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The University of Southampton
The Parkes Institute

Between Ethnography and Art: Photo-archive of Semen An-sky's expeditions, 1912-1914 Seminar

13 November 2014
Lecture Theatre C Avenue Campus University of Southampton SO17 1BF

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Parkes Institute at .

Event details

Part of the Parkes Institute Seminar series

This seminar will be chaired by Dr Claire Le Foll .

The presentation will focus on the photo-archive of the historical and ethnographic expeditions organized by the famous Russian and Yiddish writer, ethnographer, and revolutionary activist Semen An-sky (real name – Shloyme Zanvl Rapoport; 1863–1920) who is most acclaimed for his play “Der dibek: Tsvishn tsvey veltn” (The Dybbuk: Between Two Worlds).

During the three field seasons of 1912 – 1914 the expedition photographer Solomon Yudovin made about 2000 photos that later were included in the photo collection of the Museum of the Petersburg Jewish Historical and Ethnographic Society opened in 1917. It has to be mentioned that Yudovin’s chief merit was that at the dawn of artistic photography his photographic practice united the principles of ethnographic photography with the artistic methods of pictorialism (a trend in the 19th century photography which goal was to grant photography the status of art by using techniques, or, "pictorial effects," that made photographs resemble paintings). Only a few ethnographic photographs of the time can be considered within the context of art photography in Russia. The best of Yudovin’s expedition photos can be undoubtedly included in this category. In occupying himself with different artistic experiments, Yudovin both departed from the primary tasks of ethnographic photography, and at the same time, came close to fulfilling the final purpose of his patron and mentor An-sky: to create a “portrait of the people.” This goal could only be achieved by artistic means and Yudovin approached his work with all the tools of the photographic art that were available to him at the time.
In 1929, the Museum was closed by the Soviet authorities and the photo collection was scattered over various museums and depositories in Russia, USA and Israel. Today, a large part of the expedition photo-archive (about 350 vintage photographs) is deposited in the collection of the Center "Petersburg Judaica."

Speaker's biography

Aleksandr Ivanov is a researcher, lecturer, and administrator of the Center “Petersburg Judaica” of the European University at St. Petersburg (Russia). Since 2007 he is the curator of the Petersburg branch of the International archival project on Jewish documentary sources in depositories of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus carried out by the Russian State University of Humanities (Moscow) and the Jewish Theological Seminary (New York). Among his publications are the guide-books Jewish Documentary Sources in Saint Petersburg Archives, vol. 1 – Federal Archives; vol. 2 – Regional Archives (St. Petersburg: “MIR”, 2011, 2013); Photographing the Jewish Nation. Pictures from S. An-sky’s Ethnographic Expeditions. Ed. by U. Avrutin, A. Ivanov etc. (Waltham, Massachusetts: Brandeis University Press & Hanover and London: University Press of New England, 2009); and articles “From a Russian-Jewish Philanthropic Organization to the ‘Glorious Institute of World Jewry’: Activities of the World ORT Union in the 1920s – 1940s” in Russian Jewish Diaspora and European Culture (Leiden & Boston MA: Brill, 2012; 387–416); “The exhibition ‘Jews in Tsarist Russia and in the USSR’ and the closure of the Jewish Modernisation Project in the Soviet Union, 1937–41” in East European Jewish Affairs, 2013 Vol. 43, No. 1; 43–61.

All welcome.

Aleksandr Ivanov

Speaker information

Aleksandr Ivanov , Center 'Petersburg Judaica'. European University at St. Petersburg

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