A Human Chess Match Gets Played in Leningrad, 1924

Let’s time trav­el back to Leningrad (aka St. Peters­burg) in 1924. That’s when an uncon­ven­tion­al chess match was played by Peter Romanovsky and Ilya Rabi­novich, two chess mas­ters of the day.

Appar­ent­ly, they called in their moves over the tele­phone. And then real-life chess pieces–in the form of human beings and horses–were moved across a huge chess­board cov­er­ing Palace Square. Mem­bers of the Sovi­et Union’s Red Army served as the black pieces; mem­bers of the Sovi­et navy were the white pieces. They’re all on dis­play above, or shown in a larg­er for­mat here.

Accord­ing to this online forum for chess enthu­si­asts, the 5‑hour match “was an annu­al event, designed to pro­mote chess in the USSR.” The first such match was held in Smolen­sk in 1921. We’re not sure who won the St. Peters­burg con­test.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

via Real­i­ty Car­ni­val

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Man Ray Designs a Supreme­ly Ele­gant, Geo­met­ric Chess Set in 1920 (and It’s Now Re-Issued for the Rest of Us)

Play Chess Against the Ghost of Mar­cel Duchamp: A Free Online Chess Game

Watch Bill Gates Lose a Chess Match in 79 Sec­onds to the New World Chess Cham­pi­on Mag­nus Carlsen

A Famous Chess Match from 1910 Reen­act­ed with Clay­ma­tion

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The Philosophy, Storytelling & Visual Creativity of Ghost in the Shell, the Acclaimed Anime Film, Explained in Video Essays

Ghost in the Shell is not in any sense an ani­mat­ed film for chil­dren,” wrote Roger Ebert twen­ty years ago. “Filled with sex, vio­lence and nudi­ty (although all rather styl­ized), it’s anoth­er exam­ple of ani­me, ani­ma­tion from Japan aimed at adults.” Now, when no crit­ic any longer needs to explain the term ani­me to West­ern read­ers, we look back on Ghost in the Shell (1995) as one of the true mas­ter­pieces among Japan­ese ani­mat­ed fea­ture films, mature not just in its con­tent but in its form. Evan Puschak, bet­ter known as the Nerd­writer, takes a look at how it express­es its philo­soph­i­cal themes through its still-strik­ing cyber­punk set­ting in his video essay “Iden­ti­ty in Space.”

Puschak first high­lights the pres­ence (in the mid­dle of this “sci-fi action thriller” about the hunt for a want­ed hack­er turned self-aware arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence) of an action-free inter­lude: a “three minute and twen­ty-ish sec­ond-long scene” con­sist­ing of noth­ing but “34 gor­geous, exquis­ite­ly detailed atmos­pher­ic shots of a future city in Japan that’s mod­eled after Hong Kong.”

Its plot-sus­pend­ing visu­al explo­ration of the film’s Blade Run­ner-esque urban space of “a chaot­ic mul­ti­cul­tur­al future city dom­i­nat­ed by the inter­sec­tions of old and new struc­tures, con­nect­ed by roads, canals, and tech­nol­o­gy,” empha­sizes that “spaces, like iden­ti­ties, are con­struct­ed. Though space often feels neu­tral or giv­en, like we could move any­where with­in it, our move­ments, our activ­i­ties, our life, is always lim­it­ed by the way space is pro­duced.”

Just as all of Ghost in the Shell’s char­ac­ters exist in space, the main ones also exist in cyber­net­ic bod­ies, regard­ing their iden­ti­ties as stored in their effec­tive­ly trans­plantable brains all con­nect­ed over a vast infor­ma­tion net­work. The half-hour-long analy­sis from Ani­meEv­ery­day just above gets into the philo­soph­i­cal dilem­ma this presents to the film’s pro­tag­o­nist, the cyborg police offi­cer Motoko Kusana­gi, exam­in­ing in depth sev­er­al of the scenes that — through dia­logue, imagery, sym­bol­ism, or sub­tle com­bi­na­tions of the three that view­ers might not catch the first time around — illu­mi­nate the sto­ry’s cen­tral ques­tions about the nature of man, the nature of machine, and the nature of what emerges when the two inter­sect.

