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Courtesy of 

Sergei Stroitelev

Unity and Diversity

Highly Commended

Sergei Stroitelev

The Dreamers (looking for love in the darkest times)

Tbilisi / Batumi (Georgia)

The situation with the rights of Russian LGBTQIA+ people began to worsen in 2013, when the government adopted a law prohibiting the propaganda of pornography. Several very absurd administrative and criminal cases were initiated by the courts. Police also started to persecute LGBTQIA+ NGOs on the basis of this law. In 2022, during the war with Ukraine and the general trend of rejecting "the pernicious influence of the West" promoted by the pro-Putin media, the government tightened the law and banned any propaganda of LGBTQIA+ relations, which made it even more dangerous for the community members to stay in Russia, especially if a person decided to live openly and talk about their identity publicly, for example, in the social networks.
Therefore, it is not surprising that a lot of representatives of the LGBTQIA+ community decided to leave the country. Within the framework of this portrait based story, I have found couples - representatives of the Russian LGBTQIA+ community who left the country to Georgia, the most popular destinations for Russian migration during wartime because of the visa free regime. I have made intimate portraits of the couples exploring their vulnerable mental state during the current darkest times. I have captured their emotions somewhere in between the old life that has not finished yet and the new chapter that is about to begin. All the characters of the story hope to find the right path in the context of the ongoing events and inner peace by the means of love. Is it possible at all with all these scars that the past leaves behind? The title of the project refers to Bernardo Bertolucci's movie "The Dreamers" in which the director is exploring protest in the form of the escapism into physical and mental closeness.

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