Shellshocked Reindeer, Murmansk


World War Il planes bomb a hillside while a shellshocked reindeer looks on. Yevgeny Khaldei (1917-1997).

At the first glance, it is a typical image from the Ukrainian-born photojournalist Yevgeny Khaldei, who was famous for his photograph of the red flag above the Reichstag. Khaldei loved to document everyday life juxtaposed against images of war: he photographed a sunbathing couple next to a destroyed building, a traffic director next to a sign with German towns written in Russian, etc. 

However, the above striking image differentiating the killing machines and the nature grace of the reindeer was not ‘natural’. Like the flag picture, it was faked, according to “Witness to History: The Photographs of Yevgeny Khaldei”. During the bombing, a reindeer (later named Yasha) came out to be with the soldiers–the shellshocked creature didn’t want to be alone. During one of the air raids,Khaldei took the reindeer shot, but it wasn’t as dramatic as he assumed, so he later superimposed British Hawker Hurricanes, flown by RAF pilots to relieve Murmansk, and an exploding bomb to form a composite image. 

Why did he do that? It was Khaldei’s take on the German offensive to capture Murmansk, codenamed Operation Renntier (Reindeer).

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