The Photo Club “Cadre”

The photography club “Cadre” was informally formed in Moscow in 1965 when R. Krupnov, the permanent chairman of the club, began gathering almost daily to discuss their photographs and read articles about photography. In October 1971, Krupnov was interviewed by photography critic Lydia Dyko, and the article was subsequently featured in the journal Sovetskoe foto. Krupnov’s interview provides a description of club activities, but also demonstrates the potential for photography clubs to become exclusionary.

“The strength of our organization was facilitated by the fact that the club brought together like-minded people who share common (creative) views and understand the aims and objectives of art photography equally. The methodology of our work, and manner of artistic reflection and cognition of life was reportage, a reportage way of creating photographs. It is this approach to photography that gives us the opportunity to capture a real life, not a fiction, and this determined the creative direction of the club.”[1]

While it is not uncommon for groups to share like-minded ideas, Krupnov’s interview shows that “Cadre” was not particularly interested in creative diversity or artistic inclusivity. Stylistically the group adhered to reportage, which was supported by critics and theorists. Krupnov went on to say that “Over time, serious requirements of the subject and the plot of photographs were added,” further limiting the images circulated in the club.[2] Yet, Krupnov noted that these requirements were the result of the size of the group, which at the time of the interview’s publication, was around 30 members. But he also reveals that the conditions of club membership were strict, and if a member was not producing enough “actively creative” works, that this was a valid reason for their expulsion.

Screen Shot 2018-03-04 at 1.19.32 PM.png
K. Kolochkin, Udarnaia komsomol’skaia

Interestingly, in his interview Krupnov questioned the categorization of amateur and professional photographers and what exactly distinguished one group from the other. He acknowledged that the simple answer corresponded to skill level, but this didn’t necessarily measure the aesthetic quality of images – an amateur with fewer technical skills could still produce an artistic photograph. Similarly, he points out that the purpose of the photographer is to perform a socially significant service and draw the attention of the viewer to certain events and civil problems. Referencing the Union of Cinematographers of the USSR special commission for film enthusiasts, Krupnov requested that All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions compel the Union of Journalists to organize a commission for the development of a branch of the organization to specifically address amateur interests and facilitate interaction between journalists and photographers.[3]

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V. Krupinskii, Matrosskii Marsh

Krupnov’s 1971 interview shows that nearly two decades later, the most basic desires of amateur photographers and photography clubs had not yet been met by cultural authorities or the Union of Journalists. From the very beginning amateur clubs had pushed for further official involvement and interaction between amateurs and professionals in the form of some sort of union that recognized and formally accepted that amateur photographers were part of the same cultural community as professionals. Given the organic and persistent attitude of amateur club members who wanted to extend official involvement in their hobby, it is remarkable that authorities did not take the opportunity to incorporate amateur activities into any already established union or provide them one of their own because it would have facilitated gathering information about club activities and provide the opportunity to censor problematic works and root out dissident or anti-Soviet activities. Yet, the baffling question is why a government so intently interested in monitoring the activities of its citizens and the information they had access to, passed up the opportunity to extend its reach into amateur photography even when amateur clubs themselves were petitioning for further intervention.

[1] L. Dyko, “Na puti k masterstvy,” Sovetskoe foto, 1971 no. 10, 26.

[2] Ibid, 26.

[3] Ibid, 29.

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