New East Digital Archive

Celebrating the radical beauty of queer bodies through a non-binary lens

28 June 2021

The photographic work of Roman Valynkin is enchanting in its blend of opposing energies: it’s bold yet sensual, tender yet fearless, intimate yet loud. It’s also unapologetically queer and fluid in its representation of gender, body, and desire. Based in Tbilisi, the Russian photographer and model is determined to carve a space for LGBTQ+ creatives who are deemed outsiders by conservative societies.

“Photography has been an integral part of my life since I was a teenager. I’ve always been drawn to visual self-expression, especially focusing on the body and gender as something fluid and changing,” says Valynkin. “The crucial moment in my career was the move from thinking solely about visuals to perceiving photography as a process and a craft dedicated to telling personal stories through interactions with others. I also switched from digital to film around four years ago, which was very important.”

Read more ‘Our bodies are our main weapon of resistance’: body positivity activist Miliyollie on fighting Russia’s beauty standards 

Valynkin started his creative career in Russia — first in Moscow, and then in St Petersburg. Both a model and a photographer, Valynkin spent several years exploring his non-binary identity and perspective on both sides of the lens. Then they moved to Georgia, throwing themself into collaborative projects with local and international queer creatives.

These collaborations are included in the upcoming exhibition PARTNERS in CRIME, due to appear at Fabrika Tbilisi later this summer. Valynkin shot images in Georgia that spoke to their search for belonging across borders. “As a photographer, I explore the body language and rebellious sexuality of my subjects through the lens of my non-binary perspective. At the moment, I continue my exploration of gender’s ephemerality, alongside my personal search for my place and soulmates.

Valynkin’s position as a Russian photographer recently arrived in Georgia adds another important dimension, and the exhibition is directly linked to the idea of queer collaboration and co-creation across two conservative societies.

“I invite my local collaborators for a visual dialogue. We are partners in crime against cultural prejudice. We accept our real selves which don’t fit into the clichés of traditional society,” Valynkin says. “All of us, regardless of citizenship or origins, have gone through so many challenges that transformed us. We are fierce and fearless. Uncompromising and radical. We are partners in crime and in the battle to be who we are”.