Russian artist Alexander Kargaltsev’s photographs display the full rage of male masculinity, showcasing with his diverse subjects just how broad the spectrum of sexuality and gender can be.
His images are also an act of defiant resistance against the political system both abroad and here in our own nation.
An artist, writer, photographer, actor and film director, Kargaltsev immigrated to the United States in 2010 and received political asylum because of the Russian government’s persecution of gays and lesbians.
Kargaltsev “uses his art to serve as a sharp stick in the eye to Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay gaze.”
His 2012 book Asylum documents the rebirth of young Russians who have found political refuge in the United States because of persecution in their own country.
During the Sochi Olympics, Kargaltsev earned worldwide recognition when he responded to a controversial photo of Moscow gallerist Dasha Zhukova. In the original image, Zhukova sits on a chair made of a semi-nude black woman with her legs up in the air.
In a bid to reverse the “visual injustice and offense” of the Zhukova photo, Kargaltsev reshot the image with a naked black man sitting on a naked white man on his back with his legs aloft.
In an interview with Out There magazine, Kargaltsev said he found Zhukova’s image “appalling and unacceptable.”
“I was forced to flee my native Russia because of ubiquitous homophobia and xenophobia, and it deeply saddens me to see that racism is now being glamorized and thus made not only acceptable but trendy by the likes of Ms. Zhukova.”
Kargaltsev continues to document the diverse queerness all around him, profiling his subjects at their most vulnerable. His images portray male masculinity and femininity with equal strength and stoicness. He currently lives in New York City.