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Biography

Georgy Petrusov (1903-1971) was born in Rostov-on-Don and took up photography as a hobby at age 14. After several years of work as a bank bookkeeper in his hometown, he moved to Moscow to begin his career as a professional photojournalist. By 21, he was contributing to newspapers such as Trud, Metallist and Pravda. Among his assignments for Pravda was a 1928-1930 photoshoot of the construction of the massive Magnitogorsk metallurgical plant in the Urals. The People’s Commissar of Heavy Industry would award him a car for the Magnitogorsk project, as well as for his photographs of the Gorky Car Factory.

Petrusov worked alongside the period’s most prolific avant-garde photographers, many of whom he would photograph throughout his career. Petrusov’s photographs are particularly striking for their well-organized space and deep perspective. For scholar Anri Vartanov, Petrusov “knew how to structure his compositions with an incredible sense of height that only easel-painters are capable of” (Sovetskoe Foto, 36). For scholar Alexander Lavrentiev, Petrusov’s compositions resemble a theatrical stage: “it was important to pick his observation point. He conveyed not just the perspective, the subject matter of the photography, the humor and formal relations, but all of them combined in a kind of spatial dialogue between the spectator and the scene represented.” (Petrusov: Retrospective, Point of View, 179).

In 1930 Petrusov began contributing to USSR in Construction, a publication dedicated to promoting advances in Soviet industry and culture. Other contributors included Alexander Rodchenko, Varvara Stepanova and El Lissitzky. Petrusov created photographs for the magazine on a diverse range of topics including collective farming in Kabardia, the opening of the Moscow subway station, and a travel piece about the Black Sea coast. Among his most well-known projects was a 1934 photostory about the massive construction of the Dnepr Hydroelectric Dam.

During World War II Petrusov served as a war photographer for Izvestia and the Soviet Information Bureau. He also published an album of photographs showing Berlin in the days immediately after peace was declared.

When Petrusov returned to Moscow, he began photographing the Bolshoi Ballet. He produced over a thousand performance images spanning 1945 to 1957. For the next 18 years of his life and up until his death, he worked for Soviet Life, a magazine published in the United States by the Novosti Agency. In 1969, he revisited Berlin and published his album entitled Two Meetings with Berlin. He died in 1971 in Moscow.

Petrusov's photographs have been shown in over 30 exhibitions around the world. During his lifetime, Petrusov exhibited his photographs in Masters of Soviet Art Photography, Moscow, 1935; First Exhibition of Art Photography in the USSR, Moscow, 1937; and International Salon of Photography, Boston, 1941, among others. In 2010, the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow, organized Georgy Petrusov. Retrospective: Point of View, the artist's first major retrospective. Most recently, Petrusov's photographs were exhibited in The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film, Jewish Museum, 2015; and Revolutsiia! Demonstratsiia! Soviet Art Put to the Test, Art Institute of Chicago, 2017-2018. Petrusov also contributed various articles to the popular photography journal Sovetskoe Foto, such as "More About the Leika," 1935, and "The Highest Honor," 1937. 

 

See: 

Vartanov, Anri. "Zvezda Petrusova," Sovetskoe Foto 1 (1989): 35-39.

Lavrentiev, Alexander. "Georgy Petrusov: Point of Observation." In Georgy Petrusov. Retrospective: Point of View. Moscow: MAMM, 2010.