 1950s and early 1960s, photography became re-popularized as an amateur hobby, which had been unavailable to Soviet citizens since the early 1920s and the liquidation of original amateur societies. Khrushchev s attention to consumer goods meant that cameras and equipment were affordable for the first time in decades. In lieu of formal educational structures for both professional photojournalists and amateur photographers, Sovetskoe foto and the photo section of the Union of Journalists took 66 STUDIA CULTURAE: Вып. 3 (29) action. Almost every issue of Sovetskoe foto contained approximately twenty to twenty five pages devoted to amateur photography. Articles addressed the technical skills required for amateur photography, and offered lessons in photographic aesthetics, written by the most prominent photojournalists, photography critics and theorists in the Soviet Union. In Moscow, Leningrad, and many other cities, amateurs founded photography clubs, which offered lectures and workshops for amateur photographers. These clubs hosted their own exhibitions, and participated in national and international exhibitions both in the Soviet Union and abroad. Amateurs also submitted their work to Sovetskoe foto, where photography masters critiqued their work. By the late 1960s, however, some amateurs found the photography club environment stifling and elitist. As a result, amateurs increasingly found themselves caught between creativity and conformity in order to maintain club membership and exhibition opportunities. Ultimately, while some chose to attempt to reform this trend from within clubs, others turned to unofficial and non-conformist art photography as a creative outlet. Keywords: amateur photography; Sovetskoe Foto; Photography clubs; VDK; Novator As Soviet life became more comfortable in the late 1950s and early 1960s, photography became a favorite past-time of a public fascinated with documenting their personal lives and interests. For the first time since the revolution, the relative economic stability and focus on consumer products meant that more photo equipment was being produced than ever before, for a public that was increasingly interested photography and photographing itself. Photography clubs sprang up in large and small cities alike. Amateur photography in the Soviet Union became popular in the postwar period, due in part to the technological advancements brought to the Soviet Union from abroad. Initially, the Soviets removed camera equipment and film from Germany as part of war reparations, and later copied and expanded upon this technology to create cheap, mass produced and manageable cameras, film and photographic chemicals for home use. This, along with a general increase in the Soviet material standard of living, meant that for the first time in Soviet history, the camera became available to virtually every Soviet family [1, 113]. The availability of cameras themselves, however, did not correspond with facilities necessary to develop camera film and thus amateur photography in the Soviet Union was not only delayed, but distinct from amateurism in the United States and Western Europe. The lack of commercial film developing facilities, but the availability of cameras and film, required Soviet amateur photographers to be more technically skilled than their average Western counterparts. Furthermore, like their professional colleagues, amateurs often developed and processed their own film. In the Soviet Union, most amateurs did not have access to film developing facilities, and no mass network or state organization was devoted to processing amateur film. Yet, the Soviet government was committed to producing camera equipment and film and recognized the importance of leisure activity as well as the popularity of photography as a SIMPOSIUM: Джессика Вернеке 67 hobby. As a result, the government was committed «to an increased range and improved quality of photo and video equipment, accessories, photographs, and enhanced culture of customer service in the stores». [2, 22] Amateur fotokruzhki, photo circles or photo clubs, started small in the early 1950s but grew rapidly in popularity over the next decade. Clubs were usually organized around factories and the local Houses of Culture, which existed in most cities, towns and villages. In 1958, there was only one sizable amateur club in the Soviet Union, the VDK Photo Club. By the early 1960s there were over 150 amateur associations in various cities and Republics. The largest clubs, including Leningrad s VDK, Novator (or Innovator) in Moscow, and photo clubs in Riga, Minsk, Tallinn and Sevastopol had regular attendance rates in the hundreds, Novator reaching over 300 members. Large clubs also had «patronage» benefits or access to publication and state funds. While Sovetskoe foto, the photo section of the Union of Journalists, and the photo section of the SSOD organized lectures and courses for photojournalists throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Prominent photojournalists often lectured to groups of amateurs about camera equipment, masters of Soviet photography, technical photography, and helped organize exhibitions. Though not generally as well attended as professional exhibitions, amateur exhibitions drew large crowds as well: Novator s annual exhibition in 1964 was visited by over forty thousand Muscovites [3, 261]. By the 1960s, then, between meetings, seminars and photo competitions amateurs had many opportunities to discuss their hobby not only with one another, but with professionals as Sovetskoe foto was often involved