What does gay life look like in Moscow, or Berlin, or Tel Aviv?
Shot in August 2018. 13 interviews, 15 guys in 52 pages. Presented with two covers.
Yes, I was a student at the Moscow State University.
Generally, this society is becoming more conservative or rather, more orthodox. The government can’t or doesn’t want to “deal” with the gay community. It won’t engage in dialogue and tries to create laws in order to shield itself from the concerns and dislike of the people. They (the government) are not worried about you having sex with the same gender or getting married to it. They worry only about potential alliances being formed that could pose a political threat to their rule. That is why public demonstrations are not an option – we can’t stand united. The present political power is trying to preserve itself by eliminating the competition, including protest groups as well as the gay community. The lack of community is a special feature of Russian culture, unless it is an artificially cultivated community. That’s why our society is so underdeveloped and that’s why any self-formed community is impossible in Russia.
...Want to make God laugh – tell him about your plans. On one hand I can’t be without a job. On the other I would like to live by the beach. That is why my plans are to have a job that can travel with me. I would like to buy a house in a village somewhere. But with how things are today, I keep on coming to the same conclusion that the house should be on the Lenin-Prospect (Moscow City).
I have been living in Moscow for a year. There is plenty of entertainment here for those who wish to waste their life away. All these “fun” places are easily accessible, unlike in towns outside of the Moscow Ring Road.
If you feel at home in Moscow, life is great.
...I belong to the category of people who do not want to move abroad. My life revolves around my personal life and my family. Five years from now, I wish for us to have our own place, settle down there, travel, experience adventure and simply lead a nice and stable lifestyle. I definitely do not want children. I do not support the idea of two men raising a child. Look at our gay community – not all people should have children.
...I flew to visit my mother a while back. We were sitting in the kitchen when I said, “Mom, I am living with another man.” She replied, “This is your life. Live with whomever you want.” And since then she has always been asking me how we are doing. She asked about my partner at the time and later about my new partner. She was very worried when my ex and I split up.
...Honestly, never in my life have I experienced any homophobia. Probably I have been very lucky. To a certain extent, I agree with the law about protecting children from being exposed to information on homosexuality. They should not be guided towards homosexuality simply because they may be curious. If it is inside a person, one will find their way to it regardless of their social upbringing and influences. I felt it in my essence. It did not occur to me when watching TV. I just realized at some point that I like guys.
Anton and Vladimir
Ever since I moved to Moscow 13 years ago, I never hid my sexual orientation. Neither in the office, nor on the street. I have been living next to my neighbours for about 8 years now. They are a young heterosexual couple and we are very good friends.
Should gay marriage be legalized in Russia? I don’t know what benefits that would bring. We are fine with how things are. We don’t necessarily need a stamp in our passports. I have no problem telling people that he
is my husband without all the paperwork. As for the hospital, then I’ll just be alone. If we decide to have a child, we will just make that happen. A marriage certificate would simplify my life only in an administrative
way and for legal purposes. It would not enforce any rules or protect our human rights.
...With gays, things are different. Today we have an amazing sex life. Four years from now, it vanishes. In five, we are just friends. So what’s the point? Throughout our whole lives, we would be getting married, then divorced, then married, then divorced. Of course, we want marriage but that’s because we can’t have it. If we could, that would be another revolution in the history of Russia. ...Sometimes we can hold hands at the movies and make out. People stare, whisper something to one another or throw a dirty look at us. That’s their problem.
...Russia will get there when our generation will be about 70 years old, when people born during the time of the Soviet Union are gone. My life’s philosophy is that I live here and now. We do have some short- term plans but starting something serious like buying an apartment, getting a dog or kids, that’s not our thing. We are just living and enjoying life.
Exhibited in 2019 in Berlin (The Ballery)
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
Shot in July 2017. 5 interviews, 22 photos in 38 pages.
Tel Aviv is a city of paradoxes to me. It is full of opportunities, both wondrous and treacherous. Although I really miss my home, I have found everything I need here in Tel Aviv. I’m trying hard to make this my home too, though I don’t always succeed.
