Yakov Khalip (1908-1980) was born in 1908 in St. Petersburg, in a family of musicians. His first publication in the magazine “Ogonyok” – a photograph of the embankment of the Moscow River at night – took place in 1926 Two years later, Khalip became a participant in the exhibition “10 years of Soviet photography” and received a diploma for a portrait series of actors. Soon his photographs began to be published by the magazines “Cinema and Life” and “Soviet Photo”. At the same time, he studies at the VGIK operator department and works as an assistant operator. Khalip was greatly influenced by Boris Barnet and Sergey Eisenstein, with whom he worked at the Moscow film studio. In the first iconic picture, where Khalip worked as an assistant, production designer and photographer was Alexander Rodchenko. Rodchenko’s working methods served as an essential model for a young photographer.
In 1930, Yakov Khalip came to the famous magazine “USSR at a Construction Site”, where he worked with such masters as Arkady Shaikhet, Max Alpert, Semyon Fridlyand and Georgy Petrusov. Soon he became one of the leading reporters of the publication. There is a second meeting with Alexander Rodchenko, whom Khalip considered his mentor. In 1936, Yakov Khalip was invited to work in the Intourist magazine.
In the same year, work began on the Red Army photo album. It is for this album that Khalip creates one of his most famous photographs, “On Watch” (1930). The idea of photography appeared in Rodchenko’s studio while working on a layout. This is a classic setting: for shooting, carpenters crafted a particular ladder so that Khalip could remove the cannon’s mouth at the right distance, the captain posed, rising to a slight elevation, and the signalman gave signals to the battleship so that it would go exactly where the photographer needed.
In 1938 Yakov Khalip was a part of the rescue expedition as an official agency photojournalist “Soyuzfoto “. The whole country admired his pictures of the Papanin heroes. After the shots depicting the epic rescue of the polar station crew, scattered on postcards throughout the Union, a photo album was made in the community with Alexander Rodchenko. The dramatic and heroic moments of the conquest history soon became classics of Soviet and world photography.
There are many other stories in the military and post-war biography of Yakov Khalip. His work is familiar to everyone who, through photography, came into contact with the history of Russia of the twentieth century, World War II and the post-war period. Photographing for newspapers, magazines and books, Yakov Khalip always maintained his author’s look, keeping a fine line between art and politics.