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Title:Soviet Photo and the search for proletarian photography, 1926-1937
Author(s):Evans, Emily
Director of Research:Weissman, Terri
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Weissman, Terri
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Steinberg, Mark D.; O'Brien, David; Romberg, Kristin; Mendelson, Jordana
Department / Program:Art & Design
Discipline:Art History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Art, Russian
Art, Soviet
Sovetskoe foto
Photography magazine
Photography, USSR
Abstract:This dissertation examines the history of the journal Soviet Photo (Sovetskoe foto; called Proletarskoe foto 1931–33) from its founding in 1926 through 1937, reading its photographs and theoretical and political discourse in order to analyze how it defined, and sought to create, a truly Soviet, proletarian photography. Soviet Photo was the USSR’s most-printed and longest-lived periodical devoted to the discussion and instruction of photography. It was also the only one that attempted to address the entire public, from beginning amateurs to worker-correspondents, established photojournalists, and professional photographers. While Soviet Photo eventually became the state’s organ for Socialist Realism in photography, its early years were characterized by stylistic diversity. It played a major role as a forum for the discussion of “proletarian” art during the cultural revolution (ca. 1928–32) and in the formation of the ideas and practices that contributed to the Socialist Realist method. Chapter One explores Soviet Photo’s project to unify the USSR’s photographers and their work, which it sought to realize by fully integrating amateurs into institutional structures and reforming the style and content of people still working along pre-Revolutionary lines. Chapter Two considers the attempt to redirect all photographers’ work to the movement of worker- and peasant correspondents as a way of increasing their presence in the press, and the reasons why this attempt could not succeed. Chapter Three is devoted to Soviet Photo’s reception of the Soviet photographic avant-garde, specifically, the interrelationship between that journal, the journal Novyi lef, and the October group. Chapter Four examines the changes to this relationship and to these groups’ status during the cultural revolution’s aesthetic debates and after the 1932 “restructuring decree” that dissolved all independent arts organizations. Chapter Five considers the ways that Soviet Photo applied the major tenets of Socialist Realism to photography and participated in the further development of Socialist Realism as a method and style after its official instatement in 1934. As a whole, this dissertation addresses how photography was supposed to fulfill certain ideological goals in the early Soviet Union and the related question of how Soviet Photo shifted from focusing on mass photographic production to advocating a practice whose mass character was in name only.
Issue Date:2014-09-16
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Emily Joyce Evans
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-09-16
Date Deposited:2014-08

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