Moscow: Ogoniok [and others], 1926-1941. 171 issues altogether.
Complete sets for the years 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1940, 1941. The years 1926-1934 are bound in contemporary bindings. Years 1935-1937, 1940-1941 are in original wrappers. All of the wrappers, except three ones are present both in bound issues and the unbound. The set also lacks total of 220 pages (see below the details), taken out for both censor and vain reasons. This disadvantage is reflected in the price. General condition of the issues is very good. Occasional stains and private stamps, no major damage. Condition report of every issue is available upon request.
This rare collection of one of the most popular Soviet magazines showcases a dramatic shift from avant-garde tendencies in photography to the state-controlled socialist realism.
The sole specialist photography magazine in the Soviet Union, Sovetskoe foto [i.e. The Soviet Photo] was founded by the writer and editor Mikhail Kol’tsov (1898-1940) in April of 1926. Five years after its launch, the magazine was acquired by the Ogonek publishing house and briefly renamed Proletarskoye foto [i.e. Proletarian Photography] from 1931-1933. The magazine was called ‘Proletarskoe foto’ [i.e. The Proletarian Photo] from 1931 to 1934.
Sovetskoe foto mostly focused on the domestic audience of Soviet amateur photographers and photo clubs: “Our magazine will turn its main forces to help multiple amateur photographers and photo-reporters who have long been waiting for an assistant, consultant and friend represented by the Soviet magazine” (#1, 1926 Za Sovetskuyu fotografiyu [i.e. For the Soviet Photography]). The edition included editorials, letters, articles, and essays dedicated to a wide range of photography-related issues: organization of photo circles, photo novelties, copying pictures and photographs, bleaching bromoil prints, photography in winter, profession of photo-journalist, taking photos for magazines/newspapers, foreign experience in photography, photographic techniques, photo exhibitions, etc. Among the authors were: El Lissitzky, Alexander Rodchenko, Anatoly Lunacharsky, Vitaliy Zhemchuzhniy, S. Baranov, N. Khazhinskiy, L. Leonidov, V. Mikulin, Efim Zozulia, A. Bukinik, P. Grokhosvkiy, V. Saveliev, M. Iunprof, S. Baranov, S. Iasinskiy, O. Brik, Iu. Laubert, E. Piotrkovskiy, A. Kamenshikov, G. Bek, G. Boltianskiy, G. Nauman, M. Alpert, S. Kovalevskiy, etc.
From the very beginning the magazine served as a meeting point of some of the most famous photographers of the time: Rodchenko, Semyon Fridlyand, Max Penson, G. Ioss, Pavel Grokhovskiy, F. Chempion, I. Bokhonov, Vasiliy Ulitin, Mark Markov, S. Blokhin, Soloviev, T. Simonov, D. Chernov, B. Kudoiarov. P. Novitskiy, E. Evzerikhin, M. Mendzheritskiy, A. Shtenberg, Arkady Shaikhet, M. Kalashnikov, B. Oshurkov, F. Kislov, Shakhovskiy, B. Kudoiarov, N. Shtertser, Ia. Poliakov, S. Shingarev, Boris Ignatovich, M. Aplert, G. Ushakov, T. Bunimovich, M. Katsenko, Z. Chebotaev, A. Tarasov, Ia. Klempert, M. Khromov, Roman Karmen, Beber, etc. Intended to portray a class struggle for socialist construction, Sovetskoe foto included numerous photographs propagating Soviet achievements and presenting the workers in a heroic light. One of the most evident trends noticeable in the magazine was the representation of women as a basic cell for the Soviet development - Sovetskoe foto encompassed an extensive amount of photographs depicting healthy, happy and educated Soviet women. The magazine regularly organized the photography competitions reflecting the socialist life (for instance, #11 of 1929 announced a photo contest Antireligioznyy [i.e. Anti-religious]).
While in the early years the periodical was inclined towards avant-garde tendencies and featured vibrant photomontages and constructivist covers, from the late 1920s, Sovetskoe foto experienced a dramatic transition towards more conservative socialist style. In fact, the shift was so drastic, that one of the most famous photographers among those collaborating with the magazine - Alexander Rodchenko - was denounced as formalist on the pages of the Sovetskoe foto long before Socialist Realism was decreed to be the official style of the Soviet Union (1934). In a letter published in April 1928 (#4, 1928, p. 176), an anonymous author accused Rodchenko of plagiarizing the subject matter and compositions of Western European photographers László Moholy-Nagy and Albert Renger-Patzsch. This resulted in the gradual reduction in the number of works presented by the avant-garde photographers on the pages of the periodical. By the mid-1930s Sovetskoe foto’s constructivist cover shots were being replaced by those of the leaders and apparatchiks.
Between 1942 and 1956, the publication of the magazine was discontinued due to the World War II and the resultant postwar economic situation. This pause took place two years after the founder of Sovetskoe foto was arrested and executed under the claims of Trotskism.
The edition had an irregular publication schedule: 1926/1927/1928 – monthly; 1929/1930 – fortnight; 1931 - fortnight; 1931/1932 – monthly; 1933 – bimonthly, 1934 – bimonthly/monthly, etc.
The deficit: 1926 – loss of 16 pages;1927 – loss of 10 pages, 3 cut-outs;1928 – loss of 28 pages;1929 – loss of 18 pages, 1 cut-out;1930 – loss of 8 pages;1931 – loss of 20 pages;1932 – loss of 28 pages;1933 – loss of 2 pages, 1 cut-out;1934 – loss of 10 pages, 1 cut-out;1935 – loss of 38 pages, 1 cut-out;1936 – loss of 36 pages;1940 – loss of 6 pages;1941 – 1 cut-out.
We believe that the substantial amount of issues has been ‘edited out’ by the owners for political reasons. For example, among pages lost and parts cut out of the periodical are mostly the photographs of Alexei Rykov and Nikolai Bukharin (Stalin’s former allies that were executed under the claims of treason in 1938), Lev Karakhan (a Soviet diplomat executed during the Great Purge), Andrey Lezhava (first Soviet chairman of the Tsentrosoyuz was executed in 1937), Avel Enukidze (“Old Bolshevik” executed in 1937), and Maxim Gorky.