Propaganda and Dreams: Photographing the 1930s in the USSR and USA

Propaganda and Dreams: Photographing the 1930s in the USSR and USA

by Leah Bendavid-Val
     
 

The Nineteen Thirties: barefoot poverty in the Great Depression, breadlines, the Dust Bowl, Oakies migrating to a hoped-for better life out West. We have seen their faces in countless images, down-and-out American faces lodged for decades in a corner of our collective eye, the work of government photographers sent out to bring home the unadorned truth about their…  See more details below

Overview

The Nineteen Thirties: barefoot poverty in the Great Depression, breadlines, the Dust Bowl, Oakies migrating to a hoped-for better life out West. We have seen their faces in countless images, down-and-out American faces lodged for decades in a corner of our collective eye, the work of government photographers sent out to bring home the unadorned truth about their destitute countrymen. And in the Soviet Union, happy and healthy citizens are photographed at work and play, forging a new way of life and gazing heroically into the Socialist future. Soviet photographers, so the thinking goes, falsified reality, cynically serving a malevolent regime of collectivization, terror, and show trials. Propaganda & Dreams shakes these assumptions to their core. In presenting never-before-seen pictures and looking afresh at familiar ones, this book challenges our widely held beliefs about the evocative era and indeed photography itself. It considers what the photographs actually say, questions how we understand images, and takes the reader on a rich journey back in time on two continents. Propaganda & Dreams is a revealing portrait of two countries, embodying the fantasies, ideals, and grim realities of an era. But this book is also about today, about how we get information and arrive at opinions about our own times.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal - Library Journal
Bendavid-Val, a senior editor at National Geographic who curated this traveling exhibit with the support of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Russian Ministry of Culture, and the Library of Congress, has assembled a memorable collection of images: proud young women marching in a Moscow sports parade, a rifle pointing out from between Byzantine icons, a mantle clock serving as the most ornate headstone in a South Carolina graveyard, and uniformed children in gas masks. Among the 250 black-and-white photographs collected here, most come from the wonderful lenses of Americans Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, and Russell Lee and Ukranian Boris Ignatovich. Accompanying this large-format social commentary is a thought-provoking text, written for the exhibit. The lack of an index, however, makes it difficult to track works by the 33 Soviet and 19 American photographers, and only 40 of the contributing photographers are included in a selected biographies section. It's also disconcerting that, although the book supposedly focuses on the 1930s, one-third of the Americans' photographs actually date from the early 1940s. Still, this is recommended for all public libraries and for academic libraries with large photography collections.--Anne Marie Lane, American Heritage Ctr., Laramie, WY Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Nan Richards
Bendavid-Val makes possible a more complex reading of both photographic traditions that will help transform our understanding of that period both in photography and in mass culture.
The Boston Book Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9783908161806
Publisher:
Edition Stemmle
Publication date:
05/01/1999
Pages:
223
Product dimensions:
9.96(w) x 11.13(h) x 0.98(d)

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