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Art versus Document: Photography in Modern Russian History’

An international scholarly conference ‘Art versus Document: Photography in Modern Russian History’ took place from June 1st to 2nd, 2017 in Moscow.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Soviet avant-garde photographers, such as Alexander Rodchenko, Eleazar Langman, Gustav Klutsis, Boris Ignatovich, and El Lisitsky, created a new genre in documentary photography. These photographers collaborated with renowned theoreticians from LEF (Left Front of the Arts), including Sergey Tretyakov and Osip Brik, to create a new style in visual arts. This new style aimed to reflect all the details of the new Soviet everyday life. LEF photographers and theoreticians saw this new visual style as an important part of the new Soviet literature – the Literature of Fact. The main purpose of these photos was to make the viewer feel a sense of industrial progress, which was a way to form a new proletarian collectivism. In early Soviet visual culture, these ideas were at the forefront of discussions related to the differences between photography and painting, between artistic illustrations for the ‘literature of fact’ and photojournalism.

As part of the conference, scholars from Russia, Ukraine, USA and New Zealand addressed the question of how these discussions on the role of photography during socialism influenced the development of photography and fine arts in the Soviet Union, starting from 1920s until the fall of the Soviet Union. Special attention was paid to how these debates and changes affected photography in the regions outside Moscow and Leningrad, as well as the post-war development of Soviet photography.

Programme of the conference

Conference organizers: