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The magazine of the art-form of the photo-essay “A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous!” Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
Sept 2014 back issue
Days of Melancholy Russia
by Tatiana Vinogradova
This series of portraits is focused on the life of gay people in Russia. It is a visual tale of melancholy, loneliness and uncertainty about the future. In Russia the level of intolerance toward homosexuality has been rising sharply.  A 2013 survey found that 74% of Russians said homosexuality should not be accepted by society. 16% of Russians surveyed said that gay people should be isolated from society, 22% said they should be forced to undergo treatment, and 5% said homosexuals should be “liquidated". In June 2013 the national parliament unanimously adopted a nationwide law banning "propaganda” -  the promotion of homosexuality to minors. Under the statute it is effectively illegal to hold any gay pride events, speak in defense of gay rights, or say that gay relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships.   This reality has driven the gay community underground, to the shadows. In Russia only 1% of the gay population dares to live openly. That is why the general mood in my work is dark and melancholic. The visual concept mirrors the idea that being gay in Russia is not a rainbow colored life. In our country rainbows have some very somber shades. I chose to take poetic, intimate portraits depicting an internal beauty of the characters. So let us take just a few minutes to recognize each other's beauty instead of attacking each other for our differences.
“I am the only son of my parents. If I tell them that I am gay, I will get nothing for myself, but they will be absolutely devastated. All sense of their life... just bang! … it will get rotten.”
“My mother's reaction was “it is a teenage thing, you’ll grow out of it, you simply haven't met the right girl yet.” The most ridiculous thing is I was already 26.”
“I can judge girls aesthetically, well, kind of like pictures in a museum.”
“My grandmother used to read Viy* to me as a bedtime story and I fell asleep.” * Viy is a horror short-story by the Ukrainian-born Russian writer Nikolai Gogol
“When my parents lived together, they wanted to build an extension, bought the dump-truck of sand and delivered it to our yard. Then they got divorced, but the sand still remained lying in the yard. So I had a sandbox, and all my friends always hung around with me.”
“I haven’t communicated with my mother for about 3 years. The reason is her homophobia. She said that people like me have to be killed, burned, castrated. It shook everything I knew about her and ever felt for her. It is strange that I was brought up by a person like her. How could I even have been born by her?”
“When you say to heterosexuals “you are not my sort of guy,” they are surprised.”
“Remember the magazine Rovesnik? Every month me and my mom went to Soyuzpechat* kiosk. And once Brad Pitt was on the cover. Actually, I don't like Brad Pitt... Anyway, mom bought me the magazine, and I took and kissed the cover for some reason. I can't explain why I did it. But mom was perplexed.” *Soyuzpechat is a network of press kiosks existing in USSR.
“I'm trying to prepare myself for loneliness, I don't cherish any illusions about surrogate mothers and mythical children that gays can adopt. I picture a scenario where there is no one to bury me.”
“When I was 6 years old, I told my mother that I wanted to pierce my ear. She asked again if I really wanted to do it and then did it. The next day for the first time I heard people calling me a "faggot".
“Love is like you have a compass inside which points to the north. And the north is this person.”
“In childhood I bred spiders, fed them with ants and watched how they grew. Then I played with them.”
“When it came to kissing a girl, I started laughing.”
“My grandfather was a very clever and acute person. I think I was about 9 or 10 years old, I don't remember, but once he asked me directly "Are you gay? " I answered like "What’s a gay?"
“Each gay person has their own heterosexual environment. And if you make this environment tolerant, accepting you as you are, that's the job done.”
“I’ve been walking alone since I was 7. There is a river called Volkovka near my house where the railroad and garages are. Before there were thickets instead of garages and I just went to these thickets until the end of the day. There were no people, people are an aggression.”
“I used to work in the criminal investigations department. You know how it happens, the colleagues say “Let's go to the steam bath, let's invite girls.” I answered “No thanks. I gotta go,” and people started to ask questions. Then they began to say to my face directly “What a police officer you are…” I had to leave my job because of this discrimination.”
“The meaning of life is to live your own life. Not someone else's, not illusory, but full. To breathe with two lungs instead of one and say “I don’t need my second lung.”
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