Film Her­ald’s briefer expla­na­tion of Ghost in the Shell (which con­tains poten­tial­ly NSFW images) points to three main themes: iden­ti­ty, Carte­sian dual­ism, and evo­lu­tion, all con­cepts that come into ques­tion — or at least demand a thor­ough revi­sion — when the bound­ary between the nat­ur­al and the syn­thet­ic blurs to the film’s imag­ined extent. “My intu­ition told me that this sto­ry about a futur­is­tic world car­ried an imme­di­ate mes­sage for our present world,” said direc­tor Mamoru Oshii, and now, more than two decades lat­er, Hol­ly­wood has even got around to remak­ing it in a live-action ver­sion star­ring Scar­lett Johans­son in the Kusana­gi role. That does pro­vides a chance to update some of the now-dat­ed-look­ing tech­nol­o­gy seen in the ani­mat­ed orig­i­nal, but there’s no improv­ing on its artistry.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Blade Run­ner Spoofed in Three Japan­ese Com­mer­cials (and Gen­er­al­ly Loved in Japan)

Ear­ly Japan­ese Ani­ma­tions: The Ori­gins of Ani­me (1917–1931)

How the Films of Hayao Miyaza­ki Work Their Ani­mat­ed Mag­ic, Explained in 4 Video Essays

The Matrix: What Went Into The Mix

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Discover Ray Bradbury & Kurt Vonnegut’s 1990s TV Shows: The Ray Bradbury Theater and Welcome to the Monkey House

There has always been good tele­vi­sion. Even Kurt Von­negut, wit­ti­est of cur­mud­geons, had to agree in 1991 when he was inter­viewed in The Cable Guide for his own con­tri­bu­tion to the medi­um, an adap­ta­tion of his book of sto­ries, Wel­come to the Mon­key House on Show­time. Von­negut did not like tele­vi­sion, and com­pared it to thalido­mide. “We don’t know what the side effects are until it’s too late.” He could only go up from there, and did, prais­ing, Cheers, M*A*S*H, and Hill Street Blues, and then say­ing, “I’d rather have writ­ten Cheers than any­thing I’ve writ­ten.”

I nev­er know exact­ly when to take Von­negut seri­ous­ly. He also calls TV everybody’s “rot­ten teacher” and says “I’m sor­ry tele­vi­sion exists,” but he had long been a TV writer in its “so-called gold­en days,” as John Goudas put it in a Los Ange­les Times inter­view with Von­negut in 1993, when his sev­en-episode run of Kurt Vonnegut’s Mon­key House, host­ed by him­self, would soon come to a close. Von­negut found him­self very pleased by the results, remark­ing of his sto­ries that “TV can do them very well,” and espe­cial­ly prais­ing “More State­ly Man­sions,” above, star­ring an irre­press­ible Made­line Kahn, whom he called “a superb actress.”

Anoth­er very direct, wit­ty spec­u­la­tive writer in the same year’s issue of The Cable Guide, Ray Brad­bury, appeared with Von­negut as part of two “duel­ing, short fea­tures,” notes Nick Greene at Men­tal Floss,
“under the aus­pices of pro­mot­ing the authors’ upcom­ing cable spe­cials,” Mon­key House and The Ray Brad­bury The­ater. Brad­bury was also an old media hand, hav­ing writ­ten for radio in the 50s, and see­ing adap­ta­tions of his sto­ries made since that decade, includ­ing one on Alfred Hitchcock’s Alfred Hitch­cock Presents. Like Hitch­cock, when it came time for his own show, The Ray Brad­bury The­ater in 1985, Brad­bury intro­duced the episodes and became a pub­lic face for thou­sands of view­ers.

He also wrote each episode, all 65 of them, from 1985–86 on HBO and 1988–92 on USA. In his Cable Guide inter­view, Brad­bury calls tele­vi­sion, “most­ly trash,” then adds, “I’m full of trash… I’ve watched thou­sands of hours of TV. I’ve seen every movie ever made… everything’s the same.” What did he like to watch? Nova, unsur­pris­ing­ly, and CNN, which he called “the most rev­o­lu­tion­ary thing in years.” In his inter­view (which you can read in a high res­o­lu­tion scan at Men­tal Floss), Brad­bury cred­its tele­vi­sion for “a lot of what hap­pened in Europe”—referring to the fall of Com­mu­nism, as well as Tianan­men Square, and the Gulf War. “Final­ly, the mes­sage got through,” he says, “and peo­ple revolt­ed… CNN,” he con­clud­ed, “is very pow­er­ful tele­vi­sion.” If he could see us now. See Bradbury’s very first episode of The Ray Brad­bury The­ater, “Mar­i­onettes” from 1985, just above. And pur­chase the com­plete TV series online.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear Kurt Von­negut Read Slaugh­ter­house-Five, Cat’s Cra­dle & Oth­er Nov­els