I’m constantly caught struggling between loving it here, and feeling unsuccessful, unwanted and like I don’t belong here. I remember a day
I was feeling the latter; I wasn’t sure what I was doing, if I was on the right path, and I was feeling lonely and isolated. A friend convinced me to get out of my apartment and we went to the beach for a morning swim. At the beach, I wound up running into another friend... and then another friend... and then another! I wound up staying until sunset, drawing warmth and nourishment from all those around me. It reminded me of one of my favourite things about living here: it’s such a small city that you can always expect to run into friends, from different areas of your life – everyone goes to the beach!
I love this city. Everything is possible here. On the other hand it’s a very intensive place, you have to live fast, be in a rush all the time. I was born in Jerusalem. I didn’t feel that it’s okay to be gay. It was very hard for me to accept it. But I found a job close to Tel Aviv and moved there. I started going out and seeing guys holding hands on the streets, discovering the gay community around me. That made me feel okay, I’m not weird or different, there are other people like me. That time I came out.
Shot in April 2016. 14 interviews, 28 polaroid images in 46 pages.
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.
I’ve lived here for 3 months. I know the city from before, but only for partying. And Berlin has more than that, so many cool places and culture. I’ll stay here until November and then I’m going to make a short world tour. I love to travel and I hate winter, and in November winter starts.
I can’t say where am I in a few years. Maybe I go to London next week and live there. Who knows. My aim is to work as a stylist but I cannot say, maybe in the future I want to do different things in the fashion industry, but I’m not sure. So I keep my mind open. Vienna has not lived to my expectations. Berlin has more open people, more sex. And it is the city where you can find some good sex, plenty of sex and varied sex. Being gay here is really easy. It was nice to live in Vienna for seven years, but now I need different people. And I never had any troubles here or in Vienna. No people are confused with my sexuality. And I don't live gay life, really ‘normal’ gay life.
I ended up in Berlin by accident – I just wanted to visit a friend but I stayed. I am happy to be here. No reason to leave yet. I dream of becoming a bigger star. I love my job and what I can achieve with it. Back then when I was living in Bavaria I was always that ‘strange gay boy’, talking way too much, especially in inappropriate situations. But now I can use this quality to bring joy to the people. Being on stage, talking nonsense, making 300 people laugh is a very special feeling. Sometimes I start to cry while dj-ing because there are very touching moments. You put on one single song and the whole place is freaking out. Wonderful. The city helped me to become who I really am. I think that’s another reason why I do not want to leave. I have a lot of possibilities, maybe more as in other places. I see no reason in hiding who or what I am. Sometimes, when I’m in drag, it so happens that people have the need to scream ‘faggot’ or ‘Scheißtranse’ when they see me. And I’m like ‘Yes. Right you are. But hey: I knew that already. Thank you anyway’. Maybe they need to hear that they are stupid or assholes because I think they are NOT aware of what they are. Every problem with homophobia is a real problem because it is here. It is reality. And me being who I am, standing for what I feel, might be a little part in a new world where love is just love.
This is the first time I've lived on my own. I’ve never lived alone before. So my goal is to be independent financially, more stable, to find a proper job in architecture. I don’t think I’m ready for any new relationships. But I need company, a good friend, somebody I can spend time with. I don’t really have close friends. It is really hard to make friends here. I feel as if for white people it’s much easier.
I made a trip to Germany in 2012 and met him then. After we visited each other twice a year. And the only way we can stay together was to get married. And we did it in Berlin, when I came here again a year and a half ago. We had a small wedding, like 30 friends, most of them from his side. I had only 4 friends of mine. My parents couldn’t join because they work for the government. We rented a boat and had a small wedding on the boat. And I was very happy, we never lived together and immediately got married. I was nervous and thought it won’t work. And now my worries came true. He is German. We have different lifestyles. He prefers to stay at home and I like to discover the city and go out. He is 46 and cannot be changed already, he knows what he wants. We had to follow his rules. Last year the life that I dreamt crashed. Nothing stable. You can’t be sure about anything.
Once, we were at Görlitzer Bahnhof. And because we were holding hands, some drunk people on the platform spoke to us: ‘Do you fuck each other?’, something like that.
For Dirk and I the situation was quite simple. We have been for three years together by that time. Of course, not everything was perfect in our relationships; we had fights as a part of normal process of learning each other. However, after two years together we considered ourselves as a couple for the rest of the life. We found each other, fit each other and didn’t want to change anything.
I was finishing my studies in Germany so we started to think how I could stay with him. Because after the graduation I had to go back to Russia. In 2001 a new law about same-sex partnerships was past in Germany. It was far from being perfect, more responsibilities than rights. But for us it gave a possibility to stay together in Germany. It was a big deal for me, because for example in Russia almost no one knew about us. We got everything planned quite fast and decided to have a ceremony in Braunschweig because they made their ceremony in the Town Hall and not in a notary’s office as it was required in Bayern, where we were living at that time. We were one of the first gay couples there so we had to learn this new law well. But actually everything was quite simple and fast. I had my Mum and Dad at the ceremony and they found good vibes with Dirk’s parents. We had about 70 guests at our wedding. Everyone was amazed. A lot of friends... There was a funny moment when we were driving wedding cortege. We were both in dark blue suits. And people were looking inside the limousine and were very surprised – they couldn’t see a bride.
‘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.
Shot in May 2016. 11 interviews, 24 photos in 38 pages.
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.
Paris is a monster but you always have something to do. My first months here were really crazy. Because I was always outside, I slept 2-3 hours a night. And with parties, alcohol and drugs you have to be careful. I live in the center of Paris, where you can do what you want. For 16 years, before moving here, I was really relaxed with a calm life outside of Paris. The house and pets – that kind of laid back, traditional vision of couples. Now I am trying to make a new life, to find new sensations. I just need to balance all the exciting things, to just enjoy life, be in love, and that’s all.
I don’t think I could leave Paris. Because each time I go to this or that place here, there is always something amazing. And I like the life in Paris. But I think my future is really very simple – just to be in love, to be close to my family and my friends. I don’t need too much money, just some travel sometimes and that’s all. And maybe I’ll have a child. I don’t know. I’m 41, so maybe in 2 or 3 years, I’ll have something with a good guy.
The new law about gay marriage 3 years ago was very hard for me because the entire gay community discovered that the French are not so open-minded. We always have to be careful with everything we have because one day we could lose it, like the freedom to love a man or a woman. When I’m holding my boyfriend’s hand on the street, sometimes people make negative remarks. But, I approach them and tell them directly to treat us with respect.
I’m back in Paris to start all over again. The first time was not really a commitment. I just passed through, got a few jobs and had fun. The second time worked out better – I met someone and became an actor. But then I decided to leave Paris because I didn’t want to live here anymore. We began building something new in Brittany. Things evolved. Now this is the third time. For me, Paris is the place where anything can happen. You can always meet new people and have new opportunities. One thing I really want is for a novel I’m writing to be published. Writing is my commitment.
I don’t want to be anywhere else. I never get tired of Paris. I don’t do much. I don’t go out much on the gay scene. Sometimes to bars. But I never get tired of this city. At the same time, I don’t have many friends: about 5 here in Paris, but precious ones. It’s not easy to make them here. ‘Me time’ is important for me, so that takes up quite some time. I came out when I was 19. At the time in France, it was not easy, but it was possible. It is easier now. People generally just don’t care, but professionally, it was a big issue. At my job, once they discovered that I was gay, they found legal excuses to fire me. The boss was a lesbian from the old generation. She hated gays. You can be gay and homophobic. That’s a fact. That was the main reason I lost my job.
My life changed. Actually, my brother did not win his fight against the disease. Ever since, I haven’t been the same. I do not see life as before. I learn little by little to live with... or rather without. I know that every day that passes is a chance we get to fulfil our dreams, to live life as we have always wanted. My brother always believed very strongly in me, especially in my chances as a model.
Recently, I agreed to a few casting calls, had some pictures taken, and I’ve also been working out to put the odds on my side! So yes, one of my ambitions is to succeed as a model, to give everything to my brother, so he is always proud of me. I still see his eyes when he told me all the good he thought of me, and I melt. I imagine myself in a musical. This exercise helps me, and makes me feel better.
My life-long dream is to start a family because having a nice and loving family is just incredible luck. If I had to keep one goal in my life, it would be to create my own family.
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
Shot in August 2015. 15 interviews, 30 photos in 38 pages.
Of course I would prefer to live in warmer climate like Barcelona. And I like my job, so would continue doing something similar there. But to say the truth, I don’t have any exact plan.
I want to be happy. Want to have a man in my life who gives me a bunch of lovely moments. Live in pleasure and be able to see the world.
I have no idea about my future. I live today, never have any plans for the next week.
I plan to spend a few years here to develop my creativity, and then try to move further to European or American theatre.