Photographers Breaking the Iron Curtain

Photographers Breaking the Iron Curtain: The Role of Informal International Communication Networks in Soviet Photography.” Paper presented at the IAMCR (International Association for Media and Communication Research) annual conference Cities, Creativity, Connectivity, Kadir Has University, Istanbul, Turkey, July 13–17, 2011.


The paper discusses the role of the information exchange networks in the development of photography in the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s, and presents a study on photographers from the Camera Club of Riga (Latvia) who managed metaphorically to break through the Iron Curtain and participated in photography exhibitions worldwide.

Although photography from the Soviet Union in general has been analyzed in different contexts both in post-Soviet countries and in the West, the specific fields of amateur photography and art photography in the 1960s and 1970s still have not been covered completely. Besides, history of photography in the Soviet Union often has been identified with history of Russian photography, only occasionally mentioning national schools of other Soviet republics with different cultural and social circumstances.

This paper outlines some of the complex issues related to the understanding of institutional framework of amateur and art photography in the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s, and focuses in particular on Riga Camera Club (Latvia), an amateur organization that became one of the most visible hubs of creative photography in the Soviet Union in the 1960s, and whose members succeeded in participating in numerous international photography exhibitions outside the USSR.