Joseph Stalin's pockmarked face, in particular, demanded exceptional skills with the airbrush. But it was during the Great Purges, which raged in the late s, that a new form of falsification emerged. The physical eradication of Stalin's political opponents at the hands of the secret police was swiftly followed by their obliteration from all forms of pictorial existence. Photographs for publication were retouched and restructured with airbrush and scalpel to make once famous personalities vanish. Paintings, too, were often withdrawn from museums and art galleries so that compromising faces could be blocked out of group portraits.
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Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. The Commissar Vanishes offers a chilling look at how one man - Joseph Stalin - manipulated the science of photography to advance his own political career and to erase memories off his victims. On Stalin's orders, purged rivals were airbrushed from group portraits, and crowd scenes were altered to depict even greater legions of the faithful.
In one famous image, several Par The Commissar Vanishes offers a chilling look at how one man - Joseph Stalin - manipulated the science of photography to advance his own political career and to erase memories off his victims. In one famous image, several Party members disappeared from an official photograph, to be replaced by a sylvan glade.
For the past three decades, author and photohistorian David King has assembled the world's largest archive of photographs, posters, and paintings from the Soviet era. His collection has grown to more than a quarter of a million images, the best of which have been selected for The Commissar Vanishes. The efforts of the Kremlin airbrushers were often unintentionally hilarious.
A photograph showing a large crowd of Bolsheviks clustered around Lenin, for example, became, with the aid of the retoucher, an intimate portrait of Lenin and Stalin sitting alone, and then, in a later version, of Stalin by himself.
The Commissar Vanishes is nothing less than the history of the Soviet Union, as retold through falsified images, many of them published here for the first time outside Russia. In each case, the juxtaposition of the original and the doctored images yields a terrifying - and often tragically funny - insight into one of the darkest chapters of modern history.
Get A Copy. Hardcover , pages. Published October 15th by Metropolitan Books first published More Details Original Title. Other Editions 5.
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Oct 30, Lauren rated it it was amazing Shelves: coffee-table , russia-russian-lit , art-creative , world-history , own. India ink blots over faces and bodies.
Airbrushing out. Painting and scribbling over. Scalpels and tears. Defacements of a photograph and erasure of a life. A consciousness. A history. Paintings, too, were withdrawn from museums and art galleries so the compromising faces could be blocked out of portraits. He infamously clashed with Joseph Stalin and was exiled and later assassinated in Mexico. Stalin campaigned to erase all images and mentions of Trotsky.
Of course, Trotsky wasn't the only one erased. Faces and names of many citizens were expunged from the records for any number of perceived infractions, and the actual people were sent to gulags, or executed outright. Even owning a book that had not been properly censored could land the owner in the gulag. David King, a British historian and graphic designer, began collecting these censored photographs and artworks, and seeking out any publications that may have missed the knife or the brush.
He amassed the large collection that makes up this book. He also details the 'cult of Stalin' and the use of visual propoganda in the Stalin Era. The book is primarily a visual resource, but includes a good preface and introduction, detailed captions, and a bibliography with many historical notes. A fascinating, devastating, and chilling reading experience.
King speaks of censor agents usually unassuming elderly women going to libraries and book stores to ensure that each new erasure was followed. They'd bring a bin with them, removing books, and inking or scalpeling out faces in photographs. Books were removed and destroyed directly, or locked into a Soviet archive, deemed not suitable for the public.
For anyone who owned books in their own home, they were also expected to comply and blot or deface. Unfortunately, this also went for family photographs - faces and looking bodies removed from time and memory. I learned of this book many years ago in a history class, and later was reminded in library school courses. Anthony Marra's novel, The Tsar of Love and Techno, includes a storyline of a character who retouched and repaints photographs and art in Stalin's Russia.
The final nudge to go ahead and read it in entirety came after reading Tatyana Tolstaya's review of it in her outstanding Pushkin's Children: Writing on Russia and Russians collection that I read for witmonth in August. Highly recommend both Marra and Tolstaya! Who controls the present controls the past. View 2 comments. There quite simply is no other book like this. Sep 19, Jon Nakapalau rated it it was amazing Shelves: cultural-studies , psychology , history.
