The work of four Russian photojournalists employed by the English-language daily newspaper, The Moscow Times, is the subject of an exhibition titled "Reflections: Russian Photographs, 1992–2002," which opened Sept. 22 in the South Gallery of the Great Hall in the Library's Thomas Jefferson Building; it will remain on view through Feb. 7. The Russian Information Agency "Novosti" has provided the photos on behalf of The Moscow Times.
The 51 black-and-white and color images depict major historical events as well as daily occurrences in Moscow and elsewhere since the collapse of Communism. Together, the images provide an objective glimpse of complex post-Soviet realities and dynamic transformations in the "New Russia."
"We are pleased to present a selection of professional photographs that both illustrate the recent development of photojournalism in Russia and, at the same time, provide a pictorial record of a decade of historic changes," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, a Russian cultural historian.
The four photographers—Vladimir Filonov (born 1948), Yevgeny Stetso (born 1951), Igor Tabakov (born 1957) and Mikhail Metzel (born 1960)—covered such landmark events as the dramatic armed face-off between the Russian Parliament and President Boris Yeltsin in September-October 1993; the 1996 presidential campaign that pitted Yeltsin against his Communist rival, Gennady Zyuganov; Russia's financial default in August 1998; the terrorist bombings of Moscow apartment buildings in September 1999; and the election of President Vladimir Putin in 2000.
The photographers also recorded on film a broad range of daily political, social and religious activities during Russia's struggles, after seven decades of Communist rule, to refashion itself as a democracy with a market-based economy in their work for The Moscow Times.
The contradictory political and social currents that characterized post-Soviet life in the 1990s are revealed in many of the images that the Library selected for display from the larger group of 176 photographs that have been generously donated to the Library by The Moscow Times.
The pictures chosen for the exhibition include street demonstrations by groups nostalgic for the Communist as well as the Tsarist past; opposition rallies in which both Communist and Christian symbols are prominently displayed; and the removal of once-sacrosanct statues of Soviet leaders from prominent public display to a sculpture park. The photographs also depict formerly taboo subjects, such as the strong revival of religion; AIDS; the re-burial of the remains of World War II German soldiers in a military cemetery; overcrowded prison conditions; and skinheads protesting the use of American chicken outside a McDonald's restaurant in Moscow.
Jeremy Adamson, chief of the Library's Prints and Photographs Division and curator of the exhibition, commented: "During the Soviet era, photojournalists were government employees, serving the propaganda needs of the state by supplying images for magazine and newspaper articles that extolled life under Communism." As "official" photographers, he noted, "they did not shoot pictures of scenes that undermined or attacked the party line."
Today's Russian photojournalists are more like their Western counterparts in recording a fuller range of the reality they witness daily, Adamson added. The images in the exhibition demonstrate this broader range of subjects, helping the viewer to understand today's Russia more fully.