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Although World War II is one of the most documented conflicts of the 20th century, western audiences have had little exposure to Soviet photographic images. The exhibition "Through Soviet Jewish Eyes: Photography, War, and the Holocaust" features 58 photographs revealing the war as presented through the lens of the most important Soviet photojournalists.
Printed over six decades, the collection highlights works by Evgenii Khaldei, Georgii Zelma and Dmitrii Baltermants, among others, from the dawn of the Soviet era and throughout the Great Patriotic War, also known as the war's Eastern Front. A large number of Soviet photojournalists were Jewish, and the exhibition explores aspects of what this religious and cultural identity might have meant when confronting war and Nazi persecution through Soviet and Jewish eyes. Charged by the Stalinist state to tell the visual story, these artists were emotionally and intellectually connected to recording the Holocaust. With their compelling war photography, they were the first to document the liberation of Nazi sites of atrocity - three years before others chronicled the liberation of concentration camps in Germany.
The exhibition encompasses art, culture and aesthetics with photographs spanning the Nazi-Soviet war, from June 22, 1941 until V-Day on May 9, 1945. The opening section contextualizes the wartime images within the Constructivist and Socialist Realist tradition of Soviet photography from the 1920s and 1930s.
Featured photographs include several currently housed in private collections that have never before been displayed to the public. Ranging from large-scale dramatic prints to intimate-scaled vintage prints, the exhibition calls attention to the afterlife of the photographs and the continued interest of contemporary society and the art world in viewing them.
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