Monday, January 30, 2012

Jacques Dupâquier's Images of Tashkent, 1956

French member of delegation with young Uzbek woman, 1956
Jacques Dupâquier, a French scholar and demographer, was part of a French mission to the USSR in September 1956. This mission was organized after the 20th Congress of the Communist Party in which Nikita Khrushchev denounced the personality cult and dictatorship of Joseph Stalin.

Dupâquier was not a professional photographer. However, the colour images he took on his Leica during this journey form a remarkable record of Tashkent prior to the 1966 earthquake that destroyed most of the city. These photos also reveal how Central Asian the city was prior to the influx of Russians, which changed the city's culture emphatically.

It seems that the Communist Party was in some disarray after Kruschchev's 'Secret Speech' and so the French mission members enjoyed considerable freedom of movement (In fact when Dupâquier returned in 1964 he was stopped many times and questioned. He also stated in a 2003 interview: "Even in the era of Gorbachev and later still, I never had such a great sense of freedom as I did in 1956").

The Syr Daria river flowing into the Aral Sea, 1956
Dupâquier flew by propeller aircraft from Moscow to Tashkent, at around 3,200 metres. He enjoyed astonishing views as the land, houses and agricultural machinery rolled out beneath him. He even took photographs of the Aral Sea.

There is a selection of Dupâquier's Uzbek photographs on the English Russia blog. You can also view his photographic archive of every day Tashkent life at L'Iconothèque Russe et Soviétique in France. (Tashkent images start at #122).

An exhibition of Dupâquier's photographs taken during his several journeys through the USSR was held in Nancy, France, in 2010. It then toured Russia in 2011, attracting large crowds. The video clip below, in Russian, (2 mins; 15 secs) is taken at that exhibition. Jacques Dupâquier died in 2010.

Related posts: Max Penson: Uzbek Photography between Revolution and Tradition 
Khudaybergen Divanov - Father of Uzbek Photography 
Kyrgyzstan's Quest for Historical Photographs 
Paul Nadar's Images of Turkestan 1890