Right now, it’s incredibly difficult to be an LGBT person who lives in Russia. In June 2013, the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin signed the ‘Russian LGBT propaganda’ policy into law “for the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values”.
However, despite this description, it meant that LGBT people would be able to do things like hosting Pride parades or just being open about their sexuality or gender identity in general. And it’s true that being LGBT isn’t illegal in Russia but with laws like this that limit LGBT expression, it may as well be.
But Russia wasn’t always like this as although it has never been the most progressive place on the planet, couples like Natasha and her partner Lyudmila were just getting by.
They live in Saint Petersburg and do normal things that couples do; they spend time with family and friends, look after their two children (Lyudmila’s, from a previous relationship), they break up, they make up and they live. And this is what photographer Misha Friedman wanted to capture when met them in 2011.
Friedman explains that the capturing of photos happened naturally and that he would spend a few days with them or an entire week at a time, developing a connection with them – after all, he has to spend a lot of time in their personal space to take these. The photos he took (between 2012 and 2014) were to be compiled into a recently published book called Natasha and Lyudmila – Russian Lives, and they are of various formats and colours according to what camera Friedman used across the two years.
Although the photographer explains that “the story happened [in Russia] he explains that “it would be the same here [in the US].” He also states that as the two women are “part of [his] life” and that these photos are “just a start.” We could see more photos then, which will hopefully shed more light on the positive side of the Russian LGBT community and not just the laws that oppress them.