Despite their prominence and prolific photographic profiles, the names Maks Vladimirovich Alpert, Mark Stepanovich Redkin, Yevgeny Ananevich Khaldei, Dmitry Nikolayevich Baltermants and Vsevolod Sergeyevich Tarasevich are largely overlooked and unknown outside of the former Soviet Union.
Though Khaldei’s photograph Raising a Flag over the Reichstag is one of the most renowned images of Soviet victory in the Battle of Berlin (made infamous and anecdotal because the original photograph was edited to remove a second wrist-watch from the arms of one of the Soviet soldiers), the notoriety of the photograph fails to reflect the important and sometimes conflicted role photojournalism played in the Soviet Union both before and after the Second World War.
Alpert, Redkin, Khaldei, Baltermants and Tarasevich were all photojournalists before Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. In the immediate prewar period, throughout the 1930s, military themes – tank and airborne exercises, paratroopers, and infantry drills – were popular with editors at illustrated journals and magazines. Yet the first days of World War II demonstrated that, while photojournalists were prepared to photograph military exercises, they were less than prepared for actual wartime photojournalism.
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According to his daughter, Baltermants was not responsible for the publication of the image in question. One of his photographs of German prisoners of war, taken in Moscow, was substituted for his image of soldiers in Stalingrad at the last minute without his knowledge, and included a caption about Soviet military successes. The error was immediately noticed upon publication, and Baltermants was blamed for fabricating information about military operations. (V. T. Stigneev, Vek Fotografii: Ocherki Istorii Otechestvennoi Fotografii 1894-1994.)
The ROPF formed in opposition to the photography association Oktyabr (October), led by Aleksandr Rodchenko, whose modernist work supported photography as a versatile medium that could surpass its documentary processes to produce new ways of seeing and viewing the world. Ostensibly both Oktyabr and the ROPF were dissolved in the mid-1930s.
Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.
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