5. Rodchenko's Deadly Propaganda

by Tony Quinn


Photographic trickery has been turned into propaganda – particularly by the Soviet state.

In the 1920s, photographer Alexander Rodchenko designed a magazine called USSR in Construction as political propaganda to glorify the achievements of the Soviet system.

He used photo-montage, cutting, pasting, re-touching and re-photographing them to conjure up visions of the future. Captions talked of determined workers The image above is made of at least 3 elements: the crowd, the background and the man looking down. .

One issue was devoted to the White Sea Canal, claimed as a triumph of Soviet engineering and enlightened penal policies.

‘You can see all these different components have been put together to make the picture and although when you look at this you wouldn't think it’s particularly a montage, it's only when you see the original, and you see how it has changed in its intention and its meaning that you really understand how photo-montaged this is.' (Martin Parr, photographer)

The workers who dug the 140-mile-long White Sea Canal were mostly political prisoners: 200,000 of them would die doing the work. To some, Rodchenko is a design hero, but his skills buoyed a Stalanist regime that murdered millions of its own citizens.

Page 6: Capa – the fall of an icon