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The Henkin Brothers: A Discovery. People of 1920s-30s Berlin and Leningrad

The photo exhibition from a unique family archive is presented at The State Hermitage Museum until September 24, 2017.

Photographs made by two brothers tell us the complex story of Leningrad and Berlin of the late 1920s and early 1930s. Brothers Evgeny and Yakov were born in Rostov-on-Don. After the October Revolution, Yakov relocated to Leningrad while Evgeny moved to Germany, living in Berlin from 1926 to 1936.

Scenes captured by Yakov and Evgeny present a vision of the two cities with their everyday life, public events, fashion and people’s glances, and portraits of relatives and friends. Yakov takes pictures in the parks and stadiums of Leningrad, Evgeny – in the streets and squares of Berlin. But politics increasingly invade the lenses of the brothers’ cameras: Soviet slogans and portraits of Party leaders, and Nazi salutes in Berlin. The lightness and openness of everyday life slowly gets replaced by stress and tension accompanying the strengthening of two dictatorships that eventually claimed both brothers’ lives.

Both brothers’ lives ended tragically: Yakov was killed on the Leningrad Front during World War II while Evgeny was arrested and shot by the NKVD during the purges. Many details about both lives are yet to be clarified by their biographers. Original rolls of film in the Henkin Archive contain about 7’000 frames.