Hear Kurt Von­negut Vis­it the After­life & Inter­view Dead His­tor­i­cal Fig­ures: Isaac New­ton, Adolf Hitler, Eugene Debs & More (Audio, 1998)

Ray Brad­bury Gives 12 Pieces of Writ­ing Advice to Young Authors (2001)

How Ray Brad­bury Wrote the Script for John Huston’s Moby Dick (1956)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

School of Visual Arts Presents 99 Hours of Free Photography Lectures

FYI: Last week, pho­tog­ra­ph­er Dan Cul­ber­son flagged on Red­dit a trove of free pho­tog­ra­phy lec­tures avail­able on School of Visu­al Arts’ rich YouTube chan­nel. Elab­o­rat­ing, the pho­tog­ra­phy blog Petapix­el writes:

Tons of hour-long lec­tures can be found on the channel’s Images, Ideas, Inspi­ra­tion playlist, most of them pho­tog­ra­phy relat­ed and all of them fas­ci­nat­ing.

You’ll find some­thing for every­one on this channel—from a lec­ture by gallery rep Mar­git Erb talk­ing about her close per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al rela­tion­ship with the great Saul Leit­er, to a talk by Dancers Among Us pho­tog­ra­ph­er Jor­dan Mat­ter, to Jack Hollingsworth’s fas­ci­nat­ing talk titled “Small Cam­era Big Results.”

There are a total of 99 videos in that playlist alone—approximately 99 hours of edu­ca­tion, inspi­ra­tion, and ideas.

Above you can watch Jack Hollingsworth’s lec­ture, “Small Cam­era Big Results.” He has “trav­eled to over 20 coun­tries and shot over 400,000 images with his iPhone,” and here he dis­cuss­es his iPhone pho­tog­ra­phy tech­nique, and all the apps he uses.

Find more lec­tures on this Images, Ideas, Inspi­ra­tion playlist. Also find cours­es on dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy in our col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

via Petapix­el

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Google Makes Its $149 Pho­to Edit­ing Soft­ware Now Com­plete­ly Free to Down­load

An Intro­duc­tion to Dig­i­tal Pho­tog­ra­phy: Take a Free Course from Stan­ford Prof/Google Researcher Marc Lev­oy

Learn Dig­i­tal Pho­tog­ra­phy with Har­vard University’s Free Online Course

The His­to­ry of Pho­tog­ra­phy in Five Ani­mat­ed Min­utes: From Cam­era Obscu­ra to Cam­era Phone

How to Take Pho­tographs Like Ansel Adams: The Mas­ter Explains The Art of “Visu­al­iza­tion”

1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties

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Stephen Hawking Auditions Celebrities to Provide His New Voice: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Liam Neeson, Anna Kendrick & Michael Caine

Stephen Hawk­ing’s com­put­er-syn­the­sized voice is dis­tinc­tive. You know it when you hear it. But, after so many years, it’s time for a change. That’s the premise of this short com­ic bit, cre­at­ed for Com­ic Relief’s Red Nose Day. Above, watch A‑list celebrities–everyone from Lin-Manuel Miran­da and Liam Nee­son, to Anna Kendrick and Bill Gates–audition to become the new voice of Prof. Hawk­ing. You can see how it plays out.

Red Nose Day (just held on March 24th this year) is a fundrais­er to help strug­gling peo­ple in coun­tries around the world. You can donate to the cause here.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load the Soft­ware That Pro­vides Stephen Hawking’s Voice

Before Siri & Alexa: Hear the First Attempt to Use a Syn­the­siz­er to Recre­ate the Human Voice (1939)

Mon­ty Python’s “Argu­ment Clin­ic” Sketch Reen­act­ed by Two Vin­tage Voice Syn­the­siz­ers (One Is Stephen Hawking’s Voice)

Stephen Hawking’s Lec­tures on Black Holes Now Ful­ly Ani­mat­ed with Chalk­board Illus­tra­tions

Free Online Physics Cours­es

Great Filmmakers Offer Advice to Young Directors: Tarantino, Herzog, Coppola, Scorsese, Anderson, Fellini & More

One-to-one rela­tion­ships do not exist between the medieval Euro­pean Guild sys­tem and con­tem­po­rary labor unions or pro­tec­tion­ist rack­ets…. Nev­er­the­less, guilds were very much like both those things in some ways. They were also voca­tion­al schools, where young aspir­ing arti­sans could, with the right skills and con­nec­tions, appren­tice them­selves to mas­ter crafts­men, hope to receive decent train­ing, and look for­ward to becom­ing guild mas­ters them­selves should they per­sist.

