Jessica Werneke


  • Lecturer in History
  • British Academy Newton International Fellow

She received her BA in History, Russian Language, and English Literature from the University of Iowa in 2007. In 2015, she graduated with a PhD in Modern European History from the University of Texas at Austin, with an emphasis on Visual and Cultural Studies in the Soviet Union. From 2016 to 2018 she was awarded a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship from the International Centre for the History and Sociology of World War II and its Consequences at the NRU Higher School of Economics in Moscow. She is currently a Newton International Fellow of the British Academy specialising in Soviet photography.

Each of her research projects explore the intersections of social, cultural and political history in Soviet photography after World War II. Her dissertation and forthcoming book manuscript “Visualizing the Cultural Thaw: Soviet Photography and Photojournalism in the 1950s and 1960s” examines how photographers were able to publicly question the legacy of Stalinism in photography, and how modernist photographic trends in art photography from the 1920s and 1930s re-emerged in 1950’s and 1960’s photojournalism. She also explores how the unique political and cultural context of the 1950s and 1960s impacted photojournalism and amateur photography during this period.

She is currently working on three projects related to photography in the late Soviet period: a comparative study of amateur photography clubs in the Russian Federation and the Baltic Republics from the 1950s though the 1970s; an investigation into the logic of Soviet photography theory and how Soviet critics interpreted photography as a medium connected to, but separate from, art; and a case study of a Latvian photographer who was charged with producing and distributing pornographic photographs. This final project focuses on KGB reports and investigates how anti-pornography legislation was enforced locally in the Soviet periphery in the late 1950s. More broadly, her research interests include Soviet amateur culture, censorship in the Soviet Union, as well as gender and sexuality in Soviet visual culture.


  • “Soviet Photography in America: An Introduction to the New York Public Library’s Slavic, East European and Baltic Collection,” Slavic and East European Information Resources, Vol. 19 (3-4), pp. 1-30, 2018.
  • “Nobody Understands What is Beautiful and What is Not;” Governing Amateur Photography and Photography Clubs in the Late Soviet Period,” Photography and Culture, accepted for publication, pp. 1-32.
  • “Reimagining the History of the Avant-garde: Photography and the Journal Sovetskoe foto in the 1950s and Early 1960s,” The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review, Vol. 44 (3), pp. 264-291, 2017.
  • “Sovetskoe foto and Photography Clubs in the Late Soviet Period,” Studia Culturae: Journal of the Faculty of Philosophy of St. Petersburg State University, No. 3 (29), pp. 65-72, 2016.
  • “Ogonek and Photography in the Late Soviet Period,” Vestnik: The Journal of Russian and Asian Studies, 18 (Fall 2015), pp.1-27, 2015.

Forthcoming Articles:

  • “Censoring the Periphery: Photography, Pornography, and the Criminal Case of Iosif Aleksandrovich Schneider,” Journal of Baltic Studies, forthcoming 2018.
  • “‘Snap’ Judgements: Photography Theory and Practice in the Post-War Soviet Union,” Photographies, forthcoming 2019.
  • “The ‘Modern’ Photojournalist? Soviet Photography and Aesthetic Influences in the 1950s and 1960s,” History of Photography, forthcoming 2019.

Other Publications, Digital Humanities and Selected Collaborative Projects:

  • Historical Advisor, “Sex in the USSR,” Directed by Chad Gracia, Gracia Films, 2018.
  • Review, American Girls in Red Russia: Chasing the Soviet Dream, Julia L. Mickenberg, Revolutionary Russia, 31 (1), 2018.
  • “The Lithuanian SSR Society of Art Photography: Photographic Organizations in the Soviet Periphery,” Peripheral Histories Blog, 2018.
  • Author, Editor, Designer, Sovetskoe Foto Blog, 2017-Present.
  • “From War to Peace: Five Soviet Photojournalists You Should Know,” Russian Life, September/October Issue, 2017.
  • Consultant, ZIL Cultural Centre, Moscow, Russian Federation, 2016.
  • Review, The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography and Early Soviet Film, Susan Tumarkin Goodman and Jens Hoffmann eds., Revolutionary Russia, 29 (1), pp.124-126, 2016.
  • Consultant, Soviet Photography Collections, New York Public Library, 2016.