Dmitri Baltermants' shot "Rain" shows a different side to the photographer's work

  • @gillian_orr

Dmitri Baltermants is best remembered for his grim coverage of the Second World War, his black-and-white shots depicting the horrors of conflict.

Born in 1912 in Warsaw (then part of the Russian Empire), as an official Kremlin photographer, he worked for the newspaper Izvestia, and was twice wounded covering events such as the Battle of Stalingrad. But this shot, appearing in a new exhibition, Primrose: Early Colour Photography in Russia, shows a different Baltermants at work.

Little is actually known about the shot. It is thought to have been taken in the former Yugoslavia during an official visit made by Khrushchev, but no one is certain. Baltermants' archive is so huge that not every picture comes with details. Even its title, "Rain", was given to it by his daughter after his death in 1990. But, says Olga Sviblova, curator and director of the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow, what we do know is that, "It is really significant and part of a series of late works where Baltermants began to show his personal vision of the world, as opposed to the official order."

The photographer was one of the first Russians to experiment with colour in the late 1940s. At the time, colour film was very expensive and could only be developed in professional labs. "Obviously the print has faded over time, giving it this beautiful, bleached look, but the original colours must have been pretty similar," says Sviblova. "The composition is outstanding. And the unexpected point of shooting is typical of Baltermants' style. I think it's genius."

'Primrose: Early Colour Photography in Russia' is at the Photographers' Gallery, London W1, to 19 October