Watch as the great "magician" Stalin makes commissars disappear. Truly one of the most chilling books I have read recently. May 15, Carolyn rated it it was amazing. David King who died last week was a relentless documentarian of the Stalin School of Historical Falsification. With his bold designs and his passion to tell the truth about the Russian Revolution and Leon Trotsky, he did the world a great service in the battle against the continuing lies and propaganda of the capitalist press about Russian history and socialism in general.
Along with his books, Ordinary Citizens a book of photographs of innocent people about to be killed during Stalin's purge David King who died last week was a relentless documentarian of the Stalin School of Historical Falsification.
Along with his books, Ordinary Citizens a book of photographs of innocent people about to be killed during Stalin's purges and his monumental "Red Star over Russia" a pictorial history and commentary on the USSR from the Revolution to the death of Stalin , he presents the results of decades of research in archives and private libraries all over the world, particularly for material about Trotsky who was effectively erased from Soviet history by the Stalinists. There is an entire room at the Tate Modern museum in London dedicated to just a fraction of the material collected by David King over the years.
This book and the others is a treasure trove. I cannot recommend it too highly. A masterwork. Nov 24, Bobby rated it it was amazing. This is more like a coffee table book so I feel that I can claim having read it without having specifically passed my eyes over each and every word. Great pictures and interesting history. Mar 17, Plethora rated it really liked it Shelves: history , non-fiction , library , history-russia , zzreads , pi.
This book was filled with images, some just showing the defacing that happened during Stalin's reign to blot out individual that now had become enemies of the people. Other images showed the original unaltered state and the authorized officially published versions with people removed and even times when people have been moved to accommodate the need.
Some alterations are crude, a simple ink blot over a person, others you have to hand it to the artist hired to airbrush and alter history, the phot This book was filled with images, some just showing the defacing that happened during Stalin's reign to blot out individual that now had become enemies of the people.
Some alterations are crude, a simple ink blot over a person, others you have to hand it to the artist hired to airbrush and alter history, the photos showed little signs of being doctored. It was a crime to possess a picture of a person that had fallen out of favor, you were required to destroy the offensive work book , remove the page s or ink blot out the person, including their name. Unfortunately, during this period a number of rare manuscripts ceased being in existence.
It wasn't until the late 's when travel restrictions eased and a flood of things made their way west, even though it was still illegal to export items outside of Russia without permission. Apr 13, Michelle rated it really liked it. I know I'm not the only one reading this book who is old enough to remember a time when the photos we saw in publication were not Photoshopped, when conventional wisdom was that people lied, but photos did not. How naive we were. This book is proof that manipulating people through manipulated photos is nothing new, and neither is the kind of personal branding we see in the age of social media.
Stalin and Lenin were masters of creating their own brand and writing their own story, and they were do I know I'm not the only one reading this book who is old enough to remember a time when the photos we saw in publication were not Photoshopped, when conventional wisdom was that people lied, but photos did not.
The Photo Book That Captured How the Soviet Regime Made the Truth Disappear
At the same time, ordinary citizens, fearful of being in possession of banned material, defaced their copies books and photographs with scissors and India ink. Trotsky not important in Revolution. Stalin important! They had completely wiped him out. It was at this moment that I determined to start my collection. In the summer issue of Index on Censorship magazine , which focuses on the legacy of the Russian Revolution deputy editor Jemimah Steinfeld writes:.
The Commissar Vanishes
How unreal can things get? As the sense of shared reality is eroded, more with each passing day, one wonders. Its specific reference is to a photograph, from , of a second-anniversary celebration of the October Revolution. In the picture, Vladimir Lenin stands at the top of a set of stairs, surrounded by many unidentified men and children and a few recognizable men, including Leon Trotsky, stationed just in front of Lenin.
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The Commissar Vanishes: The Falsification of Photographs and Art in Stalin's Russia is a book by David King about the censoring of photographs and fraudulent creation of "photographs" in Joseph Stalin 's Soviet Union through silent alteration via airbrushing and other techniques. It has an introduction by Stephen F. Michael Nyman created a companion album of the same title in The second disc of the two-disc album contains The Fall of Icarus , the score to an eponymous art installation by Peter Greenaway from which had previously been unreleased.
The Commissar Vanishes: The Falsification of Photographs and Art in Stalin's Russia
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