NEW YORK, NY.- Nailya Alexander Gallery
presents Arkady Shaikhet: Selected Photographs 1920s-1930s, the first New York exhibition of one of the founders of Soviet photo reportage. Shaikhet [pronounced shai-HET] was an innovator, who helped create a new aesthetic to match the needs of the newly established Soviet State. The exhibition, featuring some forty vintage photographs from the family estate and a few private collections, runs through 15 January 2011 at the Nailya Alexander Gallery, in the Fuller Building at 41 E 57th Street, Suite 704. Gallery hours are 11am-5pm, Tuesday through Saturday, and by appointment.
This exhibition has been made possible thanks to the knowledge and generous support of Maria Zhotikova, the granddaughter of Arkady Shaikhet.
Arkady Shaikhet (1898-1959) was born in the city of Nikolaev (Ukraine) into a lower middle class Jewish family (his father was a wholesale beer trader and his mother had a seamstress shop). He moved to Moscow in 1922 where he found work as a retoucher at the Rembrandt studio. His first photographs were published in 1923, and he soon joined a group of young talented photographers who helped establish the USSRs most important illustrated magazines. In 1924, at the age of 26, he became one of the leading photojournalists for the newspapers Krasnaya Niva and Moscow Proletarian. The following year, Shaikhet joined the staff of the national magazine Ogonyok and from the very beginning his photographs were used for the covers. Shaikhet was one of the founders (together with famous journalist Mikhail Koltsov) of Soviet Photo in 1926 and from 1930 on, he actively contributed to USSR in Construction. Because of his close collaboration with Mikhail Koltsov, Shaikhets career skyrocketed between 1924 and 1931, and he became a leading photojournalist in the country.
The need to build a new country after the destruction from both the Bolshevik revolution and the Civil War called for master photographers with innovative techniques. These photographers were asked to reflect reality in a new way, to present the new Soviet person, and to shape a new culture. Photography was truly employed on a grand scale as the Soviet authorities were realizing the power of the photographic image as means of propaganda. Experimentation with the photographic language and energetic discussions about art (problems of form and style, in particular) facilitated the creation of a new visual style in Soviet photography, and put Soviet photographers on a par with their foreign colleagues in Paris, Berlin and New York. Arkady Shaikhet was one of the photographers involved in the creative experiments, although he by no means considered himself a member of the avant-garde, preferring to record life as it is.
Shaikhets style stands out for its thematic diversity, emotionality of images and the experimental quality of compositional techniques. His well-observed character types komsomolka, tax inspector, peasant, and cadet all shot in their natural surroundings, became covers for leading publications in the 1920s and 30s. These images owed their expressiveness to the special connection that the photographer was able to establish with his subjects during the working process. They became posters for their time. Shaikhet was constantly looking for ways to renew the photographic language that he used. This was likewise an objective of leftist formalist photography, in which Shaikhet undoubtedly took an interest although he was a member of ROPF (the Russian Association of Proletarian Photographers) and had a clear understanding of the boundaries of the permissible in magazines that were aimed at the masses.
In Shaikhets approach we sense a constant striving to create a compositionally fresh, striking, and memorable shot. In Inauguration of the Shatura Power Station (1925) Shaikhet was able to convey both the grand scale of the festive event and the massive structure of the object itself.