Traced against the background of the initial period of Soviet documental photography from the times of the October 1917 Revolution up to the early 1930s is the process of its integration, along with the oral and printed word, the poster and the film documentary, into the overall scheme of information and propaganda. Relieved of the canons of the fine arts, photographers mastered the arsenal of the reportage. Incorporated in the theory and practice of press photography was Lenin's definition of photography as publicistic imagery.
The illustrations include Leniniana photos: portraits of the revolutionary leader and episodes from his life shot by Pyotr Otsup, Moisei Nappelbaum, et al. News photography reflected the tempo of socialist construction, along with the socialist repatterning of economy, farming and culture. Described are the social working-class photography of Germany from the 1920s up to the nazi usurpation of power in 1933, and the social photography of Czechoslovakia.
Accounts are supplied of such noted Soviet innovators, among others, as Alexander Rodchenko and Boris Ignatovich. Expounded are the innovative concepts of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and Albert Renger-Patzsch, the photomontage of John Heartfield, and the new approaches of the Czech Jaromir Funke and the three Americans Ray Man, Edward Weston and Ansel Adams.
Instances are culled from the creative careers of such noted Soviet press photographers, among others, as Max Alpert, Dmitry Debabov, Arkady Shaikhet and Ivan Shagin, to demonstrate the advances made in reportage and its link with realist painting and especially the art of socialist realism.
Note is paid to the social photography of the mid-1930s in the USA, as represented by Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Arthur Rothstein and Paul Strand. Mention is made of the Frenchman Henri Cartier-Bresson and the Hungarian Brassai.