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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Moscow Nights and Moscow Days as Seen by a Swiss in 1957
If only you knew how dear to me
Are these Moscow evenings!

Leonard Gianadda surely heard this song – Moscow Nights – when he came to Moscow in 1957 to make a photo essay for the Swiss newspaper Illustré. A student then, but already a photographer, he arrived in the USSR together with 34,000 other young people from different countries of the world for the World Festival of Youth and Students. That was an ambiguous event for all participants. On the one hand, freedom of communication and friendship was proclaimed, and on the other, Soviet students were prosecuted later for simply writing to their new foreign friends. This was when a group of small-time business people called fortsovshiks started coming up to foreign students in the lobbies of their hotels and hassling them to buy them Soviet badges, signs and hats, jeans and sneakers. This joyful, but certainly dualistic festival was recorded for posterity in video and photo chronicles. Young people danced and sang in Gorky Street, Prospect Marx and on Pushkin Square. They got to know each other, listened to jazz, danced and discussed their lives. For the photographic eye behind a 35mm Leica belonging to Leonard Gianadda it had two sides: perfectly directed official events, a myriad smiling faces but at the same time rows of soldiers defending or protecting (who from whom?), an overcrowded underground. This series became a

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starting point for Giannada as a street photographer; and he began to travel extensively. He created a photographic series about Cuba and the USA, became Chevalier of the National Order of the Legion of Honour Member of Council of Musée Rodin, Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Musée d’Orsay, Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson and founded the Pierre Giannada Foundation in honour of his tragically deceased brother. That Moscow series of photographs was not written about in Soviet papers, they were considered much too ‘scandalous’. There is nothing scandalous about the photos now; everything has a backstage. And at that pre-Cold War period this particular backstage was neither in fashion, nor in demand even outside the USSR.

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