Double exposure

The old Moscow in winter. Photo by Ilya Ilf, 1920s

Fine things they are doing in fact, these bandits, Marx and Engels.

(Ilf-Petrov: Diamonds to sit on, 1928)

– Why should I leave my photo in this miserable town? – he thought.

(Ilf-Petrov: The little golden calf, 1931)

Было у меня на книжке восемьсот рублей, и был чудный соавтор.
Я одолжил ему мои восемьсот рублей на покупку фотоаппарата.
И что же? Нет у меня больше ни денег, ни соавтора.
Он только и делает, что снимает, проявляет и печатает. Печатает, проявляет и снимает.

I had eight hundred rubles in my savings book, and I had a wonderful co-author.
I gave him my eight hundred rubles to buy a camera.
And lo! I have neither money nor a co-author any more.
He’s only taking photos, developing and printing. Printing, developing and taking again.

(Petrov on Ilf, отсюда)

The name of Ilya Ilf, if known to anybody, is mainly known from the two acclaimed satires of the 1920s and 30s, Diamonds to sit on (in the Russian original: Twelve chairs) and The little golden calf, whose two authors’ names were amalgamated into one concept: Ilf-Petrov. However, it is still not well known even in Russia that he was a photographer, and not a bad photographer at that, although in the golden age of Russian press photo beginning with the 20th century several great names cloud his one.

Ilya Ilf: Self-portrait

In his lifetime only those photos were published which he took during his American travel together with Evgeny Petrov in 1935, and which accompanied their report American photos in the 11th issue of Ogonek in the following year. The rare pictures were published again some years ago in the Cabinet Magazine. Ilf and Petrov wrote in detail about this journey in their travelogue Одноетажная Америка (Single-storied America, 1937), which appeared in the same year in the USA as Little Golden America, with a calculated hint to the English title of The Little Golden Calf, which indicates well the popularity of the authors.

Ilya Ilf with his Zeiss Bebe camera bought in the USA. Photo by V. Cherkizov

The rest of Ilf’s photographs, however, were made known to the public only in 2007, when his daughter collected them from his legacy and organized an exhibition of them in his father’s native town Odessa, later also publishing them in an album. The images indicate that Ilf was well aware and consciously applied the modern techniques of the photographers of the 1920s, notably of Alexandr Rodchenko. And they also attest that as a good photo journalist, he also had the luck of being in the right place at the right time.

Balconies. The man leaning on the lower balcony is Mayakovsky

The flat of Ilya Ilf on the Soymonovsky prospect, from whose backyard window the previous
 picture and from the street windows the following photos were taken

The Cathedral of Christ the Savior built in the memory of the victory over Napoleon, with red soldiers, 1929

The blow-up of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior on the command of Stalin on 5 December 1931, photographed from Ilf’s window

The remains of the cathedral after the detonation

Funerals of Mayakovsky. From left to right: M. Faizinberg, V. Kataev, M. Bulgakov, Y. Olesha, Y. Utkin

Boris Pasternak

The painter Mikhail Medvedev

Mariya, Ilf’s wife

Mariya on the balcony, with the still standing Cathedral of Christ the Savior in the background

Double exposure. At the piano, Mariya Ilf, while the two portraits are of their writer friends,
Boris Levin and Vladimir Narbuta, editor in chief of the magazine 30 дней
where both novels of Ilf-Petrov were published

Nikolsky street. The protagonists of the picture, just like of the two novels, are the cars and the chairs

Ilya Ilf in the Gorky park, in front of the giant fresco of Stalin

Some further photos of the album can be seen on the blog of Re-Flexia. And Yandex also has the documentary shot in 2003 by Galina Dolmatovskaya on the basis of the script by Ilf’s daughter. The film presents the life of the two authors, their books and the films made of them – in the USA earlier than in the Soviet Union –, as well as some hitherto unknown photos by Ilya Ilf.

5 comentarios:

languagehat dijo...

Wow, what photos, and what an experience -- to have a ringside street for the demolition of a cathedral.

By the way, I learn from Google that Diamonds to Sit On was the name of the first (1930) translation, but I've never heard of it; all newer translations have been called The Twelve Chairs (by the way, there's a new one coming out this year for which I helped the translator with information about songs and other realia).

Studiolum dijo...

Do you mean the one by Anne O. Fisher you have referred to in your blog? I am looking forward to it!

Yes, I have always read the title as The Twelve Chairs in English texts as well, but the included documentary confused me and made me think whether I knew it well.

languagehat dijo...

Yes, that's the one -- I'm looking forward to it too.

Anónimo dijo...

Found this post via piony@livejournal;
I will forward a link to Ilf's grandson in Israel; I think he'll be pleased to see it.

Where did you find the photos? I probably missed the source @the text.


Studiolum dijo...

Thank you, Tatyana. It will be an unimaginably great honor to me if the grandson of Ilf, with whose books I’ve grown up, will read this post.

The link to the source of the photos originally stood under the first two mottoes and was deleted by mistake when I later inserted the third one. Thank you for telling me about it. Now I have inserted it in the text of the first paragraph.

Tamás, Budapest