War and Peace.
At the Dawn of Photojournalism. The 1910s
«War and Peace. At the Dawn of Photojournalism. The 1910s». The Exhibition at the Multimedia Art Museum.From 20 December 2017 to 4 February 2018, the Multimedia Art Museum held an exhibition of works from the collection donated to the museum by Reykhan and Ulvi Kasimov in 2014. The collection encompasses over five hundred press photographs from the archives of British periodicals of the 1910s depicting the timeline of the First World War, one of the most tragic periods in the history of the 20th century. The exhibition features only a hundred pictures – a smaller part of the collection. However, they suffice to express the significance of the collection as an invaluable source of authentic materials on visual history and the history of photography.
The exhibition shows the rapid and irreversible progress of war forcing its way into peaceful lives. Scenes from London's ordinary life as the Belle Époque was approaching its end, high society weddings and high society scandals on front pages were replaced with war events from Europe's and Asia Minor's battle fronts, as well as with the newest military and technological advances, such as tanks and gas masks. However, the exhibition also shows that life goes on even during the war. Alongside military reports and photos of soldier's lives, the exhibition features reports on charities raising funds for the army, heroes’ awards ceremonies and on women and children making vast contributions to the victory by working at plants and in hospitals.
The exhibition provides ample proof of photojournalism’s rapid development during the war. As early as in the beginning of the 20th century, photography changed the way mass media looked thanks to the development of technologies that allowed the press to replace graphic illustrations and photoengraving with photographic images of good quality (for that time). New times called for new requirements set for both photographers working for the press and the editorial staff of printed periodicals: to start with, photos were to be concise, while photographers were to express a fleeting moment by presenting visual information to the mass reader in a clear manner. Cropping and retouching were important too, when a picture was being prepared for printing by the editorial staff. Furthermore, once published, photos tended to lose all value back then; they were frequently thrown away or, if lucky, archived to be stored under unsuitable conditions for decades: the Multimedia Art Museum's art restorers literally saved some pieces, which were in a sorry state.
Extensive typed inscriptions on the backs of the photos, as well as some curious editorial marks, comments on the cost of publishing a particular photo in the press, seals of news agencies or censorship stamps, as well as stamps certifying the permission to be printed in such publications as The Daily Sketch, The Daily Mirror, The Tattler and so on constituted some of the features of press photos at the beginning of the 20th century. Since the photos were to be published in the periodicals, the photo style itself was impacted. The photographers endeavored to find the balance between the editorial staff's requirements and the classical tradition of staged scenes derived from paintings – all while operating a rather bulky equipment. The art of photo journalism was being born and developed in front of readers' very own eyes. Some pictures exhibited are striking in their simplicity; they look as if they were caught and taken out of the rapid stream of reality and seem modern even now. Some of the pictures, however, leave the 'old school' impression by providing a startling resemblance to the staged classics of the 19th century.
The beginning of the 20th century will always be remembered as one of the most complicated and dramatic periods in history. The First World War, the October Revolution in Russia and other events caused the seemingly secure empires to fall, wreaking havoc, sowing fear, pain and death all over the world. Today, 100 years later, as we study historical records of that time, we keep asking ourselves the same question over and over again: was it possible to predict and prevent the tragedies that left millions of people dead?
Head of the Multimedia Art Museum Olga Sviblova on collecting, competition and the mayor's gifts:
«A few years ago, Ulvi Kasimov gave us a collection of European photographs taken during the First World War. The exhibition based on this collection became immensely popular, and we will continue to put it on display».Link to the publication: