Fedya Ili, being a Russian cosmopolite, tries to discover each city in which he lives and find its soul. In 2015 he presented ‘Naked Petersburg’ – the first city in this series of Souls. After Paris and Berlin, ‘Naked Tel Aviv’ – portraits and interviews of local guys. Each person tells the story of his relationship with the city, posing undressed on the streets – revealing the soul and beauty of their personal connection.
Naked Tel Aviv
Falling in love with your hometown. But the question is: are you part of the town or is the town part of you?
Sandro Kortekaas, Co-owner, Mooiman Art Gallery
In 2015 Fedya Ili published the catalogue ‘Naked Petersburg’, containing both intimate photographs and statements of the people portrayed, which mirrors the contemporary social environments in St. Petersburg, Russia. In the new catalogue, ‘Naked Berlin’ is following the same concept. The statements aren’t that different from those of the Russian men. Obviously the treacherous security of one of Europe’s gay capitals, Berlin, is about to abscond. The dystopia of the gay mens community is noticeable. The artist threw a cast shadow of a random situation at the present. And he had chosen men, who are usually not in the focus of glitter and glamour of todays lifestyle mags and portals.
The artist’s sensibility, a rarely found instrument of today artists, grants these portraits a reliability, not only in terms of the artistry. The artist becomes a chronicler of social environments.
This project will be continued: In the second half of 2016 there will be published the 3rd catalogue, this time with portraits of men living in the French capital. ‘Naked Paris’ will be the next impressive testimony of Fedya Ili.
‘Naked Paris’ – black and white analogue portraits and interviews of Parisians. Each person tells the story of his relationship with the city, posing undressed on the streets of Paris – revealing the soul and beauty of their personal connection.
Paris is the city of love. She is this gorgeous lady with a classic and ageless charm, with her Haussmann buildings and her cobblestone streets which seem to have been made for romantic wanderings. There is, however, another side of hers yet to discover. The bright damsel can act cold and distant to her new lovers. As if you have to earn the right to walk along her streets. Making friends proves difficult, circles are already made and closed, people are not engaging. The struggle is real. The spleen of Paris, the grey of Paris. Think of the metro, this lively and adventurous maze will in no time become the obnoxious, introspective and sad experience we probably all share. And it is really painful to swallow the sorrow caused by this complicated love.
Yes Paris, I love you. I wish the best for you. I want to cure you. I want your people to laugh all day. I want your rainy days to put a smile on their faces. I want your hectic lifestyle to be joyful, not stressful. I want you to be bright.
Often, the blame is placed on the ‘Parisians’. Some ungraspable entity made of folks of all places and backgrounds. Some have lived here all their lives, while others have come for a lover, a future, a dream: full of hope. Who are they, these so-called Parisians that take the blame? They are you and I, they’re every one, and they’re no one in particular. They are the people settling in the city. And they are open, craving for new friendships, holding onto bags full of dreams. These dreams remain behind the walls we all build to protect ourselves from rejection. I believe that we should stop picturing a cold Parisian crowd – instead of looking at Parisians as a global picture, we should look at them individually. They are individuals trying to survive, holding onto vivid dreams, seeking human warmth.
Naked Paris is about digging into the core of people and capturing humanity. Through photos and interviews, we encounter unique individuals’ modern love stories with Paris. We are able to glare at their natural beauty while they expose their naked bodies and souls out in the streets. This is what I’m fighting for. Even if I inspire just one person to reflect on himself and his life, I would consider myself successful. Maybe this could lead to more and more Parisians opening up. I believe we could make Paris a city of love not only in name. We can start a revolution: I’ve heard ‘Frenchies’ are good at those.
A master of portraits, Fedya Ili beautifully pairs the sights of the city of St. Petersburg with a revealing look at it’s men, while offering us a glimpse of their outlook and the issues they face as gay men in Russia today.
Billy Mecca, Founder & Creative Director, Summer Diary Project