From early April to early May, 1972, I had the very good fortune and
grateful privilege to travel independently through what was then part of
the Soviet Union and one of its satellites at the time, Poland. The
occasion for this month-long visit behind the Iron Curtain (as this part
of the world was known during the Cold War) was as part of my
post-doctoral studies into the nature and relationships of the apple and
its kin. This visit and, indeed, my other travels and work throughout much
of western Europe from 1972 to 1973 were made possible with the financial
support of the William Frederick Dreer Award, administered by Cornell
Although much of my effort then as a young research
botanist came to naught because my subsequent career took a more
horticultural and, later, administrative turn, the opportunity to visit
and photograph ordinary life behind the Iron Curtain during my off-work
hours still has great documentary and sentimental value for me.
Fortunately, a number of the images which I was able to capture on film
have survived the many moves and turns my life has taken over the
intervening years, and I am happy, finally, to be able to share some of
those images here.
of the images in this and subsequent exhibits focusing on my time behind
the Iron Curtain were made with a Zeiss Ikon B single lens reflex camera
and a variety of 35 mm black-and-white as well as color films of the day.
If memory serves me correctly, most of the images appearing in this
particular exhibit were cast with Agfa film; a review of the film itself
by an expert in such matters would be required in order to ascertain more
particulars in this regard.
my itinerary had to be planned and approved in advance of my visit to the
Soviet Union and Poland, I was still quite surprised and pleased with the
freedom with which I could make my own way between work places and
lodgings, as well as wander on my own on weekends and holidays. Only in
one place, and only in one direction at that place (the foothills of the
Tien Shan Mountains, outside of Alma Ata, Kazakhstan), was I ever
requested not to use my camera.
And although I was
surely viewed with some wariness by the local people, I felt free to
photograph them whenever and wherever I wished, and did so, hopefully
staying within the bounds of good taste and respect for others. After all,
although I was “without portfolio,” I still felt keenly the weight of
representing my country and way of life in a responsible manner.