Moscow: Izogiz, 1936. 210 pp.: ill., 17 inserts. 38x25 cm. In the original leatherette binding and cardboard case. Restored, otherwise very good.
First and only edition. One of 6,000 copies. Very rare. Photobook on utopian well-fed life of Soviet people published in the notorious period of Stalinism.
‘Food Industry’ came in two versions: a folder album and a large-format book printed the same year. They differ in format, design and number of illustrations. Both were designed by El Lissitzky and his spouse Sofie Lissitzky-Küppers, but she actually did most of the work. For a long time, El Lissitzky was treated in a Caucasian sanatorium and Sofie took over the burden of dealing with the IZOGIZ publishing house. Her artistic taste as a gallery director determined the general image of the publications. She is also the author of some photomontages. The title page of this version features blind embossing and looks like a memorial plaque. (Karasik. The Soviet Photobook 1920-1941, p. 402)
Illustrations mixed many visual languages: propaganda posters, advertising, social realism, etc. Pictures were provided by S. Fridliand, A. Shaikhet, A. Garanin, P. Klepikov, M. Mendzheritskii, N. Stertser, D. Shulkin, A. Skurikhin, L. Smirnov. Some photos are in color. Printing was carried out in three exemplary enterprises of Moscow and Leningrad, including the Typesetting Department of IZOGIZ.
The edition propagates an official Soviet myth of a life of plenty and full grocery stores resembling oriental palaces. Frames of the pictures are filled to capacity with abundance of bread, cheese, meat, alcohol, etc. Photos show well-coordinated work of food factories and satisfied employees. Since the 1930s, expensive sorts of fish and tins of black caviar had been displayed in advertising matters. Meanwhile, ration cards for bread and basic foodstuffs were canceled in late 1935. Once-a-week “fish day” was introduced in factory and university canteens.
Yet, the Soviet food industry was intensively modernized by party official Anastas Mikoyan in the 1930s. In 1933, a large Moscow meat factory was built in Moscow. In 1936, Mikoyan visited the USA, exported contemporary refrigerating techniques to produce it on an industrial scale and reformed the structure of meat factories. He introduced food in cans and assembly line production of convenience foods. It massively changed and revolutionized food processing.
‘Food Industry’ became the prototype for the most popular Soviet cookbook, ‘The Book of Tasty Healthy Food’ first published in 1939.
The only copy is located in Harvard University.