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"Photographs by Dmitri Baltermants - The Great Patriotic War 1941-1945, A View of World War II from a Soviet Perspective"
2003-07-10 until 2003-08-23
Stephen Cohen Gallery
Los Angeles, CA,
USA United States of America
The Stephen Cohen Gallery is honored to announce an exhibition of photographs by the seminal Soviet photographer Dmitri Baltermants (1912 – 1990). There will be an opening reception on July 10 from 7 – 9 pm . The gallery is located at 7358 Beverly Boulevard and is open Tuesday-Saturday 11-5 and by appointment. Dmitri Baltermants was the premier photojournalist in the Soviet Union for five decades. He was the official photographer to The Kremlin and the picture editor of the popular news and travel magazine Ogonyok.
As a child Baltermants witnessed the tumultuous changes brought about by the 1917 Revolution and grew up in the chaotic political environment dictated by Lenin’s ideologies. After graduating from Moscow State University he anticipated a quite life as a math teacher. As it turned out, Isvestiya assigned him to the Western Ukraine to document the Soviet-German partitioning of Poland, and he was launched as a professional photojournalist.
In 1942 an editor mistakenly published with an egregiously incorrect caption one of Baltermants’s images of German POW’s. He was made a scapegoat, stripped of his captains rank and sent to the most brutal front, Stalingrad. In 1943, after recovering from near crippling injuries, he continued to gather memorable images for the army newspaper Na Raxgrom Vraga, ("To Destroy the Enemy.") He followed the advance of the Red Army in the Ukraine and Poland, from Poland into Germany, and ultimately into Berlin itself, which the Allied Powers, conquered, divided and occupied in 1945. World War II was finally over, but a new conflict, the Cold War, was to dominate the international landscape for the next 45 years. Baltermants would continue to play a leading photojournalistic role, up to and including the Reagan Gorbachev summit meetings.
It goes without saying that at the time they were taken, Baltermants’s war photographs were ruthlessly edited by the Soviet censorship board who published only those images which boosted national morale and encouraged ultimate Soviet victory. His most moving images were suppressed and were only first exhibited and published in the more open 1960s. Chief among these censored images was the documentation of the Nazi massacre of thousands of men, women and children in the Crimean village of Kerch in winter 1942. Baltermants searingly captured the overpowering day of grief as the village women searched for the bodies of their loved ones in the killing fields. At
other times, his camera captured the day-to-day moments in a soldier1s life, sometimes seemingly peaceful, sometimes jarringly surreal.
In all, over 20 million Soviets lost their lives in the Great Patriotic War. More than just documents, Dmitri Baltermants's images from this period have become universal symbols for the tragedy and incomprehensibility of war. Like Picasso’s Guernica, they rise to the level of great art. Sadly, they have become timely and relevant once again.