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Sovfoto was established in 1932 as the only agency to represent Soviet photojournalism in America.It continues today as a commercial entity Sovfoto/Eastfoto. Collections from its archive are held also at MacLaren Art Centre in Barrie, Canada which in 2001 was donated 23,116 vintage gelatin silver prints dating from 1936 to 1957, while Amhurst University holds the Tass Sovfoto Photograph Collection, 1919–1963, the majority being from 1943–1963.
Sovfoto agency was originally established by the USSR in New York in the early 1930s to distribute Soviet press photography throughout North America. After 1941 Sovfoto received photographs, on consignment, from the Sovinformburo (Совинформбюро), culled from TASS. All were printed in the USSR with English captions as they were intended for a North American audience.Associated Press and all the major wire agencies sourced the material, and offered it to illustrated magazines like Life and Look , and also communist-aligned and communist-sympathetic publications, as well as selling to the State Department as the only source of regular visual reportage on the Soviet Union.
After World War II, it continued, adding imagery from Eastern European countries of the Communist bloc as well as China. The agency started doing business as Sovfoto/Eastfoto in the late 1940s, moving offices several times under a series of American owners, including Helen Black (at 11 West Forty-second Street, New York City 18, then 15 West 44th Street) up to 1952, Edwin S. Smith to 1964 (at 24 West 45th Street), then Liuba Solov at 25 West 43rd Street. Solov managed the business until 1974 when Leah Siegel took ownership, moving in 1987 to 225 West 34th Street Suite 1505, and employing Victoria Edwards who bought the company in the early 1990s. Edwards’ son Vanya took over upon her retirement and is the current owner/manager.
Until the fall of the Communist/Soviet bloc, Sovfoto remained the exclusive legitimate source of news photography from the Communist countries and it continues to represent ITAR-TASS in Russia and Xinhua in China and others, while maintaining the historical archive.
As a Communist bloc agency, Sovfoto came under suspicion during the McCarthy era. When Sovfoto released photographs of purported biological warfare committed by the Americans, the then-owner Edwin Smith was brought before the House Un-American Activities Committee to testify on his role in their publication.At the time of his ownership as ‘Foreign Principal’, the Report of the Attorney General to the Congress of the United States on the Administration of the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 as Amended June 1951, for the Calendar Year 1955, notes that ‘Propaganda photographs (for the U.S.S.R.) are distributed by Edwin S. Smith, doing business under the name of Sovfoto Agency’ as well as ‘propaganda material from Communist China’. Smith (1891–1975) was owner and manager of Am-Rus Literary and Music Agency, also Sovfoto and Eastfoto Agency from 1952–64, and represented legations and press and photo agencies Mezhdunarodnaja Kniga, Moscow; Czechopress, Prague; China Photo Service, Peking; Agerpress, Bucharest; Zentral Bild, East Berlin; Hungarian Review Photo Service (formerly Hungarian Bulletin), Budapest; Legation of the Hungarian People's Republic; Czechoslovakian Embassy; Legation of the People's Republic of Rumania; Polish Embassy; Czechoslovak Life, Prague; Cartimex (previouslyj Centrul de Librarii Si Difuzare a Cartii "IMEX"), Bucharest; and Artia, Prague. The agency received $40,872.75 from sale of photographs in 1955.
The Agency continues to operate from 263 West 20th St. #3 New York 10011 under the management of Vanya Edwards.
The Sovfoto archive is of high historical and social value in representing perspectives from the other side of the Iron Curtain. It holds the largest collection of photographs of Stalinist USSR outside of the state archives in Moscow. Furthermore, it includes images of Russia from the time of the Tsars, through Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Gorbachev, and Yeltsin, World War II and Militaria and a wide range of areas from Soviet society. Dr. Margarita Tupitsyn, curator and author of The Soviet Photograph, 1924–1937 wrote:
These photographs present the state-sanctioned, propagandistic promotion of the progress and achievements of socialism. At the outbreak of World War II, many Soviet photographers became war correspondents, incorporating the photographic invention of the revolutionary avant-garde in documenting the lives and deaths of Russian troops, conflict, destruction and German atrocities.
The archive contains images taken by many anonymous photographers, as well as the foremost Soviet photographers, documenting a period of history in the twentieth century which has had a very lasting impact. It includes hundreds of examples of photographs by some of the most important Soviet artists of their time. After the crackdown of 1932, many of the Soviet Union's leading avant-garde photographers found that their only available means of expression was press photography. The Sovfoto archive includes images from many Soviet photographers who have become historically important:
Worked in the newspaper "Pravda", where he made portraits of major Soviet and many foreign politicians, military and writers. During the Great Patriotic War he was a TASS correspondent and Information Bureau, has worked both in the rear and at the front, in a combat situation. His most famous photograph "Combat" became one of the symbols of the Soviet war. In the postwar years he collaborated with different publications. He was the lead photographer for the press agency "Novosti".
photographed the Balkan War and World War I 1912–18
His famous portrait of Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill at the Yalta Conference appeared on the front page of Pravda 13 Feb 1945
At 18 years old Khaldei began working as a photographer and in 1939 represented the TASS "News in pictures". Photographed the Dnieper Dam project and its worker hero Alexey Stakhanov. He photographed throughout World War II, his most famous image being the "Victory Banner over the Reichstag". He documented the liberation of Sevastopol, the storming of Novorossiysk, Kerch, liberation of Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Austria, Hungary, Severomorsk and the sailors of the Black Sea Fleet, the Paris Foreign Ministers' Meeting, the defeat of the Japanese, the Potsdam Conference of Heads of Allied Powers, the signing of the act of surrender of Germany, the Nuremberg trials.
a photojournalist from the beginning of the thirties. He collaborated in the magazine Наши достижения ('Our achievements'), and other publications. During World War II he was a photographer for the newspaper Red Star.
