In this Follow of the Week, we spotlight photographer Dima Zharov as he identifies, dismantles, and plays with gender norms as part of his ongoing photo project on Instagram.
Zharov started with conventional self portraits about two years ago, soon after he quit an office job. But eventually he switched to nude photography; a visual testimony of his inner journey towards finding alternative forms of masculinity. “With every shot I take I feel I leap forward,” he says.
The photographer mainly captures himself in his home setting, exploring how experimenting with one’s gender identity fits in a conventional day-to-day reality. Over the past 10 years, Zharov has lived in typical Russian communal flats, dotted with Soviet memorabilia and furniture, which provide a striking contrast with Zharov’s daring poses.
Many traditional men feel uncomfortable with his pictures. “To photograph yourself is not worthy of a real man. My behaviour breaks stereotypes and sometimes triggers aggression,” Zharov explains. Yet, the artist remains defiant. “I keep exhibiting myself on purpose, to remain difficult and free,” he adds.
The entire project remains the photographer’s primarily personal liberating practice, he explains. As a result, Zharov hardly ever collaborates with others, either as a model, or photographing other men — for him, self-portraits stay the most candid and effective form of self-exploration. “I need my own body [in a shot], because I know that I can do anything with it.”