Few orga­ni­za­tions like that exist today. But there is per­haps one indus­try in which—with the right con­nec­tions, skill, and persistence—a lucky and tal­ent­ed few rise through the ranks to mas­tery: the film indus­try, where a video store clerk, Quentin Taran­ti­no, can achieve last­ing fame and for­tune, as can for­mer part-time pro­jec­tion­ist, Wes Ander­son. Many direc­tors who came of age in the six­ties and sev­en­ties went the tra­di­tion­al route of film school, but one, Wern­er Her­zog, took a bandit’s way into the craft, steal­ing a cam­era from the Munich Film School, feel­ing that he “had some sort of nat­ur­al right for a cam­era, a tool to work with.”

Her­zog has cre­at­ed his own guild sys­tem, of a sort, with the Rogue Film School, a rough, infor­mal course, among oth­er things, in “guer­ril­la film­mak­ing.” Steal­ing cam­eras is not ruled out. But you’ll have to learn the tech­ni­cal stuff on your own. What mat­ters, most, Her­zog says, is that film­mak­ers “read, read, read, read, read.” These are direc­tors who have bor­rowed from oth­er direc­tors and films, and also from books, music, paint­ing, etc., dri­ven by an obses­sive and per­sis­tent desire to learn. And you’ll find them all in the super­cut above, in which Taran­ti­no, Ander­son, Her­zog, and oth­er “mas­ter film­mak­ers” like Scors­ese, Cop­po­la, Felli­ni, Welles, and more offer short, yet pro­found pieces of advice to aspi­rants.

We begin with Taran­ti­no, who argues that pas­sion is all you need to make a great film. “You don’t need to go to school” or know any of the tech­ni­cal stuff, but you do need to appren­tice your­self, with pure devo­tion and tenac­i­ty, to cin­e­ma. You won’t hear this from many of the oth­ers, but Ter­ry Gilliam also rec­om­mends a sec­ondary trade, maybe as a plumber, anoth­er pro­fes­sion that involves appren­tices and jour­ney­men work­ing their way up. It’s cer­tain­ly a trade that involves great skill, but to hear these direc­to­r­i­al guild mas­ters tell it, no oth­er pro­fes­sion asks for as much dri­ve and pas­sion as the movies, and appar­ent­ly you don’t even need to know what you’re doing at first. See the com­plete list of inter­vie­wees below.

QUENTIN TARANTINO: 00:00
JERRY LEWIS: 00:40
TERRY GILLIAM: 01:15
JOHN CARPENTER: 01:40
PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON: 02:30
FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA: 03:54
FEDERICO FELLINI: 04:52
WERNER HERZOG: 05:56
WES ANDERSON: 07:22
SIDNEY LUMET: 07:50
JOHN LANDIS: 08:58
MARTIN SCORSESE: 10:15
GUILLERMO DEL TORO 11:38
ORSON WELLES 14:55

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Wern­er Herzog’s Rogue Film School: Apply & Learn the Art of Gueril­la Film­mak­ing & Lock-Pick­ing

Wern­er Her­zog Offers 24 Pieces of Film­mak­ing & Life Advice

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Advice to Young Film­mak­ers: Sac­ri­fice Your­self for Cin­e­ma

Aki­ra Kurosawa’s Advice to Aspir­ing Film­mak­ers: Write, Write, Write and Read

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Hieronymus Bosch Figurines: Collect Surreal Characters from Bosch’s Paintings & Put Them on Your Bookshelf

Few painters have cre­at­ed as rich a world as Hierony­mus Bosch did in The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights. The late 15th- or ear­ly 16th-cen­tu­ry trip­tych, which depicts the cre­ation of man, the licen­tious frol­ick­ing of all crea­tures on a par­a­disi­a­cal Earth, and the sub­se­quent fall into damna­tion, draws a scruti­ny — and caus­es an amuse­ment — as intense as ever. As we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture, you can now take a vir­tu­al tour of the paint­ing (there’s even an app for it), see it brought to life with mod­ern ani­ma­tion, and hear the song tat­tooed on the pos­te­ri­or of one of the work’s many char­ac­ters.

