Biography

Alexander Rodchenko was born into a working-class family; his father was a theater prop man and his mother worked as a laundress. He supported himself as a dental technician for several years before enrolling at the age of nineteen in the Kazan School of Art, where he met his future wife, Varvara Stepanova.

In 1915, he moved to Moscow to continue art studies at the Stroganov School of Industrial and Applied Arts. After the Revolution he was a founding member of the Constructivist group Inkhuk and became a professor at Vkhutemas, the higher art and technical school. In the early 1920s, Rodchenko collaborated with Vladimir Mayakovsky on the avant-garde journal LEF and later Novye LEF. He began experimenting with photography in 1923 and quickly developed the use of extreme angles, wide frames, and photomontage. He also designed film posters and participated in the First and Second Exhibition of Film Posters in 1925 and 1926, respectively. From 1927 to 1930 he worked as a cinematographer and also designed the sets for a number of plays. In 1928, he took part in the exhibition Ten Years of Soviet Photography in Moscow. The same year he joined the avant-garde group October and became highly influential among its members. But as a result of the state’s campaign against artistic formalism, Rodchenko was expelled from October in 1931. In the 1930s, to work within Socialist Realism’s guidelines, he concentrated on industrial sites, sports photography, and images of parades. Many of these photos appeared in the magazine USSR in Construction. In 1935 his work has displayed in the Masters of Soviet Photographic Art exhibition, and the positive critical reception he received temporarily helped to restore his reputation. He was able to resume publishing his photographs in Sovetskoe foto, but from the late 1930s on, official condemnation forced him to be less experimental in his photographic expression. His membership in the Union of Soviet Artists was restored only in 1954, shortly after the death of Stalin, but he died two years later.

 

Source: Goodman, Susan Tumarkin and Jens Hoffmann, The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2016), 226.