(LA Blade) Since the passage of the measure known colloquially as the “gay propaganda law” by the Russian parliament and signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2013, which ostensibly makes any act or event that authorities deem to promote homosexuality to minors illegal and punishable by a fine, it has had a broader scope of enforcement by Russian authorities.

The overall effect has been chilling on the country’s LGBT community to freely express itself in public spaces, which has led to a partial return to circumstances of existing underground in Russian society, although not to the degree as was the case during the era of the former Soviet Union.

The more pronounced effect on chilling freedom of expression has been the legislation deployed by authorities across Russia to prevent LGBT Pride parades and detain LGBT activists.

The passage of the law has also been accompanied by an increase in anti-LGBT violence in the country, according to The Russian LGBT Network and Human Rights Watch, both non-governmental organizations which advocate for LGBT civil and human rights.

However, the law has also had a detrimental effect on scores of Russian artists, photographers, filmmakers and others who fear running afoul of the interpretation and application of the law by ofttimes homophobic authorities. There are those in the greater Russian artist community who have chosen to openly defy Russian censorship and the draconian “gay propaganda law.”

Earlier this month, Vlad Zorin, a Chelyabinsk, Western-Central Russia-born artist and photographer published his first book of art photographs that depict intimate portraits of gay men alongside stories about their coming out, sexual awakening, romantic relationships, heartbreaks, and dealing with life in an anti-gay nation.

Zorin, who divides his time between the French capital city of Paris and Moscow, spoke with the British bi-monthly magazine i-D about his book titled, “With Love from Russia.” Contributing i-D editor Douglas Greenwood wrote in a piece published about Zorin’s work:

With Love from Russia — which Vlad worked on with curator Andrey Lopatin and supporter Ksenia Arturovna Chilingarovafor — is as much about identity as it is about sex. To compile it, he spent months traveling across his homeland, tracking down participants via social media, armed with questions about their ‘Firsts’ and ‘Favourites’. But what unfolded is a bleak and revealing portrayal of what it’s like to navigate queerness in isolated places, and how that can ostracise you even further from the few people you have close. There are stories of brief teenage encounters, girlfriends, discovering pornography, heartbreak and, for some, eventual contentment.

Zorin’s website notes: “Vlad’s artistic language was formed from the analysis of male sexuality, sensuality, and youth experience. Such projects as Hare and God, inspired by Vlad’s partner and muse Yulian, became a personal manifest of love and public call for freedom. Vlad explores the themes of personal freedom, the new generation experience and the reflection of sexuality.“

“For me, it was important, firstly, to give the Russian male audience the opportunity to see their ideas about sexuality from the outside — with all the problems that are present in our view, which is why the book contains the Russian language,” Zorin told i-D’s Greenwood.

“I wanted it to include English to enable foreign audiences to expand their ideas about sex and sexuality in post-Soviet Russia and because the main message of the book lies outside national borders,” he continued. “With Love from Russia is a book that invites you to reflect on your sexuality, listen to yourself and your desires, compare them with others’ experiences and draw parallels.”

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