Encyclopedia of Soviet Life by Anatoly Garanin

Courtesy of Manege museum
Moscow Manege opened a large-scale retrospective exhibition of the legendary Soviet photographer entitled “Anatoly Garanin. Soviet Union”, displaying more than 200 unique images from the photojournalist’s archive.

Anatoly Garanin was born in 1912 in Moscow. In the mid-1930s his publications began appearing in many of the capital’s newspapers and magazines, and from 1939 he was a photographer for Illustrated Newspaper, issued by Pravda. In it he published several photo stories, including “If Tomorrow There’s a War,” which became famous. // A portrait of Anatoly Garanin
War really was on the horizon. During the Great Patriotic War he worked as a correspondent for Frontline Illustration. He photographed the Soviet Army’s exploits on different fronts. Many of his pictures became classics of frontline photo reportage and brought him worldwide recognition. // A physical education parade on Red Square, Moscow, 1939

Photo reports in the war years had special significance. Pictures often became symbols of valor and courage, embedding in the minds of their audience the certainty of victory over the enemy. It was said that a good “shot” by a photographer in a newspaper was every bit as effective as a real shot by a sniper. // From the series “A Day as a Ballerina”. Soviet ballerina Olga Lepeshinskaya at the shooting range, Moscow, 1940
Although he was on the front line, Garanin was luckier than the soldiers: he viewed everything through the lens of a camera from a position slightly removed from the battlefield. // Actor Nikolay Cherkasov and director Eisenstein filming Alexander Nevsky, Moscow, 1938
His picture “Death of a Soldier”, taken on the Crimean front in 1942, became a classic work of frontline photography. Garanin worked for TASS in the company of Dmitry Baltermants, Leonid Velikzhanin, Georgy Zelma, and others. // Death of a Soldier, 1942
In the postwar period many documentary photographs taken by frontline reporters were secretly banned: they were too realistic and did not concur with the mythology of the war as perceived by the Communist Party ideologues. Photography in the 1950s-70s displayed a clear tendency towards embellishment, and many photographers were forced to imitate art in the style of Soviet socialist realism, the dominating genre at that time. // Tourists on an excursion in Leningrad, 1952Foreign tourists on Red Square in Moscow on May 9, 1945
During the postwar years he was one of the leading photographers for the magazine Soviet Union when it came to events and life in the Soviet Union and the country’s foreign policy. There is no subject matter that Garanin did not turn his hand to. His oeuvre represents a kind of photo encyclopedia of 20th century Soviet life and people, from the early 1930s to the late 1980s. // Foreign tourists on Red Square in Moscow on May 9, 1945
Anatoly always took long to produce material. No doubt he had plenty of urgent tasks, but for him real pleasure was to be had from the process: the editor gives an assignment, Garanin ponders it for a week and draws up a detailed scenario for the shoot. The editor is vexed, but what’s to be done? The plan is approved, and Anatoly sets off with camera in tow and is not seen for a month. Eventually, on his return, it becomes clear that it was indeed worth such a long time in the planning. // A teahouse at the Central Kolkhoz Market in Moscow, 1954
There was nothing stage-managed about his scenarios. The real skill was in predicting human behavior and knowing when to press the button. “He never fussed,” wrote renowned Soviet journalist Alexei Adzhubei about his colleague. “He didn’t, like some of our colleagues, cart replacement ties, fashionable caps, and horn-rimmed glasses around the country in order to impart a ‘civilized’ look to his photo subjects...” // Therapeutic exercises in the Central Institute of Health Resorts, Moscow, 1951
“I saw for myself how Anatoly took pictures not only for the magazine, but for himself, too. He didn’t set any fleeting goals or associate his work with the necessity of publication, but rather stored it in his own personal dossier from which he believed a picture of the age would someday emerge — the age in which we lived.” // Actress Valentina Serova at home with her husband, the test pilot Anatoly Serov, Moscow, 1938
He was a sophisticated man, thought himself a theater-goer, loved art, and collected old vinyl records. But he had a working relationship with the theater, too. He photographed mise en scènes, with the only light coming from aureoles around his on-stage subjects: “Give me light from a just single match, and I’ll take any picture.” // American actress, Franciska Gaal at a meeting with Soviet filmmakers, Moscow, 1945
Because he moved in artistic circles, his photos often featured cultural figures, some of whom, by nature freedom-loving and creative people, also happened to be dissidents. Therefore, deeply worried about some photos, he hid them in his desk drawer and showed them to no one. // Sports announcer Nikolay Ozerov with his wife at a Moscow theater, 1975
Only in 2008 did the photographer’s sons take the decision to hand over his shots (more than 200!) to the archives of RIA Novosti (now the information agency Rossiya Segodnya). In early July Moscow Manege opened a large-scale retrospective exhibition (July 3 - August 15) of the legendary Soviet photographer entitled “Anatoly Garanin. Soviet Union”, displaying more than 200 unique images from the photojournalist’s archive never before published or exhibited. // At the Moscow Zoo, 1944

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