At the Hermitage, 1930
Gelatin silver print mounted on board
Title and date in pencil in Russian on verso
Photographer's stamp and name in pencil on verso
30 x 42 in. (76.2 x 106.8 cm)

4 3/4 x 7 in. (12 x 17.8 cm)


Boris Ignatovich was a leader of vanguard Russian photography in the 1920s. For In the Hermitage, Ignatovich captured a major symbol of Russian architecture with a modernist visual eye — juxtaposing the sculpted foot against the dwarfed figures passing by. The Hermitage building is iconic as the first building in Russia constructed specifically to house a museum collection. The sculptor Alexander Terebenev used gray granite to cut the Atlantes figure that holds up the magnificent portico, whose foot is captured here.

St. Isaac's Cathedral, 1931
Gelatin silver print
Title and date in pencil in Russian on verso
Photographer's stamp and name in pencil on verso
8 3/4 x 12 3/4 in. (22.22 x 32.38 cm) 

 

Ignatovich captured this photograph from a R-5 bomber plane under stormy skies. The pilot had to hover almost in place, making banked curves just forty meters from the cross atop the cathedral. Ignatovich sat with his back to the pilot and had difficulty holding onto the camera. The photograph was published in Illustrirovannaya Rabochaya Gazeta.

Shower, 1935
Gelatin silver print mounted on board
Title and date in pencil in Russian on verso 
23 5/16 x 16 5/8 in. (59.1 x 42.2 cm)


"In 1935, photographer Boris Ignatovich, a former member of the October Group, took a photograph of a group of young, athletic men in a public shower. It showed one figure sitting in the foreground, his muscular back to the viewer, with more bathers standing together in the background. Ignatovich's friend, painter Alexander Deyneka, came across this photograph and asked if he could use it as a prototype for one of his paintings. Later he produced a work which he himself considered to be a failure in comparison to the original photograph.” Arts Magazine, November 1989. Curator, scholar, and critic Margarita Tupitsyn, Ph.D.

Youth, 1937
Gelatin silver print mounted on board
Title and date in pencil in Russian on verso
Photographer's stamp and name in pencil on verso
29 x 39 1/2 in. (73.4 x 100.2 cm)
 

With a Board, 1929
Gelatin silver print
Title and date in pencil in Russian on verso
Photographer's stamp and name on verso

Sizes:
23  5/8 x 18 1/2 in. (60 x 47 cm)

6 3/4 x 5 in. (17.3 x 12.8 cm)


Control Lever, Dinamo Factory, Moscow, 1930
Gelatin silver print, printed later by photographer
Photographer's stamp on verso
7 x 10 3/4 in. (17.8 x 27.3 cm)


Ignatovich shot this photograph at the Dinamo factory, one of Russia’s oldest electrical plants. The hand—well-worn but visibly powerful — coupled with the Russian word for “forward” conveys Ignatovich’s optimistic belief in the laboring masses’ ability to transform society. 
 

 

Reaping Machine Wheels, 1929

Gelatin silver print

Title and date in pencil in Russian on verso

Photographer's stamp and signature in pencil on verso

6 3/4 x 9 in. (17.3 x 23 cm)

Our First Borns, 1933
YaG-3 five ton trucks from Yaroslavl' State Automobile Factory at the Truck Park of Mossel'prom, Moscow
Gelatin silver print, printed later by photographer
Photographer's stamp on verso
6 1/4 x 9 1/2 in. (15.9 x 24.1 cm)

Strastnoy Boulevard, Moscow, 1930
Gelatin silver print mounted on board
Title and date in pencil in Russian on verso
Photographer's stamp and name in pencil on verso
21 5/8 x 15 5/16 in. (55 x 39 cm)

Strastnoy Boulevard is a street rich with cultural iconography that stretches from Strastnoy (now Pushkin) square to Peter's Gates. It is 123 meters wide, making it one of the broadest streets in the boulevard ring. The contrast here between socialist slogans and Romanov-era architecture highlights dramatic differences in pre- and post-revolutionary worldviews. This photo—controversial at the time for not offering viewers an easily-digestible, straight-forward message — is emblematic of Ignatovich’s tireless spirit of experimentation.

