This essay traces the evolution of landscape imagery in Aleksandr Rodchenko’s photographic oeuvre, focusing especially on images produced during his journalistic trip to the White Sea-Baltic Canal, one of the first Soviet forced labor camps. Through close reading of photographs, it argues that Rodchenko’s abandonment of avant-garde aesthetics, in particular the emphasis on photography’s transformative powers and its medium-specificity, in these images did not represent a shift toward socialist realism but, rather, held critical potential in the face of contemporaneous official censure of formalism and “contemplation” in both science and art.
Elements of Photography: Avant-garde Aesthetics and the Reforging of Nature
Aglaya Glebova is Assistant Professor in the departments of Art History and Film and Media, as well as the PhD Program in Visual Studies, at the University of California, Irvine. She is currently completing a book on Aleksandr Rodchenko and photography under Stalin.
Aglaya Glebova; Elements of Photography: Avant-garde Aesthetics and the Reforging of Nature. Representations 1 May 2018; 142 (1): 56–90. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/rep.2018.142.1.56
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