Samuel Martinovich Dudin

 Samuel Martinovich Dudin, d. 1929, was an autodidact, a self-taught photographer, archeologist, ethnographer and collector of artifacts who had learned through fieldwork rather than university studies. Trained as a painter under the artist Ilya Repin, Dudin had an extraordinary eye and a passion for the art of many periods and cultures. Unlike many of his academic colleagues, Dudin moved easily in the strange and utterly foreign world of Central Asia.

For the most part, Dudin’s photographs are preserved in glass negatives (many of them signed in the negative) in the archives of the Russian museums where he worked for so many years. The 600 glass negatives utilized in the Russian pavilions at the Paris Exhibition of 1900 were presented to Germany at the exhibition’s close; only copies were returned to Russia.
Dudin made stark and dramatic photographs of Central Asia’s silt-laden rivers and bare hills as well as intimate, shadowed studies of tree-lined villages, and the rough-cut meander of irrigation canals. Formal composition is more important than the activities of a small bazaar in a photograph of a street scene, where the cylinder of an ancient, tiled tower thrusts out and above the shanty-like stalls.

Despite the inherent exoticism of his subjects, Dudin’s photographs have an intimacy and immediacy unusual in photography of the colonial period. "I do not add anything to the composition of the scenes of the photograph. The ‘overcrowding’ that occurs in almost all photographs in our colonies, produces an anti-artistic impression and increases an air of falsity. It is not only that this photography savors of anecdote and affectation, it is not photography from nature."

A number of Dudin’s original negatives were destroyed when the Museum of Ethnology received a direct hit in aerial bombing during WWII. A very few vintage prints are known outside of archives within the former Soviet Union. Most of these are sepia-toned silver gelatin prints such as those shown below.

Additional background
on S.M. Dudin