Christopher Stolarski

  • Fellowship year:2012-2013
  • University: Johns Hopkins University
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: Early Modern Europe
  • Dissertation Title: The Rise of Photojournalism in Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union, 1900- 1939.
  • This dissertation is a pioneering and ambitious study of the origins and early development of press photography.  It analyzes the role of photo-reportage in the illustrated press and examines how publishers, editors, and photographers created a new visual language that shaped public opinion and transformed Western art.  Born of the Imperial period, Russian press photography addressed consumers more directly than print journalism.  Pictures of the news offered a realistic depiction of everyday life and allowed readers to interpret what they saw in conjunction (or in counterpoint) to what they read.  Following the 1917 Revolution, photo-reportage appeared in Soviet magazines that projected a slick and ideologically loaded image of reality, in line with the propagandistic aims of the Communist Party.  State-sponsored artists transformed weekly magazines into visually-innovative consumer items and press photographers created a fantasy image of the state, one which offered the Stalinist elites a picture of society that bolstered their sense of mastery and leadership.  My dissertation argues that photojournalism in the Imperial era reflected and reinforced a fundamentally democratic vision of the world; that Soviet magazines projected a new vision by catering to an ideologically fabricated market of consumers; and finally that artistic photo-reportage in the Soviet Union effaced the medium's democratic function, while also revolutionizing visual culture in Europe and America.