Markov-Grinberg was a notable press photographer working for a variety of newspapers and magazines in the Soviet Union during the 1920s and 1930s. This type of photography was seen as an extension of state-directed propaganda aimed at a largely illiterate population.
In 1934, Markov-Grinberg traveled to the mining town of Gorlovka, where he lived and worked with the miners for ten days. Although it is unknown in what context this image would have been reproduced, it is clearly related to the Stakhonovist movement in Soviet society, at its height during the mid-1930s. Named for a coal miner who reportedly produced 10 percent of the mine’s daily output during his six-hour shift, Stakhonovism was a concerted effort by Soviet officials to boost worker productivity to meet the ambitious goals of Stalin’s Five Year economic plan. Nikita Izotov, the “distinguished” miner from the major Soviet coal-producing region, the Donbass in Ukraine, strikes a heroic pose and symbolizes the nobility and power of the Soviet worker, as well as an example to be emulated by his fellows.