Biography

A seminal figure of Russian Constructivism, and the only major avant-garde photographer to document the extraordinary industrial advancements that transformed the Soviet Union in the aftermath of the 1917 revolution, Boris Vsevolodovich Ignatovich (1899-1976) was born in the city of Slutsk, present-day Belarus, on the eve of the twentieth century. He began his career as a journalist and editor. In 1918, at only nineteen years of age, he became one of the first members of the Russian Union of Soviet Journalists, and participated in the First All-Union Congress of Journalists.

By the mid-1920s, Ignatovich had moved to Moscow and Leningrad and had begun taking photographs. His first success was a documentary series about villagers in the Ramenskoe Workers’ settlement during the first Five-Year Plan. By the decade’s end, he was working as a professional press photographer and photojournalist and was producing his first films. He documented the industrial changes sweeping the country, from the construction of power plants and factories to the importation of the first American tractors into the USSR, and produced some of the first aerial views of Moscow and Leningrad. Ignatovich’s images upended the traditional format of documentary photography by using extreme and unconventional angles and perspectives, and were shown in exhibitions in Moscow, Vienna, and Stuttgart.

Ignatovich worked closely with Alexander Rodchenko, Varvara Stepanova, and El Lissitzky, all of whom became members of the distinguished October group, an avant-garde union of artists, architects, film directors, and photographers. When Rodchenko was expelled from the group for his formalist photography, Ignatovich took over from him as head of the photography section. In 1936, when asked whom among contemporary photographers he most respected, Rodchenko responded, “Above all, Ignatovich. He has not only the keen eye of a reporter, but good taste. He’s a gifted lad, a true artist.”

Throughout the 1930s, Ignatovich produced photographs, photo essays, and aerial surveys for the periodicals USSR in Construction, Krasnaya nova, Ognyok, Soviet Photo, and Pravda, among many others. He was elected chairman of the Moscow Association of Photojournalists, and participated in the First All-Union Exhibition of Photographic Art at the Pushkin Museum of Art in Moscow, at the Russian Museum in Leningrad, and in Kiev, Ukraine; his work was also shown in England and Lithuania.

During World War II, Ignatovich worked as a military photographer on both the Eastern and Western Fronts, riding on horseback with the soldiers and reporting on both the military action of the war and the conditions and daily life in the trenches and encampments; he also photographed the signing of the Potsdam Declaration in 1945. After the war, he began experimenting with color photography, landscapes, and portraiture. He continued to work for Pravda and Ogonyok, and became a department head at the publishing house Iskusstvo. 

Ignatovich continued working as a photographer until the end of his life. In 1969, in honor of his seventieth birthday, the Moscow branch of the Union of Soviet Journalists organized a solo exhibition of his work at the Central Home of Journalists. The exhibition featured photographs from every period of Ignatovich’s career, from 1923 through 1963, and included large-scale prints whose size was highly unusual for exhibitions at that time. The collection is preserved in its entirety.

"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."

Boris Ignatovich died on 4 April 1976. He is buried in Rogozhskoe Cemetery in Moscow.

Selected Exhibitions

Solo and Group Exhibitions

 

1926

Photoreportage, Moscow Association of Photojournalists at the Print House, Moscow, USSR

 

1927

First photography exhibition, organized by ODSK (Obshchestvo druzei sovetskogo kino, the Society of the Friends of Soviet Cinema), Polytechnic museum, Moscow

 

1928

10 Years of Soviet Photography, organized by the State Academy of Artistic Sciences. Moscow and Leningrad, USSR

 

1929

Film und Foto. Deutscher Werkbund, International Werkbund exhibition in the New Exhibition Hall on Interim Theatre Square. Stuttgart. Germany

First October Exhibition, Gorky Park, Moscow, USSR

Exhibition of Art Photography, Vienna, Austria

 

1931

Exhibition of October Group, Print House, Moscow, USSR

October Photomontage Exhibition, Gorky Park, Moscow, USSR

 

1935

Exhibition of the Work of the Masters of Soviet Photography (Vystavka rabot masterov sovetskogo foto-iskusstva), Moscow, USSR

 

1937

20 Years of Soviet Photography (20 let sovetskogo fotografii), Moscow, USSR

First Photoart Exhibition in USSR, Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, USSR

 

1938

Soviet Photoart. Museum of Culture named after Vitautas. Kaunas, Lithuania

Exhibition of Artistic Photography, The Central House of Writers, Moscow, USSR

 

1939

International Exhibition of Photography, UK

 

1945–1950

Participant in Exhibitions at the Grekov studio, Moscow, USSR

 

