“The initiators of a film studio at the steam locomotive and truck repair plant (from the left to the right) Slutskyn S.S., Art Club Director of Tool and Inventory Shop, Skybalo G.L., Director of Radio Broadcasting Center, and Zirka A.V. are looking through the first shots of the new film about the plant, Lviv December 7th, 1956″. This archival record accompanies this photograph in the Central State Audio/Visual and Electronic Archive (until the recent times called Central State G.S. Pshenychnyi Filming Archive) in Kyiv. Despite it is the official representation of film amateurs that was probably created for the purpose of media publications, careful analysis of the details makes it possible to discern the development peculiarities of the Soviet movie amateur filmmaking movement.
Despite the central figures in the shot are film amateurs, considerable interest is aroused by the film projector and the camera placed on the table in front of them. The film projector is a German product of the 1930s called “Bauer Selecton”. The same is about the “Siemens Halske F” camera. The equipment is meant for the amateur format of the 16mm film that was much cheaper as compared to the professional 35 mm format. The use of German filming equipment by Soviet shop workers in the 1950s is not quite a weird phenomenon. At that moment, the USSR had not adjusted regular and serial production of its own equipment for film amateurs, though the theme was a common parlance in those times. One can say for sure that the film projector and the camera are the so-called “trophies” acquired at the time of World War II. Trade in items the military brought from Germany in coming back from the frontline was rather frequent. Besides, one cannot reject the version that that equipment could have once belonged to Lviv residents living in the city before the war.
The photograph was apparently aimed at propaganda. First and foremost, one can easily recognize the trend of socialist realism and the inscribed messages of success, enthusiasm, collectivism, unity, the common goal and the result of hard labor as well as the harmony of work and useful leisure. The same is about amateur films, them being one of the photograph’s intended images in the discourse of the Soviet power that viewed all that as a method of cultural, upbringing-aimed and ideological work. Those features are common for the monopolized media culture of the USSR where entertainment and informing were inseparable from propaganda.
As far as the register of the aforementioned messages, one must emphasize collectivism. In the context of amateur filmmaking movement and overall, that feature was treated as specifically Soviet and contrasted to the related model existing in the western society. Collectivism was cherished and supported as a counterbalance to individualism that was treated as a Philistine (bourgeois) feature that was considered a potential hazard, since it could contain dissension. Despite amateur filmmaking movement was a hobby and was associated with entertainment, the Soviet power considered it to be institutionalized. Accession of film amateurs to amateur filming clubs and studios became a method of controlling the amateur process and scanning its results.
The photograph of Lviv film movie amateurs presented here is the reflection of the gender stereotypes vital to that epoch, where affection to technology and activities with a camera in one’s hand was viewed primarily as a men’s job. Probably, there were women fond of filming but their names among the Soviet film movie amateurs are rather infrequent. This state of affairs was apparently caused by conventional gender roles as well as by women having not enough free time due to childcare and nursing duties as well as household chores added to their full-time jobs.
Film amateurs of the steam locomotive and car repair plant, photograph dated of 1956
- December 7, 1956
- Central State Audio/Visual and Electronic Archive, 2/55137
- Research, comment
- Visual Laboratory seminar
Еrika Nimis, Andrii Usach, Anna Yatsenko, Nadia Akulova, Іvanna Cherchovych