 

Boris Ignatovich responded to the criticism from Soviet art critic Leonid Mezhericher on a variant of this photograph in the 1931 issue of Proletarskoe Foto, no. 3, p. 8:

 

The artist received the task of capturing Moscow on election day . . . in this shot the artist included the banners hung up on Strastnoy Square. And what is characteristic of this square? Dom Izvestnyi, the monastery’s bell tower, the Pushkin statue, the bus, the lively movement on the street, the kiosks, the boulevard, and, never fear, fierce critics — also the balloons. Almost the entire composition is anchored around the main object — the banners.

Scarecrow, 1927
Gelatin silver print, printed later by photographer
Photographer's stamp on verso

6 x 9 1/2 in. (15.2 x 24.1 cm)


In 1909, monument to Alexander III was erected in the center of Znamenskaya Square (present day Vosstaniya Square) in front of the Nikolaevsky Railway Station, in recognition of the Tsar's construction of the Great Siberian Railroad, which connected the capital with the Far East. The monument was designed by Italian sculptor Paolo Trubetzkoy (whom G.B. Shaw declared "the most astonishing sculptor of modern times"). After the 1917 revolution, a poem by Demyan Bedny, "Scarecrow," was carved into the pedestal. In 1937, the monument was moved to the yard of the State Russian Museum, and now it stands near the museum's Marble Palace. 

 

Monument to Ferdinand Lassalle, 1930
Gelatin silver print, printed later by photographer
Photographer's stamp on verso
9 1/2 x 6 1/4 in. (24.1 x 15.9 cm)

Corner of Theater Square. Moscow, 1930

Gelatin silver print, printed 1960s

Photographer’s stamp on verso

6 5/8 x 9 11/16 in. (16.8 x 25.3 cm)

Cossak Girl, Galya Melnikova, 1936

Gelatin silver print

Title and date in pencil in Russian on verso

Photographer's stamp on verso

8 7/8 x 7 in. (22.5 x 17.7 cm)

 

Kuban cossack Galya Mel'nikova was awarded a gold watch for winning equestrian competition.

Brass Band, 1935

Gelatin silver print

Title and date in pencil in Russian on verso

Photographer's stamp and signature in pencil on verso

6 1/4 x 9 1/2 in. (16.1 x 24.3 cm)

Dmitri Shostakovich, 1929

Gelatin silver print

Title and date in pencil in Russian on verso

Photographer's stamp and name in pencil on verso

11 x 7 3/4 in. (27.9 x 19.6 cm)

Drums, 1929

Gelatin silver print, printed 1960s

Photographer’s stamp on verso

9.6 x 6.3 in, 24.4.x 16.1

 

First Tractor, 1927
Gelatin silver print
Title and date in pencil in Russian on verso
Photographer's stamp and name in pencil on verso

Sizes:
23 x 19 in. (48.1 x 58.9 cm)

9 x 7 in. (22.9 x 17.8 cm)

A young boy sits triumphantly on his village’s first tractor. The tractor was an American Fordson, a popular brand in the Soviet Union through the 1920s. By 1926, more than 80 percent of tractors in the USSR were produced by the Ford company.

Holiday Illumination, 1932

Gelatin silver print

Photographer's stamp on verso

3 3/8 x 5 1/2 in. (8.5 x 13.7 cm)

 

This light display created by the Constructivist designer Gustav Klutsis celebrated the May 1st International Worker's Day holiday. Wrapped around the lights are the words "for the technical-economic independence of the USSR!"

Vladimir Mayakovsky, 1928

Gelatin silver print

Title and date in pencil in Russian on verso

Photographer's stamp on verso

13 x 5 3/4 in. (33 x 14.6 cm)

 

In 1913, a year between two major Russian revolutions, Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky famously wrote to “Throw Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc. overboard from the Ship of Modernity” in his poem “A Slap in the Face of Public Taste.” Outside his role as poet, was a screenwriter, film actor, artist and editor for the arts magazine Left Front of Art.

 

Pioneers and Homeless Children, May Day, Moscow, 1927
Gelatin silver print
Title and date in pencil in Russian on verso
Photographer's stamp and name on verso

 

Sizes:
18 1/2 x 23 in. (47 x 58.6 cm)
6 3/4 x 8 5/8 in. (17 x 22 cm)


Young children march down Moscow’s Tverskaia Street on May 1st. Some of the children are homeless, and about to be initiated as Young Pioneers. The Young Pioneers was a state-sponsored youth organization dedicated to promoting social cooperation.

