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A great innovator and a seminal figure in Russian Constructivism, Boris Ignatovich (1899-1976) left an indelible mark on the evolution of early 20th-century Russian photography and photojournalism. “The Bolshevik revolution in Russia swept away the bourgeois order and the bourgeois aesthetic,” writes historian of Russian photography Valery Stigneev. “The builders of a new society needed their own language and idols. On this great, fast-moving wave of art rose Mayakovsky, Rodchenko, Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov, Aleksandr Deyneka, El Lissitzky, and others. More accurately, they made this Art. Boris Ignatovich made Photography... Ignatovich created a frame like a sculptor, shearing off anything superfluous, and bringing the image to life like a movie.”

Born in the city of Slutsk, in present-day Belarus, Ignatovich was a journalist before he became a photographer. In 1923, he began taking photographs, and by the end of the decade he had established himself as a leader in the field of photojournalism, bringing to the medium fresh perspectives and an energetic, stylistic approach. Ignatovich embraced the Constructivist experimentation permeating artistic circles in Moscow, and was largely responsible for bringing the relatively new medium of photography into the new avant-garde fold. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, his photographs, photo-essays and aerial surveys were widely published both within and on the covers of periodicals such as Ogonyok, Sovetskoe Foto, Pravda, Soviet Architecture, Krasnaya Neva, and USSR in Construction. In 1929, Ignatovich worked alongside Aleksandr Rodchenko for the prominent vanguard photography journal Daesh, and published photographs in all fourteen issues.

In 1930, Ignatovich joined October, the avant-garde union of artists, architects, filmmakers, and photographers whose photography section was led by Rodchenko. Founded in 1928 with participation by Gustav Klutsis, Sergei Eisenstein, El Lissitzky, Varvara Stepanova, Alexander Deyneka, Diego Rivera, and others, October arose from the Constructivist tradition of industrial and applied arts, and explored new forms of artistic expression for a nascent Soviet culture. Members of October were inspired by Ignatovich’s photographs and incorporated them into both their personal work and their designs for various publications. Stepanova, for example, integrated Ignatovich’s photograph Red Army into her 1930 photomontage of the same name, which she published in the arts and politics magazine Za Rubezhom, and placed Ignatovich’s photographs alongside Rodchenko’s in her album From Merchant Moscow to Socialist Moscow (1931). In 1929, when El Lissitzky was commissioned to design covers for a series of books representing architectural fantasies of America, France, and Russia, he used Ignatovich’s photograph With A Board (1929) for his photomontage on the cover of the first volume, Russia: The Reconstruction of Architecture in the Soviet Union (Neues Bauen in der Welt). In 1931, when Rodchenko was expelled from October, Ignatovich took over as director of the photography section until party officials disbanded the group in 1932.

Like an architect, Ignatovich meticulously constructed his images and included only elements that he deemed necessary to convey meaning. His work is characterized by masterful expressions of light and shadow, as well as rigorous, geometric compositions. Some of his photographs, such as Monument to Ferdinand Lassalle (1930), even appear at first glance to be photomontages. In Control Lever, Dynamo Factory, Moscow (1930), Ignatovich focused his camera’s attention on the levers of the Russian-owned and operated Dynamo factory, arranging them in a rhythmic sequence within the frame of the image to evoke the rhythm not only of the machinery itself, but also of an efficient, ideal socialist society. Among his innovations were some of the first aerial photographs of Leningrad, captured from an R-5 bomber plane in 1931, as well as experimentations with cinematography and filmmaking; in 1930, he helped to produce one of the first sound films, Olympiad of Art.

Ignatovich participated in all major exhibitions on Soviet photography at the time, including Ten Years of Soviet Photography (1928) and The First All Union Exhibition of Art Photography (1937-1938), and exhibited abroad as early as 1929 at the seminal Film und Foto exhibition in Stuttgart, Germany. At the First October Exhibition in Gorky Park in Moscow in 1931, his photographs were displayed alongside Rodchenko’s. He declined an invitation to participate in the 1935 exhibition Masters of Soviet Photography, which was organized just a year after the First Soviet Writers Conference (1934) that enforced the policy of Socialist Realism across all art forms. His open criticism of the exhibition jury coincided with growing artistic censorship in the Soviet Union, while reflecting the photographer’s own integrity as an artist. Ignatovich remained faithful to photographic experimentation for the entirely of his career.

From the first day of involvement in World War II, Ignatovich worked as a military photographer, publishing photographs of the army for the journal Boevoe Znamia (Banner of War). He photographed 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 (Art).

Ignatovich continued working as a photographer and exhibiting his work until his death in 1976. In 1969, in honor of his seventieth birthday, he was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Central House of Journalists in Moscow, organized by the Union of Soviet Journalists. Ignatovich printed eighty-five large-scale gelatin silver prints for the exhibition, which is preserved in its entirety and provides both a remarkable survey of the photographer’s decades-long career, as well as an unparalleled glimpse into the social, economic, cultural, and political reality of the Soviet Union during its formative years in the first half of the twentieth-century. Nailya Alexander Gallery represents the Boris Ignatovich Estate.

Selected Exhibitions

Solo and  Selected Group Exhibitions


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


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


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


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


Exhibition of October Group, Print House, Moscow, USSR

October Photomontage Exhibition, Gorky Park, Moscow, USSR


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


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

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


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

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


International Exhibition of Photography, UK


Participant in Exhibitions at the Grekov studio, Moscow, USSR


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


Solo Exhibition in Prague, Czecho­slovakia


Solo Exhibition, Central House of Art, Moscow, USSR

World War II in Photoart, Moscow, USSR


Solo Exhibition in Belgrade, Yugoslavia


40 years of Photoart in USSR, Moscow, USSR


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


Men and the Sea, International Exhibition of Photography, Yugoslavia


Participant in Exhibitions at the Photoclub Novator, Moscow, USSR


Jubilee Exhibition My Moscow, Moscow, USSR


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


Solo Exhibition in Vilnius, Lithuania


30 Years of Great Victory, Moscow, USSR

60 Years of October Revolution, Moscow, USSR


Solo Exhibition in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia


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


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


Solo exhibition, The Mayakovsky State Museum, Moscow, USSR


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.


20 Soviet Photographers, Amsterdam, Netherlands


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

Photo­relay race from Rodchenko up to now, Moscow, Russia


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

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


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


Red Square. The Historical State Museum, Moscow, Russia


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


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.



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.


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


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


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.


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


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


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

Paris Photo, The Grand Palais, 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


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


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


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


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

15th Anniversary Exhibition, Rosphoto, St. Petersburg, Russia

Russian Photography After the Revolution, Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York

Paris Photo, The Grand Palais, France, Stand A 30, Nailya Alexander Gallery

Revolyutsiia! Demonstratsia! Soviet Art Put to the Test, The Art Institute of Chicago


Boris Ignatovich: Master of Russian Avant-garde Photography, first solo exhibition in New York, Nailya Alexander Gallery



Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. Moscow, Russia

Museum Ludwig. Sammlung Ludwig, Aachen. Cologne, Germany

Art Institute of Chicago. Illinois, USA

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

Harry Ransom Center, Austin, TX, USA

Museum Fokwang Photographic Collection, Essen, Germany

MAST, Bologna, Italy

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

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada

Art Gallery of New South Wales. Sydney, Australia

Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA

Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York, USA

Estate of Boris Ignatovich, Moscow, Russia