Emmanuil Noevich Evzerikhin

(1911 - 1984) Russian


Emmanuil Noevich Evzerikhin was born in 1911 in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. He received his first camera while in the fifth grade after his father bought him a simple box-type model. Despite his age and some disappointment with first negatives, Evzerikhin began sending the best ones to TASS and by 1930 became one of their freelance correspondents. At age 19, Evzerikhin was working as a photographer at the Theater of Working Youth in Rostov-on-Don and later in a photo lab at the House of the Young Communist Movement. During this time, Russian photography was reinvented. The new Russia was determined to rid the country’s “old” masters who strove for aesthetic beauty and instead produce images documenting the new reality of the nation. Evzerikhin among others of the young generation of artists began to employ cinema to aid his images. However, during the 1930s, photographers were confined to extremely narrow corridors, as they were only to work as photojournalists. There were to be no traces of old-school photographic traditions, or “leftist” methods, nor any orientations towards Western photography.
In the midst of the so-called rivalry between artistic and journalistic photography, Evzerikhin moved to Moscow to work and capture all of the main events of the era and work with the largest national photography agency, Fotokhronika TASS. He was also invited to join the staff of Soyuzfoto in 1932. He graduated from a six-month photographic course with the highest degree in photo-correspondence and would spend more than seven years in his new workplace (July 1932 to January 1939). By 1934, Evzerikhin was able to witness the Congress of the Comintern and the Congress of the Soviets, constructions, parades and even Arctic expeditions. In the 1930s many photographers were already using Leica film cameras, but Evzerikhin continued to work with a large-format camera and plates, which, in his words, helped him to truly master photographic technique. His first editors were editor-in-chief of Soyuzfoto, S. V. Evgenov, Sergei Morozov and Evgenov’s assistants, foreign sector head and vociferous critic Mezhericher and internal sector head V. Grishanin. Evzerikhin worked alongside Naum Granovsky, Fyodor Kislov, Georgy Zelma and Mark Markov-Grinberg. Emmanuil Evzerikhin’s name first appeared in print on the pages of popular magazine, Soviet Photo, in connection with the 1935 photo exhibition to which he contributed his photograph “The Moscow Hotel.” Evzerikhin also followed suit with Alexander Deineka, a popular Soviet painter of the time and captured the construction of the first Moscow subway station very much like Deineka’s painting of the mosaic ceilings of the Mayakovsky station. Inspired by Deineka’s work, Evzerikhin continued to photograph similar subjects such as: “A Girl with an Oar”, “Parachutes”, and “Airplanes.”
Despite Evzerkhin’s devotion to his work and the absence of any reprimands for “deviations” of any kind, the persecutions of the late 1930s did not pass him by entirely, as he was a Jew. Evzerikhin made one mistake that placed him in a vigorous debate with the press. While photographing workers at a Moscow factory, Evzerikhin took two photographs of the timekeeper and foreman at the time-board at the beginning of the workday. However, it was documented that Evzerikhin took the pictures at 1 p.m. rather than the time on the clocks of 7 a.m. By “staging” the clocks, Evzerikhin evidently defeated the purpose of the image: to prove that all workers were already at their places at such an early hour. After this incident, Evzerikhin was fired. Attempting to justify himself, he cited the official approval of “recreation of facts” in Soviet photojournalism, but was accused of misinterpreting it. In March 1939, after his dismissal, Evzerikhin left to work at the newspaper Vechernyaya Moskva, and later at Moskovsky Komsomolets. However, this mishap did not damage the photographer’s prominent career, soon he was invited back to Fotokhonika TASS as a war correspondent. There was an urgent need for war photographers and many were forgiven for past “deviations” and “mistakes.”
During the war Evzerikhin was on a number of fronts such as the 4th Ukrainian, 2nd Belorussian and 3rd Belorussian but it was his most famous photographs of the Battle of Stalingrad that gained him positive recognition. He also participated in the liberations of Minsk, Warsaw, Konigsberg and Prague, where he evidently finished the war. The war was a godsend in terms of creative self-expression. It was in the difficult war years that many were able to return to photography and view the whole world through real emotion. As before, the list of subjects acceptable for photographing was strictly regulated: the heroism and boldness of Soviet warriors, the successes of the Red Army, the atrocities and setbacks of the Nazis, the people jubilating upon liberation from German occupation. However, in spite of assigned topics and censorship there was considerable creative freedom. Evzerikhin’s Stalingrad photographs were widely printed in the press and would later become famous, photographs such as “The ‘Children’s’ Fountain in Stalingrad,” “A Musician Saves His Instrument” and “Stand to the Death!” After the Battle of Stalingrad, Evzerikhin received an Order of the Red Star and “For the Defense of Stalingrad” medal. He was recommended for the order by Fotokhronika’s head Serebryannikov, who held Evzerikhin in high regard. Serebryannikov saw to it that Evzerikhin received a new camera and good film to help overcome all working difficulties that came with the trials of war photography. Serebryannikov also recommended Evzerikhin for membership in the Communist Party, which Evzerikhin would join, but only after the war.
At the end of the war the authorities once again found it necessary to spell out just what Soviet photography needed to be, to restore the strict ideological frameworks in art, which had been relaxed during wartime. It was hard not to turn into a mediocre and monotonous photographer. All creative quest was nipped in the bud, exchange with Western artists nonexistent. Everything was limited to highly regulated protocol photographs: congresses, anniversaries, parades, construction sites, sporting events and famous people. But even within such a rigid framework Evzerikhin was able to find original and fresh solutions. However, as the “battle against rootless cosmopolitanism” begun, the persecution of the Jews, especially within the Fotokhronika agency resulted in reviews and purges. Evzerikhin was demoted from the highest category to the first. Nevertheless, Evzerikhin’s numerous photographs remained exemplary; they were often published in periodicals and books. At Fotokhronika TASS, Evzerikhin headed the photo information section, where he gave talks on the visual arts. Upon his retirement on August 23, 1971, Evzerikhin requested to be made a non-salaried correspondent and continued to collaborate with the agency.
Emmanuil Noevich Evzerikhin died in 1984 at age 73. The photographer left behind him an archive consisting of several thousand negatives, among them his famous photographs of 1930s Moscow and sport parades, portraits of Maxim Gorky among other Soviet celebrities, pilots Valery Chkalov and Mikhail Gromov, and, of course, WWII. Emmanuil Evzerikhin was a true photography master creating a multitude of now iconic images thanks to his sincere devotion and love for his life’s work and the belief in its necessity.
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