Victory Fireworks in Moscow

by Boris Kudoyarov, 1945

Victory Fireworks in Moscow by Boris Kudoyarov, 1945

Boris Pavlovich Kudoyarov (1898-1973) was a prominent master of photo-reportage and one of the best known Russian photographers. In 1925 he started as a reporter for Physical Culture and Sport magazine. Later he worked for Russphoto, Unionphoto and Soyuzphoto agencies and was commissioned to photograph construction sites, collective farms and outstanding workers. In 1933 he became reporter for Izvestia and Komsomolskaya Pravda newspapers.

Kudoyarov was a member of the October group (Association of New Artistic Work, October, Moscow, active from 1928 to 1932), worked with Alexander Rodchenko, Boris Ignatovich, Eleazar Langman. The October group had a major impact on photographic art, forming its language, compositional forms, ways of representation of reality. Boris Kudoyarov had a brilliant knowledge of different approaches to photographic transformation of reality, but he rarely used them. The only methods that came to define his work and influenced his style were the ones that he considered efficient mediums of expression capable of revealing the essence of his subject.

During the Siege of Leningrad, Kudoyarov was employed by Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper as a war correspondent and for the 900 days of the blockade he worked in the city, on the front line, together with its defenders. Kudoyarov's works have served to illustrate many books dedicated to the heroic struggle for Leningrad. His Leningrad Cycle belongs to the classics of war reportage.

Kudoyarov's photographic epic entitled Leningrad: Siege combines several sections covering the 900 days of the blockade: First Days of the Siege, Hanko Peninsula, Severe Days of the Siege, Izhorsky and Kirovsky Plants, Active Defense, Working to Support the Battle, Ladoga. The Road of Life, Break of the Siege and more. This archive embracing nearly 3000 images is truly an accurate and consistent chronicle of those days. The author himself believed that “…one should photograph as mush as possible. For it is necessary to capture not only pivotal moments, but a detailed chronicle of events. Each reporter has to create such chronicle, as he is responsible for preserving events for people. One day, they will be grateful for such documentarily precise history of the past...”

Photographs by Boris Kudoyarov are not a mere protocol of events. His works demonstrate complex visual approach and thorough composition that unveils the essence of his subject. “Poetics of the documentary” emerges through specific photographic language: author uses spatial compositions, places main characters into active environment and uses the scenery and detail to intensify the emotional charge. His style reflects direct and natural response of a reporter to the events observed. Boris Kudoyarov created photographic narration of the extraordinary courage of Leningraders and fearful details of everyday life in the besieged city when death became an ordinary thing. While looking at these images, it seems utterly improper to discuss their photographical finesse. They capture the most dreadful days of the blockade that cannot be observed without shudder.

Photo credit: © WestLicht Photographica Auction