Bosch not only cre­at­ed a world with The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights, he pop­u­lat­ed it thor­ough­ly. And despite the human-cen­tric sto­ry the work appears to take as its basis, the cast with which it retells it extends far beyond mere human­i­ty: the pan­els fea­ture not just wildlife of all shapes and sizes but a vari­ety of myth­i­cal grotesques, from imps to chimeras to hybrids of man and ani­mal to much more besides. He drew from the same sur­re­al imag­i­na­tive well to fill his oth­er paint­ings, and you can now pull out a few of these col­or­ful, men­ac­ing, pre­pos­ter­ous, and dark­ly humor­ous char­ac­ters your­self in col­lectible fig­urine form.

Though “not a big knick­knack per­son,” Dan­ger­ous Minds’ Tara McGin­ley admits to dig­ging this selec­tion of “tiny objects” straight from the mind of Bosch, all “kin­da cool-look­ing in their own obvi­ous­ly weird way” and none “too expen­sive. The fig­urines start at around $45, depend­ing on qual­i­ty, size and detail.” (You can find them on Ama­zon.) She high­lights such issues as “Hel­met­ed Bird Mon­ster,” which accord­ing to man­u­fac­tur­ers Para­s­tone fea­tures a sev­ered foot “swing­ing from the bird’s hel­met refer­ring to the hor­ri­ble cor­po­ral pun­ish­ments which could be expect­ed in hell.”

“Dev­il on Night Chair,” one of the most rec­og­niz­able denizens of The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights’ third pan­el, comes cast in his famous posi­tion, “eat­ing a per­son on a chair where he will excrete the human remains.” The con­sid­er­ably less sat­is­fied “Fat Bel­ly with Dag­ger” comes from the third pan­el of a dif­fer­ent trip­tych, The Temp­ta­tion of Saint Antho­ny, the dag­ger in his bel­ly show­ing “the con­se­quences of intem­per­ance. His eyes look out at you in acknowl­edg­ment.” Its mak­ers promise that “you will look at it in won­der as to how Bosch’s mind con­ceived of such an unusu­al lit­tle fel­low.” Have a look at Dan­ger­ous Minds’ orig­i­nal post and Ama­zon’s Bosch fig­urine page for more infor­ma­tion on how to obtain them, whether for your­self or as gifts for friends and fam­i­ly. They cer­tain­ly won’t look at them the same way they do Hum­mel fig­urines.

via Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Pho­tog­ra­ph­er Cre­ates Stun­ning Real­is­tic Por­traits That Recre­ate Sur­re­al Scenes from Hierony­mus Bosch Paint­ings

Take a Vir­tu­al Tour of Hierony­mus Bosch’s Bewil­der­ing Mas­ter­piece The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights

New App Lets You Explore Hierony­mus Bosch’s “The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights” in Vir­tu­al Real­i­ty

Lis­ten to a Record­ing of a Song Writ­ten on a Man’s Butt in a 15-Cen­tu­ry Hierony­mus Bosch Paint­ing

Hierony­mus Bosch’s Medieval Paint­ing, The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights, Comes to Life in a Gigan­tic, Mod­ern Ani­ma­tion 

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Download 437 Issues of Soviet Photo Magazine, the Soviet Union’s Historic Photography Journal (1926–1991)

The ear­ly years of the Sovi­et Union roiled with inter­nal ten­sions, intrigues, and ide­o­log­i­cal war­fare, and the new empire’s art reflect­ed its uneasy het­ero­doxy. For­mal­ists, Futur­ists, Supre­ma­tists, Con­struc­tivists, and oth­er schools min­gled, pub­lished jour­nals, cri­tiqued and reviewed each other’s work, and like mod­ernists else­where in the world, exper­i­ment­ed with every pos­si­ble medi­um, includ­ing those just com­ing into their own at the begin­ning of the 20th cen­tu­ry, like film and pho­tog­ra­phy.

