Biography

Vasiliy Ulitin (1888-1976) was born in the town of Serpukhov on the outskirts of Moscow, and learned painting and photography at a young age. He committed himself to printing and photographic art when in 1907, he studied coloring techniques at the Chemical-Technical School in Kostroma. Ulitin developed these skills early in his career through various ventures: in 1909, he worked in the Zinc-graphics department of Ivan Sitin’s publishing house, that dominated the Russian publishing industry at the time. Two years later, Ulitin would master difficult printing processes using bromine, pigment, and gummy arabic, at the fine art and portrait photography studio of Karl Fisher.

Ulitin’s experience with Karl Fisher would help the artist establish an independent studio in Moscow by 1915 that he called the Foto Moderne Studio. Ulitin worked in a pictorialist style, and remained committed to expertly and experimentally printing his photographs. During this time, Ulitin also joined the All-Russian Society of Photographers, one of the Soviet Union’s first organizations dedicated to promoting professional photography. The organization published their member’s works, curated exhibitions, and opened schools for photographic training.

By the 1920s, Ulitin had become well-regarded for his pictorialist artworks that depicted eerie scenes of ships entering the harbor at dusk, and dreamy portraits of ballerinas. His photographs would be exhibited internationally throughout the decade in Paris, London, Berlin, Los Angeles, Toronto, Tokyo, Bogotá, and Rome.

Ulitin was also dedicated to training the next generation of photographers and printers — at a historical moment when photography was first emerging as a discrete profession in the Soviet Union. In the 1920s, he participated in debates about professional photography through his membership at the Russian Photography Society, that was dedicated to pictorialist works. Through his 1928-1930 course “Basics of Mastery”, Ulitin taught darkroom techniques for chemists, metallurgists, and tradesmen at Moscow’s trade union photoclubs. A year later, he began teaching photography at the Moscow Institute of Polygraphy, and developed his own technique of three-color positive printing.

After his 1934 arrest for political activity, Ulitin continued to teach, organizing a photography exhibition for schoolchildren of communities that had been forcibly resettled. Ulitin was able to return to Moscow from exile in the 1950s. He died in 1976.