The Kaisers had an inspired thought: to assemble photographs taken, without the usual surveillance, by Russian photographers...

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RUSSIA FROM THE INSIDE

The Kaisers had an inspired thought: to assemble photographs taken, without the usual surveillance, by Russian photographers who subsequently emigrated to the West. But when one looks at Emmanuel Antsis' picture of crumbling house-fronts along a rubbly street in Kiev, one wants to know what Antsis saw: what does the picture mean to him? And when Lev Poliakov snapped the Neva in winter--Leningraders hurrying across the old bridge, strolling along the embankment, scavenging (?) in the riverbed--did he see in the flux a ""decisive moment""? in the forms a splendid composition? or, in the totality an image of Leningrad? These are uncaptioned pictures, save for an identification of the site; their accompaniment is Kaiser's running text, from first to last a droning, propagandistic indictment of the regime (the paragraph above the Leningrad photo begins, ""Stalin transformed Russia into a giant, centralized bureaucratic structure. . .""). Later, Kaiser provides captions--and his own interpretations: ""Winter scene in a Moscow farmer's market. The lady on the left with the fur collar is a member of Moscow's bourgeoisie, and apparently an assiduous shopper who scours the city markets."" The ""lady on the left"" is, as it happens, uninvolved in the scene--which shows Muscovites purchasing potatoes roasted on a brazier. (One caption outdoes itself: under a photo of Pasternak's dacha, we read: ""Important Party and government officials are given even more grander establishments. . . ."") The pictures of a trial for ""political hooliganism""--painting critical graffiti on a factory wall-are moving without comment. But many of the pictures are blatantly used to score a point. And, in the absence of other information, one cannot know what to make of them. A pity.

Pub Date: July 21, 1980

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1980