Close up of mother of RODCHENKO
Close up of mother of RODCHENKO

Alexander Rodchenko, the master photographer (largely unknown in the West) who innovated with design, art, and photography.

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Why Rodchenko?

First of all, I remember seeing some of Rodchenko’s work at an exhibition in Venice, around 2012. I was blown away by his innovations with composition, perspective (high and low), and the strong graphical elements to his work.

I recently had the urge to study his work, as I have been interested in graphic design.

1. Rodchenko on perspective and point of view

IPhoto by Rodchenko. Note his low angle of the girl, makes her look more powerful.
Photo by Rodchenko. Note his low angle of the girl, makes her look more powerful.

“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.” – Rodchenko

When we study the work of Rodchenko, study how he gets SUPER LOW and also SUPER HIGH in his perspectives, and how it makes his work so much more fascinating to look at.

Rodchenko, High angle looking down.
Rodchenko, High angle looking down.

I understand he shot most of his stuff just with a film Leica. This helped him stay nimble, and experiment, and innovate. Note he shot in the 1920s.

Assignment 1: Climb buildings, and shoot looking down. RENE BURRI did this well.

Assignment 2: Shoot from a super low angle. Use the lcd screen on your camera, or lie on your back shooting up.

2. Machinery

“The modern city with its multi-storey buildings, plants, factories […], all this […] has changed the psychology of the traditional perception to a great extent. It seems as if only a camera is able to illustrate modern life.” – Rodchenko

I love the very very graphical, bold, photos of Rodchenko… when focused on machinery.

To me, this is interesting because it just shows how BRUTAL machines are on humans.

To me, I see humans as part of machines in the cog of the wheel of industry. This makes us less human… kind of like what Karl Marx said as humans just being an “appendage of the machine.”

Assignment 3: Shoot machines, gears, computers… and try to make a statement on how it affects humans (good or bad). Make social commentary on machines and man.

3. See common things… differently.

“We must revolutionize our optical perception. We must remove the veil from our eyes.”

The great photographer looks at ordinary objects, and makes it extraordinary.

4. Create visual contradictions

“Contradictions of perspective. Contrasts of light. Contrasts of form. Points of view impossible to achieve in drawing and painting. Foreshortenings with a strong distortion of the objects, with a crude handling of matter. Moments altogether new, never seen before… compositions whose boldness outstrips the imagination of painters… Then the creation of those instants which do not exist, contrived by means of photomontage. The negative transmits altogether new stimuli to the sentient mind and eye.”

5. The social purpose of photography

Rodchenko was one of the primary movers of the “Constructivist” movement, which believed art for a social purpose. Not art for art sake. This makes sense, especially during revolutionary Russia.

6. It is your duty as an artist and photographer to EXPERIMENT!

“Our duty is to experiment.”


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