1946

Moscow Exhibition of Professional Photographers (Moskovskaia vystavka professionalnykh fotografov), Moscow, USSR

 

1947

Solo Exhibition in Prague, Czecho­slovakia

 

1948

Solo Exhibition, Central House of Art, Moscow, USSR

World War II in Photoart, Moscow, USSR

 

1949

Solo Exhibition in Belgrade, Yugoslavia

 

1953–1954

40 years of Photoart in USSR, Moscow, USSR

 

1955

Exhibition of Artistic Photography (Vystavka khudozhestvennoi fotografii), The Central House of Journalists, Moscow, USSR

 

1958

Men and the Sea, International Exhibition of Photography, Yugoslavia

 

1963

Participant in Exhibitions at the Photoclub Novator, Moscow, USSR

 

1967

Jubilee Exhibition My Moscow, Moscow, USSR

 

1969

Solo Exhibition at the Central Journalist Houser, Ignatovich 70's Anniversary, Moscow, USSR

Participant in Exhibitions at United Committee of book painters and graphics, Moscow, USSR

 

1972

Solo Exhibition in Vilnius, Lithuania

 

1975

30 Years of Great Victory, Moscow, USSR

60 Years of October Revolution, Moscow, USSR

 

1977

Solo Exhibition in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia

 

1981

Moscow­-Paris / Paris-Moscow. 1900–1930, Exhibition in the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow. USSR and The Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

1982

Solo Exhibition, 60 years of Education in the USSR, The Voronovskaya Gallery of Art, Moscow, USSR

Early Soviet Photographers, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford. UK

 

1986

Solo exhibition, The Mayakovsky State Museum, Moscow, USSR

 

1989

150 Years of Photography. Prague, Czechoslovakia, Moscow, USSR

Photomaster Boris Ignatovich. 1920–1930. Devoted to the 150 Years of Photo­graphy, Photocenter, Journalists Union of USSR Association. Moscow, USSR.

 

1990

20 Soviet Photographers, Amsterdam, Netherlands

 

1991

Soviet Photography 1920s and 1930s, Alex Lachmann Gallery, Cologne. Germany

 

1992

The Utopian Dream: Photography in Soviet Russia 1918–1939, Laurence Miller Gallery, New York, USA

The Great Utopia. The Russian Avant­ Garde 1915–1932, Solomon R.Guggenheim Museum, New York; State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow; State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg; Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt

Photography in Russia 1840–1940, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford. UK

 

1993

Russian Avant ­Garde in 20th Century, The Ludwig Museum, Cologne, Germany

 

1994

Boris Ignatovich. Pioneer of Soviet Photography, Alex Lachmann Gallery, Cologne, Germany

Photo Master Boris Ignatovich, Moscow Research Institute of Fine Art History, Moscow, Russia

 

1996

Moscow–Berlin. 1900–1950, The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, Russia - Berlin, Germany

 

1997

History of Moscow. Russian and Foreign Photographers, Moscow, Russia

Photo­relay race from Rodchenko up to now, Moscow, Russia

 

1999

Boris Ignatovich. 100 ­Years of the Photo­ Master. Moscow Photography House, Moscow, Russia

Red Square. 20th Century, Polytechnical museum, Moscow, Russia

 

2000

Classics of Soviet Photography, Central House of Artists, Moscow, Russia

Propaganda & Dreams. Photographing the 1930s in the USA and USSR, The Corcoran Gallery of Art Washington, International Center of Photography, New York, The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

 

2001

Red Square. The Historical State Museum, Moscow, Russia

 

2002

Solo exhibition "Boris Ignatovich, Classic of the National Photography, 1927-1963" devoted to the 100th Anniversary, The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, Russia

Idea Photographic: After Modernism, Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

 

2003

Boris Ignatovich. Unknown Masterpieces, Center of Photography behalf

of the Lumiere brothers, Moscow, Russia

Seasons of Russian Photography, Palazzo Arese Borromeo, Milan, Italy

Solo exhibition "Boris Ignatovich”, Imago Fotokunst, Berlin, Germany.

Moscow: City, Spectacle, Capital of Photography. Exhibition of 20th-century photographs of Moscow, Columbia University's Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, USA

Russische Tafelrunde Russisches Haus der Wissenschaft und Kultur, Berlin, Germany.

 

2004

Moscow–Berlin. 1950-2000. Half a century in photographs. The Historical State Museum, Moscow, Russia

Photorelay race. From Rodchenko and up to now, Moscow House of Photography, Moscow, Russia

Pioneers of Soviet Photography IV, Howard Schickler Gallery, NY, USA.

