September 25, 2010

Erasure - The Commissar vanishes




"Like their counterparts in Hollywood, photographic retouchers in Soviet Russia spent long hours smoothing out the blemishes of imperfect complexions, helping the camera to falsify reality. Joseph Stalin's pockmarked face, in particular, demanded exceptional skills with the airbrush. But it was during the Great Purges, which raged in the late 1930s, that a new form of falsification emerged. The physical eradication of Stalin's political opponents at the hands of the secret police was swiftly followed by their obliteration from all forms of pictorial existence.
Photographs for publication were retouched and restructured with airbrush and scalpel to make once famous personalities vanish. Paintings, too, were often withdrawn from museums and art galleries so that compromising faces could be blocked out of group portraits. Entire editions of works by denounced politicians and writers were banished to the closed sections of the state libraries and archives or simply destroyed."
The Commissar VanishesThe Falsification of Photographs and Art in Stalin's Russia
By DAVID KINGMetropolitan Books Henry Holt and Company
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The exhibition at the Gulag Museum.
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Other famous altered images in the former Soviet Union.