Gay, Russian and Naked, by Alexander Kargaltsev
2HeadS means “Nude Thoughts on Photography”. And this work by Russian born Alexander Kargaltsev is a unique statement on that. In 2HeadS there’s no space – no time and no energy either – to label people more than humans. We don’t believe in original sin or in different size of brains due to race, gender, sexuality, eye colour or nationality. We do know that there are people among them all with smaller brains though.
I’m talking about what happened recently in Uganda, Russia or Iran. Or what happens in the world that is against any Human Rights, or decency, no matter if in China or United States.
2HeadS doesn’t judge, but will always stand by the Human Rights, and Human Culture, no matter where. We like to think positive and we believe that spreading a positive message is important, if not vital. Uganda, Russia, Iran, China or United States, all of them have their issues and also positive parts – even though some more hidden than others. But we do have to fight for human rights. Iran for example has one of the richest cultures in the world: Persian, which is often forgotten by the international media because blood sells more than culture.
Russia too. Russia always had the most amazing ballet dancers, musicians – right now I’m listening to Evgeni Kissin, for example – painters, writers… and now it’s time to show some more contemporary work. Without censorship.
Persian photographers came out from the country and have been doing an excellent work, as a bold statement on their own culture, as I wrote in the article Persian photography.
Russian photographers are also in their quest to be heard. Some of them fled away as well.
Recently Alexander Kargaltsev answered to a not very happy image of Dasha Zhukova being photographed sitting on a chair shaped like a black woman, with a photograph of a naked black man seated on a recumbent white man. And he stated: “I was forced to leave Russia because of the discrimination I experienced as gay. I’m disappointed that the tradition of xenophobia is so strong in my home country that such an image of Ms Zhukova can appear as if it is normal and unremarkable. Russian people do not seem to realize when people offend the principle of color, nationality, sexual orientation and so on.”
In fact, since I know Alexander’s work, long time ago, his work has been always a human right’s statement. In each of his nudes, it seems that he’s saying: “I’m here, I’m naked, I’m gay and I’m made of the same blood as you”. They play, they face the camera. They’re human and they show it. They are there to show the world that they too exist like any one of us. And like any of us they are made of the same vulnerable material: skin. No matter if I am gay, black, with green eyes, ginger hair, or even born in Russia. And that’s what I like the most in Alexander Kargaltsev’s work/statement: its rawness, natural nakedness, intimacy, with an almost “I don’t give a shit to what you think, but it hurts me what you say” kind of mood. They are there as he is. And if you don’t like, you only have to go and eat anywhere else. But that doesn’t mean that they will not remain there. And that Alexander will ever stop. As we hope not. We need rawness, frontal nakedness, as we need people who are not afraid to stand for what they believe. For a better world. Without small brains attached.
But people are too committed with labels. And they seem to need approval for what they say or think. They even think that they look smart when they express their opinion when sometimes they only look smartish, which is almost as bad as being imbecile. Recently I saw a post about Alexander Kargaltsev’s polaroids. With the most pathetic comments. The first thought I had was: “and if I would post Kargaltsev’s polaroids saying that they were done by Andy Warhol, a pack of polaroids that no one knew till now… people would freak out and say “wow, so brilliant”.” But no, even thought they could have been taken by anyone else like Warhol, they were taken by Alexander with the same intention. And result. But his name is not Warhol. He’s Kargaltsev. So he’s not in the top 10 world artists. People can say whatever they want because they didn’t hear about him and he’s gay and Russian.
“The models’ nakedness is a powerful visual statement imbued with symbolism. They are not nude but naked, for they had courage to shed the many layers of fear and come out to the world uncovered, vulnerable, yet proud.”
Wrote Alexander Kargaltsev, who’s ‘Asylum’ Photographs captures Russian gay men who fled to the U.S.
The poignant new exhibition, Kargaltsev’s subjects, all Russian gay men who fled violence and discrimination in their homeland, have all been shot fully nude against iconic New York settings such as the Unisphere in Queens and the “Alice in Wonderland” statue in Central Park, but the end results are more striking than sensual.
