National Geographic : 1977 Aug
than 340 illustrations appearing in Journey Across Russia: The Soviet Union Today. For this volume alone-produced by the Society's Special Publications Division-Assistant Editor Bart McDowell and I crisscrossed that sprawling nation for some 30,000 miles over a period of two years. What is it like to work as a photographer in the Soviet Union? To a journalist accustomed to freedom of movement, open access to all segments of society, and the right to follow a lead where ever it goes, the task can be near maddening. To accomplish anything at all, one must learn to live with the Soviet view that journalism is an instrument for the promulgation of state policy. The idea of a free press, as we know it, is foreign, mysterious, even repugnant. It is small wonder that I was often thought of as a kind of spy-why else would I be there? I have been watched. I have had plain clothes police in my hotel rooms, pleasant but firm about not photographing from the win dow. I have been placed under citizen's arrest twice while taking pictures (and quickly re leased twice), and while I do not enjoy being suspect, I understand it. Russians have been suspicious of foreigners for centuries. At times, if I tried to photograph a pic turesque horse-drawn sleigh, or even a queue outside a shop, a bystander would object, demanding, "Why don't you photograph our monuments or our museums?" Point ing a camera at a rural oxcart, many Rus sians feel, constitutes malicious propaganda, demeaning their country's great industrial achievements. But then, just try to photograph those industries! Once I flew to the town of Mirnyy, deep in Siberia, 2,500 miles from Moscow. My official hosts graciously allowed me to photograph the schools, shops, streets, hospital-almost everything except the mining and processing of diamonds, which was my sole reason for going to Mirnyy. There is a list of rules-both written and implied-stating what one can and cannot photograph. At times such rules are not en forced, but one is always aware that they might be. Ordinary People Hard to Meet It is a perpetual challenge to reach beyond the permissible, to seek simple meetings with average citizens, to observe and photograph significant situations not in the "program" prepared by your official hosts. I recall the thought expressed by George F. Kennan in his memoirs, about returning to Moscow as U. S. Ambassador in 1952: "Never did I long more for the privilege of 258 Bedrock hospitality marked most Soviet deal ings with the author. At Lake Teletskoye-a source of the Ob River-a picnic host offers the ubiquitous vodka, bane of journalistic concentration. Staff writer Robert Paul Jordan, back ground, offers cigarettes to the local game warden. Age differences often re flected changing attitudes. After photographing a fam ily that took him skiing (right), Dean learned that the older woman had viewed him with distrust. The children, innocent of earlier cold wars, eagerly sought his return.