The Rodchenko Experiment

It started as a completely typical day at school. I was attending my late night art history course on the Russian avant garde. The class often bored me so I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular. It turned out that evening we were going to have visitors to class. Still I was left unamused as they tended to be old guys drawing on about something I probably didn’t care much for. In walked a man I had never met and another who was actually the first photography teacher I had in college. I was very pleased to see him and so suddenly thrilled that we would be addressing photography during this time period. They had come with a few books which were originals from Russia in the 1930s all dedicated to the photographic arts. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Though looking at the images in comparison to the millions on millions of works coming out now a days, these images were something of magic for this day in age and I could feel their power. 

I was particularly drawn to the images of Aleksandr Rodchenko. He is considered one of the first modernist photographers and really expanded photography beyond the portrait or the still life. That day in class changed me forever. It was like nothing I had done before. The way he viewed the world through his lens was so unlike the way I viewed mine. And that is what made it so beautiful. I wanted to try and see my surroundings the way Rodchenko saw his and photograph people and places in a similar style. I embraced unusual angles and places of intersection, forced myself to turn my camera in strange ways and break away from my typical straight horizons. I looked for things in my every day that stood out, patterns, shadows, people, things I had never noticed before. It was exactly what we had learned in class about how we may see the same building every day until we try and see it differently, we suddenly notice it. 

I had shot plenty of documentary style photography throughout my travels and day to day experiences, but I had never really taken the time to see things the way Aleksandr Rodchenko saw them. I challenged myself to take two rolls of black and white film and shoot throughout a regular day, looking hard for things that I would normally disregard, see them and shoot them like I had never seen something so beautiful before. Suddenly all sorts of patterns, shapes, and people became much more than just something I saw from my usual perspective. I felt excited to experience these things in new ways. I wanted to experience the world I saw everyday with new eyes. It concerns me that I may not have used this perspective without knowing such an incredible innovator of the picture, and for that I am forever thankful.


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