(not to be confused with Nikolai Kolli, architect)
His work appeared in LIFE 29 Mar 1943 (p. 114) in a special edition on Russia, and in an article in the 11 Jan 1943 edition.
His work was collected by Philippe Halsman
Formerly a cameraman for the Moscow Newsreel Studios, he mastered the duties of gunner and navigator in order to fly to record the dive-bombing and strafing of Nazi troops by Soviet planes.
From 1922 Temin worked for Izvestia, photographing Maxim Gorky in 1929, the expedition to the North Pole in 1930, the Russian-Finnish War (1939–40).
A staff photographer for Izvestia , Pravda and Ogoniok magazine. During the Second World War, he was assigned to the Black Sea Fleet as a correspondent for the Soviet information Bureau.
Filmed and photographed the rescue of children at the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp by the Red Army, January 27, 1945
"We had brought with us to Waldia one European who did not belong to our Unit, the Russian, B. Zeitlin, a fearless and indefatigable film-photographer."
Zelma was a photojournalist on "Izvestia", "Ogonyok", "Red Star" and other publications during the 1920s and 30s, and a military photographer of "Izvestia" newspaper. He worked at the front in Moldavia, Odessa and Ukraine. His most famous photographs were taken during the Battle of Stalingrad, where the photographer created a chronicle of the battle for the city. After the war, Georgi Zelma worked for "Ogonyok" magazine, and from 1962 for the agency "Novosti".
The General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was an office of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) that by the late 1920s had evolved into the most powerful of the Central Committee's various secretaries. With a few exceptions, from 1929 until the union's dissolution the holder of the office was the de facto leader of the Soviet Union, because the post controlled both the CPSU and the Soviet government. Joseph Stalin elevated the office to overall command of the Communist Party and by extension the whole Soviet Union. Nikita Khrushchev renamed the post First Secretary in 1953; the change was reverted in 1966.
Izvestia is a daily broadsheet newspaper in Russia. It was a newspaper of record in the Soviet Union from 1917 until the dissolution of the USSR in 1991.
Yevgeny Anan'evich Khaldei was a Red Army naval officer and photographer, best known for his World War II photograph of a Soviet soldier Raising a flag over the Reichstag, in Berlin, capital of the vanquished Nazi Germany.
Dmitri Baltermants was a prominent Soviet photojournalist.
Censorship of images was widespread in the Soviet Union. Visual censorship was exploited in a political context, particularly during the political purges of Joseph Stalin, where the Soviet government attempted to erase some purged figures from Soviet history, and took measures which included altering images and destroying film. The USSR curtailed access to pornography, which was specifically prohibited by Soviet law.
Richard Ellis is an American news photographer and founder of the photo agency Newsmakers, which was later acquired by Getty Images.
Boris Yefimovich Yefimov was a Soviet political cartoonist best known for his critical political caricatures of Adolf Hitler and other Nazis produced before and during the Second World War, and was the chief illustrator of the newspaper Izvestia. During his 90-year career he produced more than 70,000 drawings.
Max Penson (1893–1959) was a Russian photojournalist and photographer of the Soviet Union noted for his photographs of Uzbekistan. His photographs documented the economic transformation of Uzbekistan from a highly traditional feudal society into a modern Soviet republic between 1920 and 1940. Max Penson is one of the most prominent representatives of the Uzbek photography.
Emmanuil Noevich Yevzerikhin was a Soviet photographer.
Social documentary photography or concerned photography is the recording of what the world looks like, with a social and/or environmental focus. It is a form of documentary photography, with the aim to draw the public's attention to ongoing social issues. It may also refer to a socially critical genre of photography dedicated to showing the life of underprivileged or disadvantaged people.
Arkady Samoylovich Shaikhet was a prominent Soviet photojournalist and photographer. In the history of Soviet photography, Shaikhet is known for a type of journalistic photography called "artistic reportage," and for photographs of industrialization in the 1920s and 1930s.
Viktor Karlovich Bulla was a Russian photographer and cinema pioneer.
Pravda is a Russian broadsheet newspaper, formerly the official newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, when it was one of the most influential papers in the country with a circulation of 11 million. The newspaper began publication on 5 May 1912 in the Russian Empire, but was already extant abroad in January 1911. It emerged as a leading newspaper of the Soviet Union after the October Revolution. The newspaper was an organ of the Central Committee of the CPSU between 1912 and 1991.
Max Vladimirovich Alpert was a prominent Soviet photographer, who was mostly known for his frontline work during World War II.
Boris Maximovich Kosarev was a Soviet photographer, journalist, in 1930 - 1950 he was an official photographer of the Soviet government, who participated at key historical events, including the Yalta Conference of 1945. Boris Kosarev is the author of many famous photographs of political events and Soviet leaders.
Boris Vsevolodovich Ignatovich was a Russian photographer, photojournalist, and cinematographer. He was a pioneer of Soviet avant-garde photography in the 1920s and 1930s, one of the first photojournalists in the USSR, and one of the most significant artists of the Soviet era.
Alexander Uzlyan (1908—198?) was a Russian photojournalist.
Nikolai Fedorovich Kozlovsky (1921-1996) was a Ukrainian Soviet photographer and teacher.