The Faces of Freaks

Words by
Thomas Silverman

November 1917, The Russian revolution was over, Lenin and his Bolsheviks had won. The last Tsar, Nicholas II, was rounded up and neatly murdered along with his entire family.

So put an end to a 300 year dynasty.

In the newly emerging Russia, Alexander Rodchenko and a group of other like-minds gave birth to Constructivism.

It was about ideas, and rejection. Rejecting the traditional bourgeois art world of yesteryear. Rejecting the traditional bourgeois ideal of painting on an easel, rejecting art for arts sake. The Constructivist would create art that would function in the new socialist state.

In the beginning Constructivists seemed to be picking and choosing the best parts of other art movements. Rodchenko painted, seemingly influenced by Suprematism and Cubism, but something was new, these could be blue prints to a building. Constructivist architecture flourished in the Soviet Union in the 1920's and early 1930's.

Rodchenko's photomontage's might be his best known work to date. Less chaotic than the Dadaists 'leave no space blank' approach, Rodchenko's montages were precise, important. Combined with his hand drawn graphic design skills his work was used as film posters, post war propaganda, biscuit tin advertising. A Constructivist advertising in a Marxist state? It was frowned upon, but he did it anyway. He worked alongside other artists and poets calling themselves 'advertising constructors.”

This middle finger to the past, this simplicity, this being an artist but rejecting the idea of being called an artist. This pissing many people off with your modern ideas whilst simultaneously igniting the minds of others with your utopian ideals tinged with an edge of anarchism.. it's punk before punk. It's Dame Viv Westwood using the tartans that were used to dress the gentle folk, it's Malcolm McLaren using the template of putting together a boy band and coming out with the Sex Pistols.

'I want to take some quite incredible photographs that have never been taken before… pictures which are simple and complex at the same time, which will amaze and overwhelm people, I must achieve this so that photography can begin to be considered a form of art."

In our modern photo drenched culture, everyone taking a shot of anything experiments with angles. The beloved seflie angle to lose your double or triple chin, or the much loved fashion beauty angle taken from below, nicely named by a friend of mine 'the brain shot.'

As said above by the man himself, he wanted photography to be considered an art form. It was the introduction of the 35mm Leica camera that allowed this to be possible. For him to be able to lay on the floor and shoot, and climb up to the top of a building to shoot below at extreme angles. This might seem like everyday techniques to us now, but before this a photographer would be standing firmly on the floor, under some old sheet, taking a photo of a group of people nicely arranged, or a scenic view. All rather tame.

Modern photography owes itself to Alexander Rodchenko's experimentations with handheld cameras. And for those of you who are thinking someone else would have only come along and done the same thing, well they didn't, and it wouldn't have been as good anyway.

"the face of a normal person has been transformed into the face of a freak, and for what?"

– Critic of Rodchenko