Thursday, 10 April 2008

Soviet weddings




Every once in a while I get a phone call from my sister in the middle of my work day. "Umm, I was just wondering if you know this one book... we just received a couple of copies of it in the book store... just wondering if you'd be interested." The book store my sister works for is one of those that sells the publishers' remainders for really cheap prices. My sister is very familiar with my interests, so most of the times when she calls, the book is something fantastic. I got one of those precious calls the day before yesterday. This was the book in question:


It is a photo book, and as the name suggests, it is full of wonderful Soviet propaganda photos. I have had my eye on this book ever since it was published a year or two ago, but the price tag (almost 50 euros) was a bit too much for my liking. I ended up paying 16 euros for it at my sister's book store.

The book has been on my mind for the past couple of days. It has made me think about the ownership of images, as well as how easy it is to use an image for a certain purpose, good or bad.



Take this photo above, for example. I guess for the trained eye, for someone that knows about the history of the Soviet Union, it is an obvious example of the multiple dimensions of the "Soviet woman". A mix of races, all coming together to celebrate unity, not only of being female, but also that of being equal human beings in a great nation. Take away the fact that the image was used for propaganda purposes to push forward that idea of the Soviet woman/human, and you are left with a great photo of smiling women. Who were these women? Was this a staged photo? Are their smiles not genuine? But above all, isn't it the case that the image in itself is not really propaganda at all?

These wedding pictures are my favourites. I take it these were real people who really got married. Their photos were used by the propaganda machinery of the Soviet Union, but I don't think that takes anything away from the sincerity of the images themselves. Love the dresses, of course.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

*Sigh*, there's nothing like black and white photos to make images seem timeless...as mentioned before, if these pictures were in color, I think they might seem very dated. How wonderful everyone looks in the pictures...how beautiful the smiles. You hope that the emotions on display for one and all were very real, and that these were captured moments of true joy, and excitement. It's such a shame that we live in a world, then and now, where we have to doubt the sincerity of a smile, because of who took the photo and where...and how it was originally used, or published (and a smile is such an honest, primal reaction...to force a person, or group of people to smile on cue seems worse almost--in the betraying of the definitive expression of joy--than forcing someone to espouse political propaganda, for the masses). But *wow* this must be one amazing book, that your sister helped you to take possession of...I am very jeaous. I wonder if it's possible to get a copy in English...maybe at Amazon...I shall investigate... :) Chris R.