It always surprizes me how little people outside Russia – even those familiar with art movements like Bauhaus – know about Alexander Rodchenko . Meanwhile he is one of the big names in Russian avante-garde of the 1920-30s, especially in connection to constructivism movement.
In fact, he invented constructivism, gave it a name and manifested its purpose, having created an extensive body of work in photography, art and graphic design. If you search for Russian constructivism you immediately find Rodchenko’s work. You might be surprized by how much of it you have actually seen – either Rodchenko’s original images, or his ideas applied to work of others.
“One has to take several different shots of a subject, from different points of view and in different situations, as if one examined it in the round rather than looked through the same key-hole again and again.” – Alexander Rodchenko
It’s amazing how many ground-breaking, innovative concepts of his one can find back in contemporary photography. Shooting from high and low perspective, tilting camera, shooting close-ups at gutsy angle, chosing entirely unexpected point of view, shooting through materials and constructions to create a layered images, light spot play, sequences, cut-and-paste editing techniques, photo collages, creative typography, and a great deal of other ideas so many image-makers successfully exploited ever since.
Rodchenko photographs are recognisable not only because of their unusual take on a subject. They are extremely well composed, straight to the point, they hold viewer’s attention. And the point itself, – always there, always clear. That’s why to me Rodchenko photography is so powerful: it’s greatly composed, emotionally charged, energetic and has a very positive vibe to it. It feels incredibly young even today.
I have seen many attempts to shoot like Rodchenko. Some succeeded – because they took all the important points and developed their own take on constructivism. Some failed, because they missed the whole point, and both the meaning and solid composition were absent, or weak, and didn’t hold. Points taken.
Notes to myself: shoot from above, tilt camera, but first get an idea what you (I) want to show.