Strunnikow graduated from the Moscow Film School and became a photojournalist for 'Pravda' in 1932. At that time, he documented the industrialisation and collectivisation process in Middle Asia and the Caucasus. During the war he was a frontline photographer for 'Pravda', and he was noted for his coverage of the battles around Odessa, Moscow and Leningrad. This close-up image of 'Soja', also known as ‘Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, “Tania”, a Russian partisan tortured by Fascists’, is emotionally disturbing. Strunnikov shows us a woman, presumably not long dead, who lies in the snow, her chest bearing the marks of torture and the rope with which she was hung frozen taut around her broken neck. Who was Soja? An innocent victim? A heroic martyr? While Strunnikov denies the viewer the information to contextualise and explain, one can observe in this small, tightly cropped press print, that the body is resurrected, and invested with an order of knowledge that makes ‘Soja’ a compelling icon of remembrance and regret through signifying the real effects of war.
Needless to say, the force of politics in the Soviet Union added weight to 'realism' as the preferred form of expression, and to the comprehensive documentation of battles and deaths on Soviet soil. And while the camera as ‘witness’ has been present in wars, as early as the American Civil War, this photograph is a poignant example of how photography has been critical in the construction of how conflict is understood, politically and ideologically. This is a particularly important image as war photography is considered in some quarters to be one of the few true genres of the medium.
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, 'Tania', a partisan tortured by Fascists
1941, printed later
gelatin silver photograph
9.6 x 13.8 cm image/sheet
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Not on display
Shown in 3 exhibitions
Glaube, Hoffnung - Anpassung: Sowjetische Bilder 1928-1945:
- Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany 12 Nov 1995–07 Jan 1996
- Wurttembergische Kunstverein, Stuttgart, Stuttgart 15 Feb 1996–07 Apr 1996
- IVAM Institut Valencia d'Art Modern, Spain 18 Apr 1996–16 Jul 1996
World Without End - Photography and the 20th Century, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 02 Dec 2000–25 Feb 2001
WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: photographs of armed conflict and it's aftermath:
- The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, United States of America 11 Nov 2012–03 Feb 2013
- The Corcoran Gallery of Art, United States of America 29 Jun 2013–29 Sep 2013
- Brooklyn Museum, United States of America 08 Nov 2013–02 Feb 2014
Referenced in 5 publications
Martyn Jolly, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'International photo-documentary', pg.151-167, Sydney, 2007, 161 (illus.).
Peter Kort Zegers, Windows on the war: Soviet TASS posters at home and abroad 1941-1945, 'Stored windows', pg.160-379, 2011, 260 (illus.). fig.5, illustrated in reference to 849
World without end - Photography and the 20th century, Sydney, 2000, 27, 113 (illus.).
Glaube, Hoffnung - Anpassung: Sowjetische Bilder 1928-1945, Essen, 1995, 113 (illus.).
Art in America, Photographers at War, New York, Dec 1985, 78 (illus.).