Yakov Khalip, Heir to the Avant-Garde

03.11.2016 — 11.12.2016

The Lumiere Gallery presents the first-ever full retrospective of Yakov Khalip’s (1908–1980) work based on the extensive family archive. The body of work by one of the classics of Soviet photography, highly acclaimed during his lifetime, remained in the shadows for the past 30 years due to the lack of an attentive research. The Lumiere Gallery strives to fill in the gap and unveils the archive of the master.

The Arctic series
Throughout his career (1920s–1970s) Yakov Khalip witnessed watershed events in the history of 20th Century Russia. Photo series shot in the Arctic stands out as – historically – the most prominent documentary series of the artist. In 1938 Khalip set off for the North Pole as a photographer in a rescue expedition, to capture the first drifting research station “North Pole 1” and its four brave heroes led by Ivan Papanin. Khalip’s photographs of dramatic and heroic moments of the Conquest of the Arctic have become classical in the Soviet Union and worldwide. These pictures were featured on multiple postcards and in the photo-book about the Arctic, designed by Alexander Rodchenko. Yakov Khalip was awarded an Order of the Badge of Honour for his successful participation in the expedition – first among all photojournalists in the country.

Avant-garde Baltic Fleet
Yakov Khalip’s prewar period of work is related to the avant-garde movement. The first photograph he took was at the funeral of Lenin in 1924, and two years later his “Moscow embankment at night” was first published in Ogonyok magazine. Between 1927 and 1929 he studied at the State Institute for Cinematography, practicing as a cameraman assistant and photographer at film studios with with S. Eisenstein, B. Barnet, V. Pudovkin, N. Okhlopkov etc. This is when he met Alexander Rodchenko, who had a great impact on him. Since 1931 they collaborated in the legendary illustrated magazine USSR in construction, creating bold and impressive images and layouts. “New time demanded new forms of expression”. Odd angles, diagonal compositions, zooming the foreground, rethinking image boundaries – these avant-garde techniques Khalip took over from Rodchenko. Khalip’s most famous photographs of the Baltic Fleet were featured by A. Rodchenko and V. Stepanova in the album 20 Years of RKKA, designed for the 20th anniversary of the Red Army. In the Soviet Photo magazine article Rodchenko talks about Khalip: “I chose to write about Y. Khalip because I believe that he has strong merits. And these are fresh methods, creative search and – most importantly – the future”.

War reportage
In the early1940s Khalip was appointed chief editor of the Soviet Photo magazine, which was soon closed due to the outbreak of WWII. During the war Khalip photographed for Krasnaya zvezda, Pravda newspapers and for Soviet Information Bureau, creating lyrical and poignant war images. Together with writer and poet Konstantin Simonov they went through seven front lines, becoming lifelong friends.

Postwar foreign reportage
In postwar time Yakov Khalip worked for multiple magazines: Ogonypk, Smena, Sovetskii Soyuz, Pravda publishing house, covering most topical issues for soviet life. He was lucky to travel much around the country and abroad to Italy, India, Marocco, Algeria, Korea etc.

This unique project was first exhibited in 2016 at the Marble Palace of The State Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg, and in the autumn of 2016 followed by the grand show at The Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography in Moscow. The project includes publishing of the book Conquest. Yakov Khalip, heir to the avant-garde both in Russian and English languages. The State Russian Museum took part in the development of the project. The Lumiere and The State Russian Museum organized the touring of the exhibition in Europe – in 2019 the show was hold at Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan.

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