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Magazines and the Worker's Movement, 1926-1939

24 agosto - 30 noviembre, 2011
Der Arbeiter Fotograf. Neuer Deutcher Verlag. Berlin, N. 10, 1929. Illustrated magazine. Biblioteca y Centro de Documentación. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Madrid
Der Arbeiter Fotograf. Neuer Deutcher Verlag. Berlin, N. 10, 1929. Illustrated magazine. Biblioteca y Centro de Documentación. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Madrid

This exhibition features a selection of magazines acquired on the occasion of the exhibition A Hard, Merciless Light. The Worker-Photography Movement, 1926-1939. The magazines show the link between documentary expression and working-class consciousness, exploring the importance of images in the founding of a new political and social ideal and suggesting that the struggle for power begins with the struggle for representation.

This exhibition features the magazines that were most relevant to worker-photography, and thus sets the stage for an analysis of the relationship between documentary expression and working-class awareness in the period between the wars. It includes a selection of magazines acquired for the exhibition A hard, merciless light. The worker-photography movement, 1926-1939 and is divided into the following sections: From worker photography to proletarian-photography in the Soviet Union; Weimar Germany; the French Popular Front and Spain at war.

The exhibition shows how the proletarian photographic document has its formal origin in the call made by the German Communist magazine AIZ (Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung or Worker's Pictorial Newspaper) in March 1926, for contributions by amateur photographers. The movement had structural links with the propagandistic strategy that arose out of the Third Congress of the Communist International in 1921, with the magazine Sovetskoe foto - the publication of the Union of Russian Proletarian Photographers (ROPF) - starting in 1926 and also with the organised amateur movement. The worker-photography experience in the USSR and Germany was short lived. In 1932, upon the conclusion of the USSR's first five-year plan, the ROPF was dissolved and the period known as the Cultural Revolution, the establishment of a proletarian cultural structure within the State, ended. The German organisation came to an end as a result of Hitler's rise to power in January of 1933.

By that time, however, the ramifications of the movement had become broad and complex. Since 1929 groups of worker-photographers had been created in Switzerland, the United States, France, Holland and Great Britain. Illustrated magazines, inspired by AIZ and linked to the networks of Communist and Socialist parties, had appeared in these countries, and also in Austria and Czechoslovakia. And different circles of documentarians or politicized social photographers, relatively well-organised, were founded in Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, Prague and Mexico.

With the Communist International's strategic shift in 1935 - to counteract the rise of fascism - and with the birth of the Popular Front in Europe, the magazines that had served as a vehicle for worker-photography took on a new slant, with a populist and romanticised vision of the life of the proletariat. First Paris and then Spain, with the beginning of the Civil War, would become the new stage for the movement's final chapters.

Exhibition´s details

Organized by: 
Museo Reina Sofía
Biblioteca y Centro de Documentación


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