Sowjetische Fotografie der 1920er und 1930er Jahre, Von Piktoralismus und Modernismus zum Sozialistischen Realismus, Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland

Fotografie der Russischen Avantgarde aus der Sammlung Ludwig - Alexander Rodtschenko und Zeitgenossen, Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum, Aachen, Germany.

 

2006

Solo exhibition “Boris Ignatovich. 30 years from the date of death”, Photounion Gallery, Moscow, Russia

Solo exhibition Kunst im Auftrag, Boris Igna­to­witsch, Fotografien von 1927 bis 1946, Deutsch­Russisches Museum Berlin­Karlshorst, Berlin, Germany

The Soviet photomontage - 1917-1953, Multimedia Art Museum, Paris, France

 

2008

Perspective Rethought: Russian Constructivist Photography, Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, USA

Solo exhibition Boris Ignatovich, Rachmaninov Garden Gallery, St. Petersburg, Russia

Art features Soviet Art between Trotsky and Stalin, 1926-1936, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow, Russia

 

2009

Solo exhibition Boris Ignatovich. Selected works. 110­ years of the Photomaster and 170 Years of Photography, Photocenter, Journalists Union of USSR Association, Moscow, Russia

European & Russian Photomontage, 1920–1940. UBU Gallery, New York, USA

Politische Bilder, Sowjetische Fotografien 1918-1941. Museum Ludwig. Köln, Germany.

 

2011

Solo exhibition Boris Ignatovitch: Platonov's Time, Multimedia Art Museum/Moscow House of Photography, Voronezh, Samara, Russia

The Life and Death of Buildings, Princeton University Art Museum, NJ, USA

Epoch of Optimism. Art and propaganda in Soviet photography in the 1920-1940s, State Museum and Exhibition Centre for Photography ROSPHOTO, Saint-Petersburg, Russia

Photography as Propaganda: Politics&The Utopian Dream, Lumière Fine Art Photography Gallery, Atlanta, USA

Land. City. Real. Imagined, Diemar/Noble Photography Gallery, London, UK

 

2012

Russia, XX century in photographs, 1918-1940, Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow/Moscow House of Photography, Moscow, Russia

A New Vision: Modernist Photography, Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire, USA

 

2013

Soviet Photography, Rosphoto, State Museum and Exhibition Centre for Photography. Saint-Petersburg, Russia

Paris Photo, France. Exhibited by: Nailya Alexander Gallery, NY, USA

Photography and History in the USSR, 1920-1940,100 Masterpieces from the Collection at Regali, Noorderlicht Photo Gallery, The Netherlands

 

2014

XVII Encuentros Abiertos, Festival de la Luz 2014, Fundación Luz Austral, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

 

2015

PROzavod, The Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography, Moscow, Russia.

Wir müssen den Schleier von unseren Augen reißen, Kunstmuseum Bochum, Bochum, Germany.

Soviet Photo,The Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography, Moscow, Russia.

Military photographers dedication. Territory Victory, Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow/Moscow House of Photography, Moscow, Russia

Fotofever Paris 2015, Сarrousel du Louvre Paris, France

Soviet Photography: 1920s-1930s, Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York, USA

The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film, Jewish Museum, New York, USA

 

2016

Man at work, Deutsches Technikmuseum, Berlin, Germany.

The Kiss, The Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography, Moscow, Russia.

Modernists: Selections from the European Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Austrailia

 

2017

Revolution: Russian Art 1917–1932. Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, UK

Boris Ignatovich Estate, AIPAD Photography Show 2017, New York City, USA

Сollections

 

The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. Moscow, Russia

Museum Ludwig. Sammlung Ludwig, Aachen. Cologne, Germany

Art Institute of Chicago. Illinois, USA

The Museum of Fine Arts. Houston, Texas, USA

State Museum and Exhibition Centre for Photography ROSPHOTO. Saint-Petersburg, Russia

The Currier Museum of Art. Manchester, New Hampshire, USA

Spencer Museum of Art/The University of Kansas. Lawrence, Kansas, USA

Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). Miami, Florida, USA

Richard and Ronay Menschel Library/Collection. Rochester, New York, USA

Princeton University Art Museum. Princeton, New Jersey, USA

Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow/Moscow House of Photography. Russia

Richard And Ellen Sandor Art Foundation/Family Collection. Chicago, Illinois, USA

Alex Lachman Collection. Cologne, Germany

Robert Koch Gallery. San Francisco, USA

National Gallery of Canada. Ottawa, Canada

Art Gallery of New South Wales. Sydney, Australia

Nailya Alexander Gallery. New York, USA

Estate of Boris Ignatovich. Moscow, Russia