A portion of proceeds will be donated to The Kyiv Independent
April 7, 2022 - July 1, 2022
Shepard Sherbell photographed the dissolution of the USSR with unrestricted access while traveling through the fifteen former Soviet republics from 1991 to 1993 on assignment for the German weekly Der Spiegel. The resulting images are sobering documents that illuminate the grim environments created by the Soviet state, and the dignity and resilience of the people who lived within them. Capturing images that ranged from poignant to humorous, and agonizing to hopeful, Sherbell’s camera bore witness to the legacy of Soviet totalitarian ideology: failing infrastructure, ecological damage, labor camps, corruption, and the relics of a failed Socialist utopia. In 2001, he published more than 200 of these images in the award-winning book Soviets: Photographs from the End of the USSR. In the introduction, New York Times correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner Serge Schmemann wrote: “I know that time spent in… that black-and-white world that Shepard Sherbell has captured will stay with me forever. It is where I learned about the avarice and cruelty of unconstrained state power, and it is where I discovered the enormous capacity of the human spirit to persevere.” Today, Soviets remains an unparalleled documentary of the fall of an empire.
Shepard Sherbell (1944-2018) began his career as an editor for The East Side Review — A Magazine of Contemporary Culture while he was a student at Columbia University. Through the Review, Sherbell became enmeshed with Beat Generation authors like Allen Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, and Gary Snyder; these collaborations led to Sherbell’s involvement with the counterculture movement in New York and in London, where he took up photography, capturing some of the most influential musical groups of the generation from the Rolling Stones and the Beatles to Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis. Sherbell relocated to Washington D.C. and focused his lens on the political world, covering conflict zones and major historic events, from the Nicaraguan Revolution to the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Sherbell received numerous awards throughout his career for his photo essays, coverage of conflict zones, press photography, as well as an award for Best Photography Book for Soviets. Sherbell died in 2018 in his native New York.
MUUS Collection believes in the unique power of photography as an inimitable touchstone of collective cultural memory. As a functional archive, MUUS builds, preserves, studies, and shares its collections of photography to generate new scholarship and understanding, while instigating interesting and relevant dialogues within the wider photography community. MUUS preserves and promotes invaluable artifacts for generations to come and is committed to keeping photographic memory alive through exhibitions, donations, and scholarship.
All photographs © Estate of Shepard Sherbell. Courtesy MUUS Collection.