These two medi­ums, along with radio, also hap­pened to serve as the pri­ma­ry means of pro­pa­gan­diz­ing Sovi­et cit­i­zens and car­ry­ing the mes­sages of the Par­ty in ways every­one could under­stand. And like much of the rest of the world, pho­tog­ra­phy engen­dered its own con­sumer cul­ture.

Out of these com­pet­ing impuls­es came Sovi­et Pho­to (Sovet­skoe foto), a month­ly pho­tog­ra­phy mag­a­zine fea­tur­ing, writes Kse­nia Nouril at the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art’s site, “edi­to­ri­als, let­ters, arti­cles, and pho­to­graph­ic essays along­side adver­tise­ments for pho­tog­ra­phy, pho­to­graph­ic process­es, and pho­to­graph­ic chem­i­cals and equip­ment.”

Sovi­et Pho­to was not found­ed by artists, but by a pho­to­jour­nal­ist, Arkady Shaikhet, in 1926 (see the first issue’s cov­er at the top). Though its audi­ence pri­mar­i­ly con­sist­ed of a “Sovi­et ama­teur pho­tog­ra­phers and pho­to clubs,” its ear­ly years freely mixed doc­u­men­tary, didac­ti­cism, and exper­i­men­tal art. It pub­lished the “works of inter­na­tion­al and pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­phers” and that of avant-gardists like Con­struc­tivist painter and graph­ic design­er Alek­sander Rod­chenko.

The aes­thet­ic purges under Stalin—in which artists and writ­ers one after anoth­er fell vic­tim to charges of elit­ism and obscurantism—also played out in the pages of Sovi­et Pho­to. “Even before Social­ist Real­ism was decreed to be the offi­cial style of the Sovi­et Union in 1934,” Nouril writes, “the works of avant-garde pho­tog­ra­phers,” includ­ing Rod­chenko, “were denounced as for­mal­ist (imply­ing that they reflect­ed a for­eign and elit­ist style).” Sovi­et Pho­to boy­cotted Rodchenko’s work in 1928 and “through­out the 1930s this state-sanc­tioned jour­nal became increas­ing­ly con­ser­v­a­tive,” empha­siz­ing “con­tent over form.”

This does not mean that that the con­tents of the mag­a­zine were inel­e­gant or pedes­tri­an. Though it once briefly bore the name Pro­le­tarskoe foto (Pro­le­tari­at Pho­tog­ra­phy), and tend­ed toward mon­u­men­tal and indus­tri­al sub­jects, war pho­tog­ra­phy, and ide­al­iza­tions of Sovi­et life dur­ing the Stal­in­ist years. After the 60s thaw, exper­i­men­tal pho­tomon­tages returned, and more abstract com­po­si­tions became com­mon­place. Sovi­et Pho­to also kept pace with many glossy mag­a­zines in the West, with stun­ning full-col­or pho­to­jour­nal­ism and, after glas­nost and the fall of the Berlin wall, high fash­ion and adver­tis­ing pho­tog­ra­phy.

Fans of pho­tog­ra­phy, Sovi­et his­to­ry, or some mea­sure of both, can fol­low Sovi­et Pho­to’s evo­lu­tion in a huge archive fea­tur­ing 437 dig­i­tized issues, pub­lished between 1926 and 1991. Expect to find a gap between 1942 and 1956, when pub­li­ca­tion ceased “due to World War II and the war’s after­ef­fects.” Aside from these years and a few oth­er miss­ing months, the archive con­tains near­ly every issue of Sovi­et Pho­to, free to browse or down­load in var­i­ous for­mats. “Dig deep enough,” writes pho­to blog PetaPix­el, “and you’ll find some real­ly inter­est­ing (and sur­pris­ing­ly famil­iar) things in there.” Enter the archive here.

 

via PetaPix­el

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The His­to­ry of Rus­sia in 70,000 Pho­tos: New Pho­to Archive Presents Russ­ian His­to­ry from 1860 to 1999

Thou­sands of Pho­tos from the George East­man Muse­um, the World’s Old­est Pho­tog­ra­phy Col­lec­tion, Now Avail­able Online

Down­load Russ­ian Futur­ist Book Art (1910–1915): The Aes­thet­ic Rev­o­lu­tion Before the Polit­i­cal Rev­o­lu­tion

Behold a Beau­ti­ful Archive of 10,000 Vin­tage Cam­eras at Col­lec­tion Appareils

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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