Kharkiv School of Photography
From Soviet Censorship to New Aesthetics
In the early 1970s, resisting the aesthetic criteria imposed by the socialist realism doctrine, eight photographers in Kharkiv, created images free from predetermined ideological prescriptions. Joining efforts in fighting the Soviet aesthetic canon they formed the Vremya group. For 15 Soviet years, despite censorship and persecution by all sorts of ideological watchdogs, official art critics to the KGB who would search their darkrooms and apartments, and despite the closing of exhibitions, the artists managed to secretly create and exhibit new art.
They started the fight for artistic freedom by trying to look behind the ideological façade of socialist realism. They pictured food shortage queues, drunks and whores, the hypocrisy of May Day demonstrations and the pomp of Victory Day parades. They portrayed ugliness, nudity and lust. But the artists were soon to discover that at least one of the socialist realism dogmas—stating the “inextricable connection” between form and content—was, after all, true, and that the conventional means of art photography expression were not good enough for the sought-after thematic novelty. Thus, the search for a new visual language and imagery in Kharkiv fine art photography began.
This e-publication demonstrates the evolution of Kharkiv School visual language over four decades of its life. We have traced the formal side of the language (overlays, photomontage and post production techniques), and showed the approaches that were commonly used and shared among the Kharkiv artists in their collective oeuvre. Each part is preceded by a short description and a list of artists. The illustrations are linked to the artists’ online portfolios. The catalog provides excerpts from the essays and screen grabs of video pages linked to the corresponding online essay and video pages.
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