After the great introductory exhibition at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg in 2017, for the first time in Western Europe we display a selection of photographs from an incredible recently discovered archive, which documents the dawn of street photography.
The brothers Evgeny and Yakov Henkin were born in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, at the very beginning of the 20th century. After the October 1917 Revolution, their paths diverged: the elder brother Evgeny goes to Berlin, while the younger Yakov moves to Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). Both brothers will die tragically: Evgeny killed in the Stalinist purges of 1937-38 upon his return to Leningrad, Yakov during the first months after World War II came to Russia. The original negatives were miraculously preserved and rediscovered by the descendants of Yakov Henkin only in 2010.
The photos that the two brothers took with the Leica (or the Soviet Leica replica FED), devices that were just placed on the market, today are exhibited at the Festival Street Photo Milano 2019 Edition thanks to the generosity of the Henkin Brothers Archive Association (Lausanne, Switzerland) and its head Olga Walther, Yakov Henkin’s granddaughter. We are also deeply grateful to Gueorgui Pinkhassov, author of the preface to the forthcoming book on the Henkin Brothers and their art, scheduled for release in October 2019 by Editions Noir sur Blanc.
The images represent a visual correspondence between the capital cities of two empires in full transformation, slowly slipping from the confident energy of recovery to the gloomy premonition of the imminent catastrophe between the two world wars.
The Leica used by the two brothers allows them to experience and to develop the casual and informal language of street photography, rare for this time, and now particularly precious for its immediacy, authenticity and originality.
A jewel and a discovery for lovers of all, and especially street photography.