The Russian Museum of Photography is a municipal cultural institution of Nizhny Novgorod. It is the first state museum of Russia devoted to the history of photography and at the same time one of the youngest museums of the city. It was established on September 21, 1992. The first director of the museum was Vladimir Voytenko, ITAR-TASS press photographer.
The museum is located in the building constructed in the early 19th century as a rental unit belonging to a merchant. The premises served for home and work for two world-famous photographers – Andrey Karelin, a remarkable art photographer (1837–1906; lived and worked in the building from 1873 till 1881), and Maksim Dmitriyev, an outstanding press photographer (1858–1948; lived and worked in the building from 1886 till 1929). On the first floor of the building there was a photographic studio designed in such a way that its roof and streetward wall were made of glass. M. Dmitriyev’s family lived on the second floor, overbuilt in 1880s. His phototype laboratory was situated on the ground floor.
At the moment the original design of the photographic studio is lost. Nevertheless, a custom-design project has recently been developed at the request of the museum for the purpose of reconstruction of the studio and restoration of the architectural and historical image of the building.
At present the museum is responsible for the operational administration of all three floors of the building.
The ground floor houses the permanent historical exhibition. Here visitors are invited to:
- form an idea of the city on the borderline of the centuries by virtue of the photographs made by A. Karelin, M. Dmitriyev and their renowned contemporaries;
- retrace the history of photographic cameras manufacturing technology by contemplating camera obscura and pinhole cameras, wooden box cameras, “Agfa”, “Zeiss-Ikon”, “Voigtländer”, “Kodak”, “Leica” cameras, Soviet cameras of the 20th century;
- have a look at the photographic darkroom used for analog printing;
- learn how people used to entertain and terrify themselves and others 100–200 years ago by means of a magic lantern, admire 3D effect with the help of a stereoscope, kaiserpanorama dummy and holograms.
One of the key items of the exhibition is M. Dmitriyev’s wooden transportable camera with 45х55 cm picture size made in Moscow in N. Klyachko’s workshop under the supervision of a renowned physicist, D. Yezuchevskiy, in the late 19th century.
Temporary exhibitions are on the first floor. As a rule, the exhibitions change every 2–3 weeks.
In 2016 the operational administration of the second floor was transferred to the museum so that the museum has now a chance to expand its historical exhibition and improve its structure.
Extra activities of the museum:
- various festivals – regional, national (“Svetopis’”, since 2011) and international (“Volzhskoye Biennale”, since 2004);
- numerous off-site exhibitions;
- the educational project “Nizhny Novgorod Photoschool”;
- the photographic association “MiG” (since 2007; 16 members of the Union of Photographers of Russia);
- a photostudio;
- workshops concerned with theory and practice of photography;
Within the period from 2007 to 2010 the Russian Museum of Photography also served as a platform for annually held Russian Photographic Youth Festival.
The Russian Museum of Photography is subordinate to the Department of Culture of Nizhny Novgorod City Administration. The premises are listed in the Cultural Heritage Monuments Record of Nizhny Novgorod.