Greetings Photoion students and photography fans, today we have another entry in our Masters of Photography series for you. This series looks at the life and work of some of the 20th century’s most important and influential photographers.
Today we will be taking a look at the work of Yevgeny Khaldei, one of the most famed Russian photojournalists of the WWII.
Khaldei was born in 1917 to a Jewish family, and from an early age, he was familiar with struggle. He grew up during the great famine, and in 1918 his mother was killed by an anti-Jewish protestor. The bullet which killed his mother also hit Khaldei.
Khaldei’s love of photography began early when he made a box camera using his grandmother’s glasses. By 15, his images were appearing in local newspapers, and at 18 he got a job working for the Tass News Agency.
When Germany invaded Russia, Khaldei, now a Lieutenant, covered the duration of the conflict with his camera.
His images portrayed life during the war, as well as many conflicts during the course of the war. Most of his images were composed in a fairly neutral manner, showing the events as true to life as possible.
His most famous image is Raising a Flag over the Reichstag. This became one of the most recognisable and influential images of the war, but it was actually a staged image. A similar event is said to have taken place earlier, with a group of Russian soldiers flying the Soviet flag during the night and it being shot down by snipers.
Khaldei had his uncle, a tailor, make the flag used in the image from a set of red tablecloths. He gathered a group of soldiers present following the capture of the Reichstag and took them to the roof of the building to pose for the picture.
The image was altered during its course of publication, with smoke and damage added to the picture, and several alterations made such as removing the looted watches from the soldier’s wrists. When questioned about the alterations later, Khaldei merely said “It is a good photograph and historically significant. Next question please.”
Much has been said about the moral implications of photojournalism staged to this degree, but there is no denying that Khaldei’s camera gave a sense of hope and achievement to millions of people when he captured the image.