In the Sublunary World, 1937

Gelatin silver print

Title and date in pencil in Russian on verso

Photographer’s stamp on verso

9 5/8 x 6 3/8 in. (24.3 x 16.1 cm)

Motherhood, 1938
Gelatin silver print mounted 
Titled and dated in pencil in Russian on verso
Photographer's stamp and name in pencil on verso
18 1/2 x 23 1/4 in. (46.9 x 59 cm)
 

Molten Steel, 1938
Gelatin silver print

Title and date in pencil in Russian on verso

Photographer's stamp and name in pencil on verso

Sizes:
39 7/8 x 26 1/2 in. (101.4 x 67.2 cm)
9 1/2 x 6 3/8 in. (15.2 x 24.2 cm)

 

Many of Ignatovich’s photographs portray new technology and industrial sites during the Soviet Union’s early decades. This photograph was taken at the Azovstal’ metallurgical complex in Maripol, Ukraine. The Azovstal was one of the USSR’s largest steel plants at the time.
 

Pig­iron Pouring, 1938  

Gelatin silver print

Printed 1960s

Photographer’s stamp on verso

6 1/4 x 9 1/2 in. (15.9 x 24.3 cm)

 

Press Release

Nailya Alexander Gallery is pleased to announce Boris Ignatovich: Master of Russian Avant-Garde Photography presented in collaboration with the Boris Ignatovich Estate, Moscow. This is the first ever solo exhibition held in New York for Boris Ignatovich (1899-1976), a towering figure in Russian Constructivist photography. The exhibition features some of the artist’s most celebrated photographs from the 1920s and 1930s, including large-scale gelatin silver prints of unprecedented size (29 x 39 inches) made by Ignatovich himself for the 1969 exhibition at the Moscow Central House of Journalists in honor of his seventieth birthday. We are privileged to exhibit these one-of-a-kind art objects in the gallery for the first time in nearly fifty years.

The history of Russian art cannot be imagined without Ignatovich, a great innovator, who left an indelible mark on the evolution of early Soviet experimental photography, and reformed reportage with startling perspectives and artistic expressiveness. Ignatovich worked under the philosophy that his work should not only reflect the life and culture of the Soviet Union, but actively shape it. His bold compositions, rich lighting contrasts, and striking insights capture new industry, architecture, working people and daily life during a turbulent period. “The revolution in Russia swept away the bourgeois order and the bourgeois aesthetic,” writes historian of Russian photography Valery Stigneev. “The builders of a new society needed their own language and idols. On this great, fast-moving wave of art rose Mayakovsky, Rodchenko, Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov, Deineka, El Lissitsky, and others. More accurately, they made this Art. Boris Ignatovich made Photography.”

Ignatovich took his first reportage photograph in 1923 with a pocket kodak camera capturing the Soviet writer Mikhail Zoshchenko buying apples near the Smekhach office (humor magazine he worked at the time). By 1927 he became a picture editor for the famous newspaper Bednota, also contributing photographs to the publication about changes happening in both urban and rural life. 

Two years later, he joined the famous October group, an avant-garde union of artists, architects, film directors, and photographers, many of whose members — including Alexander Rodchenko, Varvara Stepanova, and El Lissitzky — used Ignatovich’s images in their photomontages and designs. When Rodchenko was expelled in 1930, Ignatovich replaced him as head of the photographic section until the group’s dissolution in 1932. Ignatovich remained faithful to photographic experimentation for the entirety of his career. He advocated for collectivism in photojournalism at the Soyuzfoto agency, where photographers working under him formed the so-called “Ignatovich Brigade,” and spoke out openly against the Soviet Union’s tightening grip on artistic expression. He contributed to the publications USSR in Construction, Krasnaya Niva, Ogonyok, SovietPhoto, and Pravda, among others, and worked as a cameraman on documentary films, including one of the first sound films, Olympiada of the Arts. For a special 1931 edition of USSR in Construction, he shot some of the first aerial photos of St. Petersburg from an R-5 reconnaissance plane that flew perilously close to the city’s landmarks. Ignatovich served as chairman of the Moscow Association of Photojournalists in 1932, and during his life saw his work exhibited widely not only in Russia but also across Western Europe.

"Boris Ignatovich was a universal photographer,” writes Aleksandr Lavrentiev, art historian and director of the Rodchenko-Stepanova Archive. “He was a journalist and a reporter, a war photographer, a portraitist, a pedagogue, and a master of applied photography. Ignatovich's own prints were unrepeatable artworks of his darkroom...The tonal richness of Ignatovich's prints is akin to painting. He turned photographs into art, because he understood what art is. But he was not imitating painting. It all flowed from his technique, from what he’d seen, from mastery.”