A fascinating article in this weekend’s Guardian details the unearthing of hundreds of homoerotic images from the St. Petersburg Archive, a notoriously unkempt collection that contains images dating from 1860 to 1996.
The article focuses on Karl Bulla, a photographer “often referred to as the founding father of reportage,” and his sons, who carried on his tradition until much of the family mysteriously vanished under the reign of Stalin. According to researcher Dan Healy, among its other talents “the KK Bulla studio was the first to record the discreet gay culture to which tsarist Russia turned a blind eye.”
“What makes the Bulla photographs particularly striking, and may cast light on the
disappearance of Karl Bulla and the exile of Victor, is the unadulterated campness of many of the works. In the early days, they focused on the private world of men: candid shots of flabby torsos at the bathhouse or of fleshy sportsmen being prodded by faux physicians in a drawing room. Later, as the times became more martial, the models selected were Herculean men and Amazonian women posing as emblems of Soviet power.”
Many of Russia’s contemporary photographers have taken the newly-discovered archive and are using it as inspiration, reinterpreting the Bulla works.
Some of the contemporary images and the archival ones can be seen here.
Muscle Maryas [guardian]