Marking of Absence: What Iryna Pap’s Archive Bears?

Kateryna Filyuk, M.A.

Iryna Pap, a Soviet-Ukrainian photographer and educator whose oeuvre was recently rediscovered, stands out starkly in her moment, and the significance of her legacy continues to grow. As a female newcomer to the male dominated world of Soviet photography, and as such almost unique in her profession, Pap worked for Izvestia, one of the USSR’s newspapers of record from 1957 to 1972. Later on, she launched the first professional School of Journalistic Excellence at the Journalists Union of Ukraine, thus shaping the next generation of Ukrainian photographers, some of whom are still active in the field. Pap’s photographs are scattered in different archives in Russia and Ukraine, although, as in 1991, a big portion of them have been rescued and now preserved at Fotohof Archiv in Salzburg. Despite her undoubted achievements Pap has been ignored or written out of the history of Ukrainian photography, not least because she happened to work under the unappealingly didactic and ideological Soviet canon. Another reason why her history barely exists is the inherited marginal status of photography in post-Soviet Ukraine and its absence in the academic curricula. My research provides the very first overview of Pap’s biography, seeks to critically address her Soviet provenance and scrutinize a portion of her archive hinging upon a new Soviet person.

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