Russia is a country that spans two continents and nine time zones, and serves as home to over 140 million inhabitants and over 190 different ethnic groups. Rich in land and people, the massive nation has endured wars, economic collapse and authoritarian rule over the last 100 years alone, all the while cultivating some of the world's brightest cultural figures -- Wassily Kandinsky, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Sakharov.
Needless to say, Russian history is a past worth documenting. And "Primrose: Early Colour Photography in Russia," is a historical exhibition worth visiting.
Dmitri Baltermants, Rain, 1960s, Collection of the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow/Moscow House of Photography Museum © Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow/ Moscow House of Photography Museum
On view at the Photographer's Gallery in London, the survey of vintage color images dates back to the 1860s, showcasing a century and a half of Russian society on film. The photos have been arranged in chronological order, representing a vivid tour through the post-revolution trend of photomontage, the utopian aesthetic of the Bolshevik era, the scarlet hues made popular in the mid 1900s, and the humanistic photography that emerged in the 1960s and beyond.
Olga Sviblova, the director of Moscow's Multimedia Art Museum and the Moscow House of Photography Museum, curated the show. "The title, 'Primrose,' of course is the metaphor," Sviblova explains in a video interview. "Primrose is the first flower in spring, so the first color that arrived in Russia after the snow. The first yellow -- it's mostly yellow -- but it's like the sun rising from the earth."
Sviblova says that "Primrose" focuses on three themes: how color photography came to be in Russia, how the technology of color photography influenced the photographers behind the camera, and how the history of Russia unfolded in the process. From the moment color photography hit the country in 1860 -- just two decades after photography itself came to be in Russia -- to the last moments of the Soviet Union.
The vivid portraits capture not only momentous events remembered by a global audience, like Stalin's funeral, but also mundane events that seem plucked from an idyllic past detached from the country's tumultuous timeline. Check out a preview of the show here and let us know your thoughts on the photos in the comments.
"Primrose: Early Colour Photography in Russia" will be on view at the Photographer's Gallery until October 19, 2014.