in the organization or advertising of events on some level. In accordance with one of the original goals when reestablished in 1957, each issue of Sovetskoe foto offered a number of articles about amateur photography including instructions on creating one s own art photographs, cropping images and technical aspects of various camera models. Each month there were also articles in which prominent photojournalists would critique photographs of amateur photographers sent to the editorial committee, and many issues also contained editorial sections in which amateur photographers or photography clubs could submit questions. Yet, it appears that the Soviet government had very little invested in photography, despite the increasing availability of cameras and the semi-official status of larger photography clubs. The Party and government did not contribute to amateur education outside of Sovetskoe foto (funded by government publishing houses), instead allowing local factory and worker s club organization to foot the bill. This was hardly as effective as a comprehensive Photographers Union might have been, because it left the planning of club activities and the dispensing of funds and meeting halls to factory managers, local cultural authorities and Trade Union delegates, who may or may not believe that sponsoring photography was a worthwhile pursuit. This left many 68 STUDIA CULTURAE: Вып. 3 (29) amateurs frustrated with gaps in education, availability of equipment, and eventually led to a general feeling of unimportance amongst amateurs, because they were attempting, yet unable, to properly carry out the very «productive» leisure activities that the government was sponsoring. Unlike other Soviet media, amateur photographers, or fotoliubityeli, also collaborated with professional photographers in exhibitions organized by state institutions such as the photo section of the Union of Journalists, or at a more grass roots level by club members themselves. Increasingly throughout the early to mid-1960s, amateur photographers exhibited their work alongside professional photojournalists, for example, the 1965 All Union Photography Exhibition featured a group of photographs under the title «Photoclubs» which showcased the work of amateurs. The exhibition My Moscow contained thousands of photographs from amateur and professional photographers from the October Revolution through the exhibition s opening in Visitors observed «rare and little known snapshots of the formation of our country and the first years of the revolution, the restoration and reconstruction of the economy, of the development of science, culture, art, public education». [4, 38] Not only did the exhibition contain the documentary and artistic photography of amateur and professional photographers, but it also accepted submissions from foreign photojournalists. In all over 350 photographers from the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, the United States, France and Japan participated in My Moscow [4, 38]. Besides Sovetskoe foto, some illustrated journals held competitions and exhibitions for amateur photographers. Two of the largest took place in Komsomolskaia Pravda sponsored the photographic competition Twentieth- Century Youth and Sovetskaia Rossiia held a competition for the photographic clubs of the Russian Federation titled Russia My Love. That same year, in Gorky Park, Moscow photo clubs organized an exhibition of rural amateurs called Russia My Motherland. All three competitions received thousands of submissions and were quite popular amongst Muscovites. By the mid-1960s, photography as a genre incorporated a broad spectrum of both professional and amateur photographers who informed each other s work. After the early 1960s, however, a third group of photographers appeared who were neither professional photojournalists, nor amateur photography enthusiasts. This group emerged in part because of the increasing stratification of amateur club activities. These unofficial artists began experimenting with photography as a means of challenging official culture. After 1962, which marked the end of the cultural Thaw in photography, photographers in the Soviet Union grappled with their semi-official status, and while they were able to gain the attention of some cultural authorities, such as Minister of Culture of the USSR Ekaterina Alekseevna Furtseva, photography was never officially recognized as an art form worthy of independent unionization. Photographers struggled to explain how their craft related to the SIMPOSIUM: Джессика Вернеке 69 established art world. Disappointment with attempts to establish photography amongst the high arts led theorists to argue that photography occupied a middle ground between technical skill and artistic vision. The relationship, however, between official Soviet photography (mostly executed by photojournalists), amateur club photographers, and unofficial artists in the late and post-soviet period is inextricably linked. Frustration and anxiety plagued each of these groups, spanning from the upper echelons of the photo section of the Union of Journalists and TASS whose calls for standardized education remained unanswered, to amateur photographers who complained of growing elitism in photography clubs. Lack of formal educational structures, such as university courses, proved frustrating for amateur photographers and photography clubs as is evident in the letters they sent to Sovetskoe foto in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Other than the articles and lectures offered by Sovetskoe foto and