Erotic photography is not the same as snapping a picture of somebody’s genitalia and sending it off into the world. Showing skin does not necessarily mean eroticism. And especially in countries which used to be part of the Soviet Union, where people were led to believe that “В СССР секса нет” (in the USSR, there is no sex), traditional and conservative attitudes have overpowered any desires to be cheeky.
Is it a coincidence that our current favourite photographers specializing in erotica hail from the post-Soviet space? Suppression triggers rebellion, and some of the artists included in this list have started their exploration of this theme solely because of that. Ignorance, persecution, repression, and degradation of sexual minorities and, well, sex in general, have led to the rise of a creative new generation of artists. Some of them are politically motivated, others focus more on human behaviour on its own, or just purely on aesthetics.
Whether you are interested to delve into the past, present, and future of the post-Soviet dealings with nudity and sexuality, or you are just looking for some beautiful erotic addition to your social media feeds: make sure you familiarize yourself with these 5 photographers.
The former USSR has never looked sexier.
Tbilisi-based Lasha bravely left the safety zone and has picked up queer photography in a country where the church is omnipotent and traditional values persevere. Showing his own vulnerability and openness was an important first step: growing tired of Georgia’s LGBT community being marginalized and voiceless, he decided there was only way for him to encourage people to be proud of themselves. This is when he started taking his own nudes, and simultaneously kicked off his new focus as a photographer. Partially connected to the rise of liberal club culture in Georgia, Lasha cultivated support, understanding, and a loyal following – some of whom also agreed to model for him. His work is pure and vulnerable, touching and honest, but most of all, relevant and important.
Lika, originally from Yerevan but based in the US, was already featured in a previous list of our favourite photographers. However, we believe her work is deserving of more exposure, because this is what delicate, erotic photography executed by a woman looks like. Often using beautiful, ethereal lingerie and messy textures such as hair, leaves, or threads, her photos embody femininity and depict dreaminess. She doesn’t shy away from working with earthy tones, which could potentially weigh down the shot, yet Lika makes it look exquisite. Also very well able to express her artistic vision in black and white, her work oozes elegance and vulnerability. Whoever manages to make a bulb of garlic look gorgeously fragile, like a ballerina resting in a ray of sunlight wearing a delicate white tutu, is a true photography genius.
We already predicted that he would make 2018 better than 2017, and yes, this Ukrainian photographer is certainly onto something with his raw but playful photos of mainly, yet not exclusively, women. Whereas some photographers in this list work with very polished and carefully selected props, light, and placement, everything in Nazz’s shots is seemingly plain coincidence. The grassroots rave scene in Ukraine is visibly one of his inexhaustible sources of inspiration; throw some 80s Bowie-inspired erotica into the mix, along with some gopnik and glamour elements, et voila – the Nazz cocktail is ready to be served. Best enjoyed with a good sense of humour.
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Hailing from Kyiv, Tania mostly shoots herself to give us a – sometimes touching, sometimes uncomfortable – insight into her mental state. With her degree in psychology and being diagnosed with a bipolar disorder, she uses photography to express her different states of mind and to deal with issues that occupy her, such as loneliness, fear, and sexuality. As is beautifully illustrated in her project How to handle [with] internal pain when you are alone, Tania’s photos show her inner struggle and pain. Continuing in the theme of pain, her series Nature is as grim as it is tender and captivating: using flowers to express death, Tania aims to show that floral beauty is as short-lived as the beauty of a young human body.
Azerbaijani photographer Sultana did a beautiful photo essay about a woman’s right to nudity and sexuality for Chai Khana. The wonderful, delicate use of light, the positioning of the girls, and the strong message supporting a woman’s claim to freedom in her own personal space make for this striking project. Portraying strength as well as vulnerability, this photo essay is a call for the complete outing of identity and equality whilst giving a finger to the patriarchy. Also excelling in urban and everyday photography, Baku-based Sultana additionally gives us an insight into the quirky and beautiful details of life in Azerbaijan, oftentimes featuring herself and her friends.