1200 Cameras from USSR by Suglob, Shaternik, Kochergin 2009
UPDATE: Book is now called 1200 cameras and the covers are early prototypes.
The new Soviet/Russian camera authority is in town. A book by Viktor Suglob that is coming out spring 2009 in Russian and later in English will be the most comprehensive catalog of Soviet equipment known to date.
Viktor Suglob owns a photo museum in Minsk, Belarus with more than 1500 cameras on display. The museum is open for public.
Also attached are some of the Viktor's cameras that will be featured in this book.
Book cover graciously provided by Viktor Suglob. This is a cover of Russian version, according to Viktor, the cover of English version will be different.
According to Viktor, currently it is more than 1200 cameras that will be features in this book. The book had been delayed a few times due to addition of new important material that was coming to light. As of December 2008 the book release is scheduled for Spring 2009.
As fate would have it, this unique book dedicated to camera industry in USSR had appeared in Belarus. Its authors are Sergey Kochergin, Viktor Suglob and Grigoriy Shaternik. Viktor Suglob had become the soul of this creative team – a professional photographer and a camera collector. Together with Grigoriy Shaternik he had created the only private museum-gallery in Belarus - “Mir Foto”. A unique personal collection of Viktor Suglob contains more than 1000 photo cameras, which include the rarest experimental pieces like “Zenit-ETm”, “Vizit”, incredibly rare camera “Almaz-2-250”, as well as “Zenit-AM”(BelOMO), “Zenit-11”(from the 4,5,6,11 series), “Photosniper” (BelOMO).
The authors had dedicated almost 10 years to the search and cataloguing of Soviet photographic equipment. This was the time of much travel and meetings with collectors from Minsk, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev, Kharkov as well as acquaintances with camera designers and people collecting photographic equipment.
That is how the material was researched for the book, and the camera collection of Soviet and Russian cameras was growing into most likely the biggest one in former USSR and even maybe in all of Europe.
Viktor Suglob, back in 1990s had met with the French photographer named Valia Ouvrier. The first time they had met at the ski resort in Mineralaniye Vody. Valia Ouvrier had attended school in USSR in the past and had spoken fluent Russian. He had told Viktor about his friend and colleague in the field – Jean Loup Princelle and had initiated Viktor into their grandiose plans. The Frenchmen were preparing the release of the book “300 Leica copies”. Viktor as a responsive and interested person in this endeavor had readily offered his help. As a result, when the book was published in 1990, there was a lot of material included in the book provided by Viktor Suglob.
When he had met Jean Loup Princelle in Paris, Jean Loup had told him about his next idea: he is preparing the publication of the catalog “MADE IN USSR. The Authentic Guide to Russian and Soviet Cameras”. Viktor had offered his help once again.
Sometimes the search for materials in Former USSR conveyed feeling of a mystery novel. In such a clandestine way, thanks to Suglob’s friend – Viktor Sirosh, he was able to get into Kharkov’s FED factory, known for making the “FED” cameras. They informed the administration of their visit but no one had apparently alerted the security. So here is Viktor, walking the factory grounds, carrying two reproduction cameras. From the security personnel’s point of view he looked like a spy. The security suddenly jumped him, beat him up and were about to hand cuff him, while almost breaking his arms, it’s when they got a call from “above”. “It happens” he was told unapologetically, “the installation is mostly classified”.
This famous in Soviet times factory was based on a juvenile colony headed by the renowned educator Anton Makarenko. Viktor Suglob had a lucky chance to meet one of the former teachers of the colony, who later became a designer of cameras “FED-2”, “FED-2 Stereo”, “Zarya”(1,2,3) – Dimitry Umrikhin. The camera designer had shared some of his memories: During the war the factory was evacuated to Siberian town Berdsk. Among the factory workers there were some that did not want to be sent to the war front. To get themselves out of military service they had bribed the administration of the army draft office in the form of boar or moose meat in addition to a camera taken from the factory. Very often they would make a presentation engraving.
One of these cameras was donated to the “Mir Foto” museum by Dmitriy Umrikhin. This was a 1943 “FED” with engraving “MIK”. Possibly this camera was made for the Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin – a chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of USSR.
Jean Loup Princelle’s book was published in 1995 and immediately gained world recognition among collectors and photography lovers. In the second edition that was released in 2004, the author had wrote that the book was dedicated “… to my Russian friends that helped me sparing no effort…”
“If they can do it in Paris, why don’t we publish our own catalog in Minsk?” – thought Viktor – “Especially when every forth camera in USSR was made here”. There was little left but to find common-minded people. Soon such people had turned up.
Grigoriy Shaternik became the second member of the team who was Viktor’s business partner who had his doubts about the success of this endeavor. But what happened on Moscow’s New Arbat (a popular arts and crafts district of Moscow) had convinced him otherwise: in a small Kiosk where they would sell rare cameras there was a book by Jean Loup Princelle. The seller quickly boasted that he knows the authors of that book very well, including Viktor Suglob. Viktor at that point had taken out his passport and showed it to him. The seller obviously felt extremely embarrassed and awkward. But the presence of this book on New Arbat had made a strong impression on Grigoriy.
