Alexander Rodchenko was a Russian sculptor, graphic designer, artist and photographer, who lived from 1891 until 1956. He was the co-founder of design in Russia and constructivism. Following the Russian Revolution, he was among the multi-talented Productivist and Constructivist artists to surface. Before starting off with photography and photomontage, Rodchenko worked as a graphic designer and painter.
Rodchenko was born into a family belonging to the laboring class in St. Petersburg. Although he had no experience in the world of art, Rodchenko decided that is what he wants to become – an artist. His inspiration were the magazines on art that were available to him in his early years. In 1910, he studied at the Kazan Art School under Georgii Medvedev and Nikolai Feshin. After five years, he was still getting training for art in Moscow’s Stroganov Institute. At this time, he started to create his initial abstract sketches. His drawings were influenced by Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematism. In 1916, Rodchenko’s work was included in a Vladimir Tatlin‘s exposition. His work was also influenced by art movements like Futurism and Cubism. Rodchenko became one of the leading Russian artists of avant-garde. In addition to being a painter, he was a sculptor and he also created poster designs for factories, businesses and movie theatres.
For two years since 1922, Rodchenko became increasingly involved with photomontages, which he used for designing books and making art for posters. For his montages, he used already existing materials and images. He is popular for his montage of Pro eto, poem by Vladimir Mayakovski. In 1924, however when he was completely unable to find relevant existing pictures, he had to use the ones he made. Thus, he realized that photography is the best approach. In his opinion photographs can be taken from any position, perspective and angle. Hence, photography corresponded well with a man’s dynamic eye.
Until 1928, Alexander Rodchenko not only took portraits of Mayakovsky or collaborated with him, but he also made layouts and designs with this technique for constructivist art magazines like Novy LEF and LEF. His photos were used as covers or featured inside these print journals. Rodchenko’s images were sans superfluous details.
His photography approach was much different than the ways others were photographing at the time. Alexander Rodchenko used unusual and bold perspectives in order to liberate the practice of photography from the conventional standards. In 1928, he wrote Ways of Contemporary Photography, in a declarative form. In 1927, Rodchenko gave up painting in order to completely immerse himself in the field of photography. A year later, he bought a Leica camera for himself, since it was easy to work with and its operations were faster. This camera facilitated him in viewing objects from various perspectives and odd positions. It also enabled him to capture unanticipated details of views.
Some elements were integrated in his photography compositions, such as stairs, grids and wires, because Rodchenko liked using such facets. They converted his compositions into constructivist and abstract structures of lines. Most noted examples of such work are: Girl with Leica, 1934 and Stairs, 1930.
An organization for cinematographic and photographic art of the time was called simply, October. It was the most significant groups of that time and in 1930, Rodchenko was made its founding associate.
In the 1930s, he focused on photography in the sports beat, parades and choreographed actions and movements. In 1931, he was expelled from the October society of artists. In this same decade, Rodchenko returned to making paintings and in 1942 he stopped his photography venture. However, he did organize photography retrospectives.