Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Soviet Union

The great French photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, visited the USSR in 1954. Here’s an article about his visit, from which resulted a photo-essay published in ‘Life’ magazine and later a book of photographs. Even though these pictures were taken more than thirty years before we lived in Moscow, they provoke many memories of our time there, which was after all still the era of the old Soviet Union. I so admire great black-and-white ‘slice of life’ photographs like this. (The article I’ve linked to was written in Russian. You can apply Google Translate at the top of the page, if necessary, to turn it into very odd but just about adequate English).


The bakery


July sports festival in the ‘Dynamo’ stadium. From their stylised dress, these girls look to me like they are from one of the Baltic republics – Latvia perhaps.


Waiting to visit the Lenin Mausoleum. Thirty-three years after this photo was taken, I was struck by the number of people from the Soviet central Asian republics, like these men, who thronged Red Square and queued to enter the Mausoleum.  You wouldn’t see such a sight now.


At a fashion show


On vacation at Serebryany Bor. I like this picture as it takes me back to our visits to this same beach, a little way out of the centre of Moscow, on the Moskva River. The British Embassy had a dacha at Serebryany Bor and we used to go for the day or to stay for the weekend. The dacha itself was a beautiful wooden house, with a big garden surrounded by tall trees.  A short walk through the woods took us to this public beach which was a bit scruffy, but delightfully Russian, and the children enjoyed sliding into the water there.


Thomas and Bryony at Serebryany Bor – summer 1987. The quality of the photograph unfortunately not up to Cartier-Bresson standards!

One Response to Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Soviet Union
  1. John Plant
    December 18, 2015 | 4:31 pm

    Immensely enjoyed seeing these, Pamela! I followed the link and was pleasantly surprised at how much I was able to make out – my Russian studies have taken a back seat to composition , I’m afraid – this encourages me not to abandon them entirely!
    -I will forward the link to your site to my friend John Barnstead, who just retired from the Russian dept. here at Dalhousie U.
    Best regards to you and Robert!

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