the photo section of Union of Journalists, photography clubs took on the task of educating amateurs [5, 2]. There were, of course, problems with this distribution of education. Amateurs who attended the courses and lectures offered by Sovetskoe foto needed to be in Moscow for the meetings. As a result, the program further prioritized amateurs who already had access to the most advanced education opportunities (lectures by the Union of Journalists and prominent photojournalists). It also contributed to growing elitism between and within amateur photography clubs. In an attempt to rectify the lack of official organizational hierarchies, by the mid-1960s some clubs had created their own. Novator created different sections for its various members, each section named after the prominent photographers who led them, for example, the Boris Ignatovitch section contained members interested in photojournalism [6, 37]. In addition to articles in Sovetskoe foto about the technical aspects of photography, clubs began their own education programs. By 1962, Novator had become «a kind of photographic University» in Moscow, conducting upwards of two dozen photography events per month [6, 37]. Amateur photography clubs, with the help of Sovetskoe foto, had become an integral part of cultural life in Moscow and Leningrad in the early 1960s [6, 37]. Sovetskoe foto acted as the means of announcing club activities. The back pages of the journal were peppered with advertisements for amateur photography clubs and competitions, announcing calls for membership and competition submissions. In 1962, the VDK photography club announced the first All-Union photography club competition Nasha sovremennost (Our Present), in Sovetskoe foto. It was the first all-amateur organized competition to appear in over 60 years. Awards were presented to the best pictures, which were put on display in the Vyborg Palace of Culture before touring amateur clubs across the Soviet Union. In January 1957, the first issue of the reestablished Sovetskoe foto featured the VDK in its section on amateur photography. By far the largest photography 70 STUDIA CULTURAE: Вып. 3 (29) club at the time, the VDK already maintained semi-regular contact with photography clubs in the GDR, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Canada [7, 21]. The article, entitled 2Leningrad s Amateur Club» («Klub Leningradskikh fotoliubitelei»), essentially advertised the VDK s organization and club activities for Sovetskoe foto readers who may be considering founding clubs of their own. At the time, the club s focus was on promoting amateur participation in the press. Founded in 1952, the initial four members of the VDK organized periodic meetings where photographers could discuss their work. By 1957, the club had grown substantially, to 300 members. Amateurs who wished to join the club needed to attend «novice» lectures given by their more experienced colleagues [7, 22]. To become a candidate member, a photographer needed to provide a five photograph portfolio of their work, which would be reviewed by their peers. In order to advance to full membership, the photographer needed to submit their work to a committee of candidate members. If their application was successful, they would create a small personal exhibition, which would be shown at the Vyborg Palace of Culture [7, 22]. The point of this selective membership, as explained in the article, was to help amateurs produce photographs that were publishable, and this education process allowed VDK amateurs to interact with photographers who «seriously contribute to TASS publications, the magazines Sovetskii soiuz and Ogonek.» [7, 22] Despite its own exclusive membership policies, the VDK readily recognized that the distinction between amateurs and professionals was vague at best. «The boundary which separates club amateurs from skilled photographers is not impregnable,» noted Fedor Konichev. The VDK had an impressive record of amateurs published in Soviet journals and newspapers: Club members were published in Leningradskaia pravda, Smena, Vechernii Leningrad, and Neva [7, 22]. These emerging hierarchies supported an urban, Russo-centric, composition of exhibition photography. Similarly, large clubs like Novator and the VDK dominated discussions about club photography. In most clubs, following the example set by the VDK, a board elected by the members of the group adopted a charter that defined the shape of club life and outlined the «rights» of the participants (rules for club exhibitions, rules for future election of board members, etc.). Clubs held periodic meetings, usually once weekly or twice monthly, in which members discussed images and participated in practical exercises. These meetings culminated in an annual or bi-annual exhibitions. Many clubs defined their exhibitions as a sort of «propaganda photography,» which provided an «aesthetic education» for an uneducated audience [8, 40]. This «education» was in many ways similar to what amateurs experienced from professional photojournalists, in which they acted as the middlemen between photography novices and professionals. Increasingly towards the late-1960s, leading clubs pushed to define their purpose and the proper workings of club life. In a way, «the previous decade had developed a model of the contemporary SIMPOSIUM: Джессика Вернеке 71 club, which brought together trained people pushing for creativity». [8, 40] The standardization of club activities replicated the process professional photography underwent
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