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Alexander Rodchenko: The Utopian Photographer

One of the photographers whose works that I have been really admiring lately is Alexander Rodchenko. I can’t quite remember how or when I first came across Rodchenko’s work, but I immediately felt there was something about his photos that was captivating.

It’s often hard to express why we like a certain visual style, but in my case, with Rochenko, it would have to be the combination of pleasing compositions, together with unusual perspectives and interesting shadows.

Living in 1920s revolutionary Russia, Rodchenko had started out as a painter, and only turned to photography, as well as design and illustration in the early part of that decade. No doubt his background as a painter helped him with his photographic composition and understanding of lighting too.

While his early work reflects an artist still trying to find his way around a new medium, it’s clear that he soon finds his own distinct style, often using unusual perspectives, tilted angles and shadows to create seemingly simple, yet dramatic high contrast images. Many of these shots with dark and long shadows have a film-noir like feel to them.

Inspired by other abstract artists, while being part of the avant-garde Constructivist movement himself, Rodchenko was setting out to make rather than take pictures. Composition was of utmost importance to him and it’s obvious that he put a great deal of thought, time and care in creating most of his photos.

Rodchenko so passionately believed in photography as a form of art, that he described the ability of photographic compositions loaded with forms and intricate patterns, as surpassing the imagination of painters. In fact, he believed that photography could transform the world and mankind, which is evident from his ‘new’ way of looking at the world.

Sadly, Rodchenko’s style would soon be frowned upon, as by the 1930s, Stalin’s cultural revolution had led to an emphasis on realism, with avant-garde artists being labelled bourgeois and distorters of the Soviet ideal. From then on, Rodhchenko would turn to reportage and experimentation with photomontages.

Alexander Rodcehnko’s work as an active photographer from 1924 to 1954 leaves us with a captivating body of images that lives on as a testament to the brilliant artist that lay behind the camera and his role in helping to cement photography’s place in the art world.

For further reading, see Aleksandr Rodchenko: Art in Photography by Nare Aleksanyan.

Edit: Following the publication of this post, the origin of the nude photo attributed to Rodchenko is now in dispute. What seems to have set off the confusion is its title ‘Angle de Tir par Alexander Rodchenko’, set by the photographer Andrey Pashis: http://www.photoforum.ru/photo/583983/index.ru.html

While Some people are still attributing it to Rodchenko, it should be made clear that this might not be one of his works.

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