Sex and the Soviets: Nikolay Bakharev’s Brave Portraits

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In a land not so far a way, at a time not so long ago, there was an actual ban on looking at naked people. Seriously. I know it sounds barbaric and halfway impossible, but trust me: I’m talking about the Soviet Union in the pre-Internet age, when it wasn’t so easy to defy whatever silly government regulations might be put in place. Nude images were so illegal that there was an actual black market in place for porn. And not even porn–just pictures of nude people without any implicit sexual meaning attached.

That’s where photographer Nikolay Bakharev comes in. Bakharev wasn’t a photographer by trade–he had a day job. He worked full-time as a locksmith and mechanic in Novokuznetsk, a city in West Siberia. But he had a secret profession: He took pictures. Illegal pictures of nude and semi-nude men and women during a time when the strict censorship of images by the government turned the production of art into a serious risk. The result is a group of honest, striking photographs, taken mostly in the ’80s and ’90s, of an otherwise undocumented part of a lost era.

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About The Author

Henry Giardina is FourTwoNine's Senior Editor

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