In recent years, Russia’s LGBTQ+ community has become more visible than ever before. Since the country’s so-called “gay propaganda law” came into place in 2013, there is no space for LGBTQ+ representation in the cultural mainstream. Instead, grass-roots organisations, queer-friendly venues, independent media outlets and individuals with the courage to be open about their identity have pioneered a different kind of representation — and Russia’s youngest generations are passionate about expanding freedom and equality across the LGBTQ+ spectrum.
In LGBTQ+ culture and history, lesbian identities often remain underrepresented and overlooked. Being a lesbian in a patriacrhal society means facing both homophobia and sexism, and a lack of community spaces. And while lesbian oppression remains underexplored, so are lesbian joys: be they lesbian love, style, creativity, or simply real human stories.
Russian independent queer culture magazine O-zine has taken on a mission to change that dynamic. They commissioned photographers from across Russia to take portraits of prominent people from the lesbian community in local queer-friendly venues. Taken as a whole, the project creates a collective portrait of Russia’s lesbian community: candid, authentic, warm, and diverse.
“We chose to use Polaroid-style photography to highlight the intimacy of this project,” writes O-zine editor Maria Łacińska. “We gave our subjects and the photographers total freedom to express themselves. That’s how we were able to get different shots with different atmospheres: some very precise, some candid, some very pensive, some playful. It’s an approach allows us to show what lesbian community is like beyond the stereotypes.”