I haven’t written anything in this blog for over a month (apart from reblogging other people’s writings, a bit sneaky really) mainly because of laziness, but also because I’ve been engrossed in my first essay, on the subject of Rodchenko’s Woman with a Leica, one of his best known photos.
Writing about it was really more than would fit into a 5,000 word essay, as I kept adding in, then removing, bits of really interesting background information, but I think I’ve got it about right. The woman in the picture is Evgenia, his student and lover, who died in a train crash not long after this was taken. I have tried various explanations for her enigmatic, melancholy expression, none of them satisfactory.
Rodchenko’s work is not as well known as it might be, partly because he was a committed communist and much of his photography is propaganda for the Soviet regime in its darkest time, the Stalinist period. In particular he produced a very fine set of photos for a magazine of the White Sea canal construction, which was carried out by prison labour in dreadful conditions, with a death toll well into six figures, but his pictures, and the accompanying text, only refer to the ‘glorious achievement’ of the canal. This raises an interesting question – can an evil regime produce good art? Answers in 140 characters, please.
By the way, the caption on this copy is wrong – she wasn’t married, and she was dead by the date given.