// Anna is a photographer and artist from Chernogorsk, Russia. Her principal medium are analog collages, digital art, stopmotion and animations. Her conceptual project “Iron Gambit” references a time during the Soviet Union´s history when sexuality was strongly repressed.
Anna says that she takes pictures of everything that impresses her. It can be a person, an object, a colour, or just beautiful light. She studied art photography at a photography school, as well as painting. She enjoys experimenting with different materials, textures and colours, artificial and natural light to create atmospheric images. Anna also works in contemporary photography, shooting reportage, street photography and portraits. Her art touches on acute social themes of the past and present. Inspiration comes from various sources, such as music, books, paintings, movies, theatre, museums and galleries, and simply from her environment.
Her photos and photo collages have been exhibited in galleries and published in several international magazines. In 2021 she won a medal in the Dante 2021 Project of La Sapienza University of Rome. The Dante 2021 Project invited photographers interested in submitting photos freely inspired by the Divine Comedy, Dante’s themes and the figure of Dante himself. The best pictures, including Anna´s, became part of a prestigious photographic volume with an introduction by Piero Botiani, Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at the Sapienza University of Rome.
“What counts as art is what the ARTIST and at least one other person think.”
(from a lecture course on the history of modern art that Anna took)
What draws you to the arts?
“I love art in any form and am inspired by it. Film, photography, landscapes, literature, music, sounds, the world around me, and just people.”
What do you like best about your collage project ?
“I really like the graphic style of the Eastern European Avant-Garde and the minimal colors they use. The images in the exhibit lend themselves to being combined in multiple images. I experience art of all kinds, through photographing it. There is a rhythm to the activity as the images that I use are in close proximity to each other, there is an element of chance involved in the process.”
This is a project about the Soviet Union, in which, for several decades, open talk about sex was suppressed. Anna conceived this project based on the history of that period, her memories, showing details that made an impression on her.
There was at the time a harsh form of repression of sexuality by the authorities of the Communist Party. As she explains, attitudes toward sex in the Soviet Union changed over time, as did the country itself, to the point of being unrecognizable. After the fall of the tzar, along with the revolution came a period of unbridled sexual freedom and the emancipation of women. The institution of marriage was devalued. The number of children born out of wedlock increased, and there were many orphanages. But at one point the Party decided to discipline such love without boundaries. In 1924, the Soviet psychiatrist Zalkind published his famous Twelve Sexual Commandments of the Revolutionary Proletariat. The laws were getting stricter. Nude photos could now easily lead to imprisonment. Foreign sexologists were expelled from the country, sexual literature for young people was banned. In 1934 homosexuality became a criminal offense (this law remained valid until the collapse of the USSR). Condoms disappeared from the shelves. Abortions became taboo. In the early 1950s, 70% of maternal deaths occurred as a consequence of illegal abortions. Words associated with sexual intercourse became immoral.
Women’s appearance was strictly controlled by the Communist Party. It was considered indecent to wear brightly coloured clothes and to paint their lips. Cosmetics were scarce, you could buy it with rare exceptions, standing in a legendary queue for hours. From the author’s recollections: “Once a high school math teacher made a high school girl wet her hair with cold water in the school toilet – because she had curls. The only hairstyles allowed were braids, no loose hair. Even simple tights or nail polish could cause humiliation.” Young people were growing up and knew nothing about sexuality in marriage. More often than not, the topic of sex was limited to a little text about reproduction in the school textbooks. Sexuality was considered something dirty and taboo. It was a long period in the country.
Anna thought out every detail of this conceptual photo art project. The metaphorical dialect hides direct references to the symbolism of the era and provides variations in the perception of the same picture. For example, a tin can with a butterfly inside (see cover image) references the mausoleum on the red square as well as the feminine beauty sealed inside itself. The butterfly is used as a symbol of the soul, immortality, rebirth and resurrection, the ability to transform as this being comes into the world, changing itself from a mundane caterpillar into a winged celestial creature. The artist also decided to use a type of “product labels”, indicating the article, the serial number and the date of creation of the project.
Anna wants it known that she is not criticizing the political regime under which the vast country lived. Her idea is to combine a series of consecutive images into a coherent visual narrative, conveying to the viewer the atmosphere, the poignant aspects and subtleties of the subject: a theme of sexuality that was carefully concealed for a long time.
Images may be cropped for layout. Click on the photos to see a larger image with orginal proportions.
ALL PHOTOS © ANNA DYATLOVSKAY
To see more of her photography visit Anna´s Instagram page .
If you want to read more about the background to Anna´s series, there is an interesting article we found “‘There is no sex in the USSR!’ – what’s behind that mysterious claim?” by N. Vatolina, N. Denisov, in Russia Beyond, where you can also watch a snippet of the television programme where that phrase was coined.
2 replies on “IRON GAMBIT”
Thank you for the interesting collaboration and publishing my project!
It was our pleasure to feature your interesting art project.