PARTNERS IN CRIME- The Opening of a Queer Exhibition of Analog Photography. By Roman / Ramona Valynkin at Untitled Gallery Tbilisi, Georgia
Exclusively for KALTBLUT! Photographic work of the Russian Queer photographer Roman / Ramona Valynkin is electric in its blend of opposing energies: it’s bold yet sensual, tender yet fierce, intimate yet public. It’s queer, sophisticated and unapologetically fluid in representation of gender, body, and sexuality.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE SIGNATURE OF YOUR QUEER PHOTOGRAPHY?
My favorite thing is to play with the essence of different genders and to do it provocatively. For me, sexuality goes far beyond the binary. I see radical beauty in the way we move, in the ways our body language translates different emotions and vibes with its shapes and curves.
I try to blur the lines between what is feminine and what is masculine. I embrace both. I consider myself to be the quintessence of both.
And this is how I prefer to see my characters, to interpret their personalities and embrace their sexuality through this non-binary lens.
WHO ARE THE PARTNERS?
Queer people are all partners. Our main goal is to find our tribe, our family. Because we, the queers, get to choose our families. And I see it as a blessing.
I’ve tried to do things on my own for a long time. I’ve tried to be an independent artist. And it worked, but to me it wasn’t as satisfying as it could be.
It was a real eye-opener to realize that I was distancing myself from interactions and experiences with others. And in Georgia, I’ve grown enough to break this pattern and invite people back into my art and my life in general. Co-creation is the most badass and the most empowering way of telling your story as an artist.
WHAT DOES CRIME STAND FOR?
Crime, in this context, is metaphor for a challenge. Both in Russia and Georgia, and in the whole post-Soviet world, perception of challenges is twisted and stigmatized. People are paradoxically scared of facing challenges, let alone overcoming them and learning from mistakes.
With my photography, I’m trying to demystify this negative stereotypical imprint around challenges and risks. I try to welcome risks into my life. Because that’s what makes our everyday reality vibrant and meaningful.
And as queer people, we commit such ‘crimes’ on a daily basis. We go against the grain, we provoke the public eye and we don’t conform. We tailor our own narratives.
And to me, the ability to grow with every challenge becomes our superpower. Because that’s what makes us risk-takers — adjustable, fearless, and non-conforming.
WHAT IS YOUR MAIN MESSAGE WITH THIS EXHIBIT, WHY ARE WE ALL PARTNERS IN CRIME?
To me, the biggest challenge with this project was to break through the national and cultural biases that twist and complicate interactions between people. In my case, it was tension between me as a visitor and the locals.
Here in Georgia, I have grown to realize that I’m not defined by my origin, by my nationality, by my culture. I can’t change it. It is the way it is. Who I am and what I do is bigger than that. So I’m losing these labels and focusing on the things I can change and improve — the way I interact and collaborate with other people, the impressions that I make on them.
This is a reminder to my queer allies: we must stop neglecting and discrediting people based on their cultural and national background.
IS THERE A MEANING TO AN OPPOSITION OF LIGHT & DARKNESS?
Yes, there is.
Based on my interpretations, darkness stands for the process of self-discovery and rediscovery. And why darkness? Because it is happening inside of us. We have to start with ourselves. This is the first step and the first stage of a ‘crime’ against the traditional values and norms — to question yourself.
Light stands for the advanced levels of ‘crime’ — what we do in public, both individually and hand in hand with our partners.
Drag as a very empowering art form. It makes me feel free. It allows me to be the best, the most fierce and badass version of myself. It is therapeutic.
I prove to myself that I can be whoever I want to be and there is nothing wrong with that. It helps me to keep my life values in tune with my essence and choose what works for me best. And it constantly pushes me to go on and on, rediscovering myself over and over again. Drag is what brings excitement, meaning and joy to my life.