Russian photographer, Vlad Zorin, has explored forbidden gay experiences with a visually stunning photo book, ‘With Love from Russia’, risking his life to capture the stories and images of his countrymen.

Travelling the Russian countryside over several month, Zorin tracked his participants down through social media and was determined to capture the essence of homosexuality in some of the most rural parts of Russia.

Advertisement
Russia is a challenging place to live as an LGBTQI person. Even though homosexuality was declassified as a mental illness since 1999, there are no anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBTQI Russian citizens.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Vlad Zorin (@vladislavzorin)

In 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law the country’s gay propaganda law that is used to target and harass the LGBTQI community. A shocking report from NBC last year detailed the findings of a survey from the Levada Centre which found that one in five Russians said they wanted gays and lesbians ‘eliminated’.

Photographer Risks Persecution For His Art

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Vlad Zorin (@vladislavzorin)

Vlad Zorin, was born in Chelyabinsk, a city in west-central Russia, and became a photographer at the age of 13. He moved to Moscow at the age of 15 and now divides his time between Moscow and Paris.  Zorin has had quite a bit of success with his photography career, holding his first exhibition, “Hare” in Moscow in 2019.

He has also collaborated with some huge names and publications including the Elton John AIDS Foundation, shooting an ad campaign for French brand Ludovic de Saint-Sernin and Swarovski Crystals and interviews with Vogue Russia and GC Germany.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Vlad Zorin (@vladislavzorin)

In an interview with Douglas Greenwood for i-d vice, Zorin described the inspiration for the book. He detailed a trip to Paris as the catalyst for his project, which was curated by Andrey Lopatin and supported by Ksenia Arturovna Chilingarovafor.

Advertisement
“My desire to have these frank conversations arose after my trip to Paris in 2020. There, the first thoughts about the project were born: I watched the Parisian guys accept themselves and their sexuality, and was struck by how sexually liberated they are, [especially] in terms of tactility. It seemed to me that they have almost no taboo topics in conversation about sex.”

From Russia With Love

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Vlad Zorin (@vladislavzorin)

“So, upon returning to Russia, I began to draw parallels with myself, with my childhood, youth, in which there was no place for talking about it. I wanted to know whether it was possible to discuss sex honestly and sincerely as a gay man in Russia. Could I be a part of it?”

Unexpectedly for Vlad, he also ended up as one of the subjects of his project, realising that he had a story of his own to tell. “At the start of the project, I felt like I could not. Only after listening to these stories did I manage to become an active subject in this conversation. This is how my revelation came about, and why my own is the last story in the book.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Vlad Zorin (@vladislavzorin)

“I realised that my artistic style has always been an attempt to overcome the barrier that existed inside: the fear to speak openly and freely about sex. In the book, I spoke for the first time, thanks to each of those who spoke to me.”

A publication filled with stunning images of Russian men, ‘From Russia with Love’ offers an insight to the challenges and experiences faced by young Russian men in a country where many wish they didn’t exist.

© Star Observer 2022 | For the latest in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, be sure to visit starobserver.com.au daily. You can also read our latest magazines or Join us on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.