In 1916, photographer Arthur Bondar heard that the family of a Soviet war photographer was selling his negatives. The photographer, Valery Faminsky, had worked for the Soviet Army and kept his negatives from Ukraine and Germany meticulously archived until his death in 2011. Mr. Bondar had seen many books and several exhibits of World War II photography but had never heard of Mr. Faminsky.
He contacted the family, and when he viewed the negatives Mr. Bondar realized that he had stumbled upon an important cache of images of World War II made from the Soviet side. The price the family was asking was high — more than Mr. Bondar could afford as a freelance photographer — but he took the money he had made from a book on Chernobyl and acquired the archive.
“I looked through the negatives and realized I held in my hands a huge piece of history that was mostly unknown to ordinary people, even citizens of the former U.S.S.R.,” he told The New York Times. “We had so much propaganda from the World War II period, but here I saw an intimate look by Faminsky. He was purely interested in the people from both sides of the World War II barricades.”
Most of the best-known Soviet images from the war were used as propaganda, to glorify the victories of the Red Army. Often they were staged. Mr. Faminsky’s images are for the most part unvarnished and do not glorify war but focused on the human cost and “the real life of ordinary soldiers and people.”
(Photos: Valery Faminsky/Courtesy of Arthur Bondar, via The New York Times)