Magnum & TBC Present ‘In the Footsteps of Capa & Steinbeck’s Russian Journal’

Back in 1947, acclai­med war photographer Robert Capa, one of the founders of the Magnum Photo Agency, and John Steinbeck, famous American writer and Nobel prize winner, traveled to then-USSR to witness and record the lives of people living within the Soviet system. They visited Russia, Ukraine and Georgia, a journey first published in a series of articles in the New York Herald Tribune and Ladies Home Journal. These were later transformed into a book by Steinbeck: A Russian Journal, published in 1948.

In 2017, which marks 70 years both since the foundation of Magnum Photos and since Capa and Steinbeck’s visit to the Soviet Union, the Magnum Photos Agency decided to create a contemporary version of the project with journalist Julius Strauss, British Journalist and former Bureau Chief of the Daily Telegraph Moscow Office, who has also worked as a foreign correspondent in Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, and Thomas Dworzak, President of Magnum Photos, who will follow the route of Capa and Steinbeck while telling the stories of people living in Russia, Ukraine and Georgia from today’s perspective.

“The project is inspired by a trip made 70 years ago, resulting in the book called A Russian Journal,” Julius Strauss said at the presentation of the project held at Writer’s House in Tbilisi this week. “More correctly, it should probably be called A Soviet Journal, because of the countries it was about. Obviously, 70 years ago, things were very, very different; it was a time of violent Stalinism, when the Soviet Union appeared that it might last forever,” he said. “Now, all three countries are completely different.”

Strauss noted that another big difference between the two projects is that the original project was heavily controlled and restricted, “we always knew that they were heavily controlled regarding what they were allowed to see; their meetings carefully organized”.

Julius Strauss said the original state documents about Capa and Steinbeck’s trip were found by a Russian writer, and it turned out that some of the meetings with different people that they called spontaneous were actually planned in advance.

“We are very happy that we are now able to move much more freely and talk more freely to whomsoever we choose,” Strauss said.

He also pointed out that, as a writer, he had decided to look to the “echoes”, the similarities and differences between today and 1947. Strauss and Dworzak have already been to Russia and Ukraine and arrived in Georgia a day before their project presentation took place. Unlike Dworzak, who has spent a lot of time in Georgia over the last twenty years, Strauss had only been to Georgia a number of times, mostly in 2003 and 2004.

“I’m not trying to copy Capa,” Thomas Dworzak said. “One of the most respected photographs by Capa was made during his trip to Georgia, in the exactly the same place we stand today, the Writer’s House in Tbilisi, on Machabeli Street”.

The first photo exhibition from the ‘In the Footsteps of A Russian Journal’ project is to be hosted by TBC Bank on September 18, at 7PM within the frames of the Tbilisi Photo Festival 2017. There will be two exhibitions and an album presentation, with Dworzak’s photos and Strauss’ writings.

And while TBC Gallery hosts Dworzak’s photo exhibition and album presentation, TBC Art Gallery will showcase the photographs made by Robert Capa 70 years ago during his visit to Georgia. The photos are kept at TBC Bank.

The project is presented by Magnum Photos and TBC Bank. The album is being published with the support of IDS Borjomi Georgia.

Nino Gugunishvili

24 August 2017 20:56