Photography in the Late Soviet Period: Ogonek, the SSOD, and Official Photo Exchanges
Khrushchev’s reorientation of Soviet life during the cultural thaw of the late 1950s and early 1960s shifted official representations of Soviet people to focus on the more humanizing aspects of life and the everyday: the new Soviet citizen may be a worker, but work no longer defined personhood. Unlike in the Stalinist period, where photography was considered politically dangerous and photographs were replaced by socialist realist paintings, images of everyday life reinforced the cultural program of the thaw, and accompanied the relaxation in censorship after Stalin’s death. Part of the creation of new Soviet identities in the late Soviet period was the depiction of life outside the USSR and Eastern Europe. Ogonek (Little Flame), a popular illustrated magazine akin to Life magazine in the United States, contrasted images of intimate everyday life at home with a barrage of photographs of foreign locales. This process was further facilitated by the Union of Soviet Societies for Friendship and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries (SSOD). This article will address first how Ogonek and then how union organizations such as the SSOD assisted photography exchanges and represented the Soviet government’s renewed concern in introducing its citizens to life in and outside the Soviet Union.