In 1998 they had met Sergey Kochergin, a person very passionate about the history of camera industry in USSR and possessing a large collection of such cameras. This meeting had become a launching point in time for making the final decision on creating a detailed catalog.
Here’s what Viktor had said about Sergey Kochergin: “He is like a gold miner, sifting through tons of unverified information to find a gold particle of the objective fact.”. Without his meticulous and donnish work the creation of this catalog would not have been possible.
That is how the author team was formed. From this moment on they had started an actively accumulating the information and searching for rare and uncommon models.
In 2007 during a consequent visit with Jean Loup Princelle and Valia Ouvrier, Viktor had informed them about the collected materials and planned publication of the catalog of Soviet period photographic equipment (1929-1991). Both Frenchmen had fully supported this project and decided not to pursue the publication of their own 3rd edition of the book.
A very interesting episode of the “quest” for rare cameras was the search for Belarus camera “Rakurs-670”. Viktor had phoned all possible leads for this camera, all the people that may have known anything about it. And finally on 13th day he had found a person that was at some point in time involved in assembly of such model, and he had photographs of it. Afterwards, a trip to St. Petersburg proved to be very successful, where Viktor had met Alexander Afanasiev. The team from Minsk had not only made a lot of photographs of examples for the book but also had acquired quite a few rarest pieces for their collection.
A famous ophthalmologist Leonid Balashev had provided access to his collection which contained rare cameras like “Moment-20”, “Kompakta”…
In Moscow resides a mysterious collector hiding under alias of “Igor Moskvin”. His father worked on Krasnogorsk mechanical Factory with accredited camera inventor of Russian Soviet Federation Republic – Marenkov. Igor had first examples of cameras that had come off the assembly line. Eventually Igor had started selling off his collection. But something unfortunate had happened. Allegedly Igor was conned and part of this collection had disappeared. Since that episode he only talks to collectors via a third party. The first time Igor Moskvin had provided photographs from his collection were made with a point & shoot camera. The quality of shots was terrible. He was asked to find a professional photographer to take those pictures but the photographer had taken pictures with a wide angle lens. The distortion had to be corrected later on the computer. Nevertheless, this was such a unique material, containing information about cameras that were not known not only to the authors of this catalog but even to the veterans of the industry regarding some of the provided examples. This is not surprising if we recall the story told by Anatoliy Padalko – a camera designer at KMZ.
In early 1980s – a General Secretary of Central Communist Committee Leon Brezhnev was photographed on a trip outside of USSR with a Polaroid camera and given the resulting picture right there and then. Upon returning back to Soviet Union, Brezhnev had summoned Dmitry Ustinov (Minister of Defense of USSR at the time) and had given him a task: “Soviet Union has such advanced photographic industry and we do make a Polaroid?! Start producing it right away!” A minister of defense in turn had summoned Anatoliy Padalko who he was friends with and explained the given situation. As it was said – it was done. Newly invented camera had worked perfectly, but the Soviet chemical industry could not produce the film packs. But the question is – what was the name of the camera? Even the designer himself could not answer it – he forgot. When Anataliy Padalko had found out about the existence of the photo museum in Minsk he had given the authors of the book another interesting camera – “Foton-Super-1”(“Zenit”) No. 0001.
Also there is another tale of one camera designer from Belarus. It’s the kindest person – Adam Andreyevich Zyl’. In 1980, a unique camera for its time was made under his direction – “Avtolikon-645”, the prototype of which is now located in the museum “Mir Foto”.
The Soviet Union had collapsed, but the cameras made in USSR remained. Thanks to enthusiasts the Soviet cameras are known and collected in Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, UK, Australia, Brazil, China and many other countries.
The book author team and Viktor Suglob personally would like to deeply thank their friends, undeterred enthusiast collectors of Soviet cameras and foreign authors of books of Soviet and Russian photo equipment Jean Loup Princelle and Valia Ouvrier. Their publications to this day are being served as Viktor Suglob’s everyday references and kept on this table at all times. He considers these people to be his teachers.
The authors also sincerely thank for their help Moscow residents Igor Bazhan and his team “RSU-repairshops”, Yuriy Krylov, Alexander Kamynin, Igor Moskvin, as well as St. Petersburg’s Alexander Afanasiev, Leonid Balashevich, Kiev’s Yuriy Davydenko who had made a big contribution to the creation of this catalog. And a special thanks to Aidas Pikiotas from Vilnius.
The authors hope that first edition of “1000 Photo camera from USSR” will interest not only professional photographers and collectors but a wider audience in all parts of the planet. They will have a chance to familiarize themselves with the most interesting catalog of Soviet photographic equipment and experience the diverse world of photography.