Jews. 1870–1890-е Ethnography Genre in the Art of Professional Photographers




The album was created as part of the REM project – the winner of the Second Competition of Museum and Exhibition Grants of the Russian Jewish Congress for the development of projects in the field of Jewish culture. An outstanding social, political, and cultural event in the early 1870was the release of a composite publication titled "Turkestan Album”, prepared in 1871–1872 by order of K. P. von Kaufmann the 1st, General Governor of Turkestan, (the Museum’s collections contain abridged versions of two volumes and individual sheets). In 1871–1873, by order of K. P. von Kaufmann and “with funds granted by His Imperial Majesty,” another album titled “Turkestan” was prepared. Corresponding to the maximum to the photo albums of the same name in its subjects and optics, it consisted of reproductions of works of art by V. V. Vereschagin who also contributed as a co-author. The almost simultaneous release of these albums determined the role of photography as a tool to convey and present the panorama of life of remote territories of the Russian Empire, thus finally the ethnography genre as a new trend in Russian photography. The balance between the artistic and the documentary typical for the album’s photographs, where each image is a specific symbol of the time, designated for long the philosophy of picturing the life of peoples of the Russian Empire. The early 1870s were the beginning of the golden age of ethnographic photography in several provinces; a great role was played locally by talented photographers whose renown spread far beyond their regions. Among them is Michail Iosifovich Greim (1828–1911), collector famous in Podolia Province, local historian, full member of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society, author of more than twenty scientific papers on the cultural assets of Podolia, and a photographer several times awarded with medals at international exhibitions. His series of photographs titled “Types of Jews of Podolia Province” from the album “Personages of Podolia and Bessarabia" with the author’s captions is unique: the expressive images of Jews of various social strata are a real visual essay on the nature of the Jewish culture. Greim was a successful photographer; his albums released in small series were of immense popularity. The master’s photos were noted at the 1878 Moscow Anthropological Exhibition where another eminent photographer participated - Dmitry Ivanovich Ermakov (1845–1916), a topographer by education, with a good artistic training, one of the best photo artists of the Caucasus and Persia (an honorary citizen of Tiflis, a court photographer of His Majesty Shah of Persia). He was also awarded a medal for participation in the exhibition. D.I. Ermakov, a tireless traveler, chose the culture of Caucasians and Central Asians as the main topic of his work. His legacy consists of about 30,000 negatives, including stereoscopes, and 127 albums. Among them are landscapes, architectural monuments, domestic life, and numerous Caucasian and Asian peoples, including Georgian, Mountain and Bukharan Jews. Dmitry Ivanovich collaborated with the Ethnographic Department: from 1903 to 1910s, the museum purchased more than 1200. This section also publishes expressive telling photographs about the life of Bukharan Jews by an equally versatile and talented photographer F. Orden who worked in Central Asia and in the Caucasus. The founder of event photography, the inventor of a new (portable) camera was the outstanding Polish photographer K.S. Brandel (1838–1920) whose work is represented by 3 photographs from the unique album "Pinsk Cityscapes". The museum's collection contains photographs bought during the Cruiser Africa's 1880–1883 round-the-world voyage. Among them, there is a picture of a famous photographer F. Bonfils and a portrait of a Tunisian Jewess.


Karina Solovyeva, Head of Photography Department, curator