Born in Minsk in 1869, Moisei Nappelbaum was a master of studio portrait photography.  In 1884 by the young age of 15, Nappelbaum already joined the Minsk photography studio of Osip Boretti as an apprentice. Nappelbaum soon became one of the most important portrait photographers of both the pre-revolutionary and the early Soviet period.  In 1887 he left Minsk to travel through Russia and abroad where he visited Europe and America.  In 1895 when Nappelbaum returned to Russia he settled in St. Petersburg and worked for the journal Solntse Rossi where he focused on portraits.  He became a contributor to the journal Fotograph (1926-1929).  In the 1920's, he participated in a number of international exhibitions.

His work is recognized by the emphasis on his subject's face using light for pyschological characterizaton.  He gives his photographs the effect of a painting by manipulating the negative.   He created numerous well known portraits of prominent revolutionaries, cultural figures and scientists. In January of 1918, Nappelbaum created a number of portraits of V.I Lenin.  He was the only Soviet photographer to receive the title 'Honoured Artist of the Republic.' He later made head of the State Photographic Studio attached to the All-Russian Central Executive Committee.  Nappelbaum died in 1958.