Their naked bodies thus also reveal their experience as refugees, for every person seeking refuge rebuilds his or her life completely ‘naked,’ starting from scratch with no family or friends and often without the language they can speak or understand.
Alexander Kargaltsev is an artist, writer, photographer, actor and film director. In this last capacity he won many prizes including his short movies, The Cell (2010) and The Well (2009), both made when the Moscow-born author held a scholarship at the All-Russian State University of Cinematography, the home of most of the greats of Russian film since Eisenstein and before. Despite the many academic distinctions Kargaltsev has won, his films do not breathe the air of scholarly fustiness. Rather, they speak an individual language of refined imagination, fantasy and beauty of form. Kargaltsev is already a mature artist with a mature voice and a consummate and assured technique, which can both astonish and move.
Photography has been a passion since his boyhood and he has built up a remarkable body of work since that time. He works in all photographic media, including with film, video and digital images, but he is especially fascinated with Polaroid. Initially, his work was based in Russia with his friends as models, with some of his finest work being stills from his movies. He has created a photo-record of himself since adolescence and he has produced a number of extraordinary series of images: naked in a forest glade, sipping from a pool of water; or as a teenager on the balcony of a dacha, eyeing obliquely like a young Bacchus a luxuriant basket of fruit. The element of fantasy is strong, teamed perhaps with austere, yet fantastic elements which verge almost on the masochistic: nude forms in the snow; weird groupings of toy robots; two semi-nude men standing in a chimney vent, an image recalling Samuel Beckett in some respects; various combinations of beautiful men and voluptuous ladies in verdant surrounding. Beautiful, controlled and highly memorable.
Kargaltsev’s range has even expanded since he won a schoarship in New York Film Academy and moved to New York City in 2010. His fascination with the naked body in urban surroundings has been given full rein with marvellous portraits in Central Park and with his round dances of African Americans in an industrial wasteland, like a Matisse in the Bronx. But his portraits of the city are also remarkable in their depth and intensity. He experiments with shape and form and in some of his Polaroid shots he has distressed them by scraping and reprinting them to produce shadowy and mysterious, ghostly images. Some of his more recent work has drawn on imagery from his earlier movies. The artist on a roof clutching a string of balloons and the forlorn pierrot, another model naked on the same roof, clutching the same balloons, his pointed party hat like a cuckold’s horn. Kargaltsev is young enough to bring out images from childhood, from fantasy, with an innate and refreshing vigour, but stamped with a maturity of utterance and presentation which is truly innovative and remarkable.
-> book your Portfolio Review! here.
Preview and Purchase now:
“The Sacred Book of G” is a stream of consciousness, a thought provoking intimate journal written byGonzalo Bénard. After 3 days of brain death he reborn with a deep loss of memory. He reborn without any sense of his past — of his own roots — of his own self. Before that he’d spent his time creating defences to disguise his autism. He had lost it too. New born G had no memory and no defences.
“I, Energy” is a book on Cosmic Consciousness, Quantum Physics and Old Shamanism written by Gonzalo Bénard who not only lived in Himalayas with shamans and in a Buddhist monastery but also in the Western Sahara with old shamans. A guide on healing and transcendental meditation and how you can master your own mind, leading yourself the collective consciousness.
Gonzalo Bénard is a lecturer, author, tutor of autistic teenagers, and a visual artist.His photography has been part of the annual programs of several universities around the world, mainly about the seriesOneness, Nudes and B Shot by a Stranger, and are in several private and public art collections such as Museum of Serralves, Cultural Centre of Cascais or Sir Elton John’s.
His photographs are also being used in Hollywood productions and TV series and you can see his work of photography at his webpage.
Follow @GBenard on twitter for daily updates.
Feel free to comment, ask or share any article on 2HeadS everytime you feel that you can add something interesting and positive to the articles.