Lyudmila and Natasha

Russian Lives

From the celebrated documentary photographer, a collection of photographs that powerfully capture the intimacy of a relationship between two women in Russia

“Love is understanding, respect. Love is everything. Without love a person is dead. It’s happiness, it’s sorrow, it’s laughter, it’s tears. It lives right here, where the soul is, a little blob, that’s where love lives.”
—from Lyudmila and Natasha

The photojournalist Misha Friedman is renowned for his efforts to capture life in contemporary Russia, documenting subjects as varied as political corruption, the dangers of coal mining, the tuberculosis epidemic, and the Bolshoi Ballet. In publications ranging from the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, and the New Yorker, Friedman’s grimly evocative black-and-white images—“intimate, behind-the-scenes photos” (Time)—have been credited with capturing moments of intense pathos, bleak existence, and human dignity. He has received multiple international awards for his unflinching lens and his intrepid reporting.

For his new collection of photographs, Lyudmila and Natasha, Friedman trains his lens on a gay couple living in Saint Petersburg, offering a series of intimate snapshots of their relationship as it unfolds over the course of a year. Faced with a hostile political climate, financial difficulties, and often unstable living arrangements, the subjects of this stunning book reveal the possibilities for love in the most uncertain of times. With the fabled city of Saint Petersburg as its backdrop, Lyudmila and Natasha powerfully evokes both a vital place and the people who call it home.

Lyudmila and Natasha was designed by Emerson, Wajdowicz Studios (EWS).

Praise

“A movement is comprised not just of organizations and achievements won but lives affected. The specificity, beauty, loneliness, delight, and challenge of LGBT lives is the subject of this moving book. By witnessing moments in the lives of two Russian lesbians over one year, photographer Misha Friedman and artistic director Jurek Wajdowicz have produced an emotional and historical archive that tells a particular story of two women and a larger ongoing story of desire and its place in social justice. These lives and images are unique, infinitely variable, unruly, powerful and mundane, tender and urgent, fierce and lovely.”
—Urvashi Vaid, author of Irresistible Revolution
“Beyond and against images of victimhood and victimization, Misha Friedman presents Lyudmila and Natasha as complex individuals in a complex world. This is precisely what the representation of Russian LGBTs are often lacking, and Friedman effectively fills this gap: his photography acknowledges multidimensionality and embraces the contradictions of the contemporary subject.”
—Yevgeniy Fiks, artist
“Photography can make a powerful contribution to the spread of tolerance simply by making people visible to each other. That is just what Lyudmila and Natasha does, without fuss or frills.”
—Peter Galassi, former chief curator of photography, The Museum of Modern Art
“Misha Friedman’s soulful collection of gorgeous portraits and fly-on-the-wall reportage pulls you in slowly, invites you to linger, and leaves you dying of curiosity to know more about these two women in love, living in a perplexing country where even the most banal public display of being themselves—living, loving, fighting, splitting up, kissing and making up—now means flouting the law.”
—Joseph Huff-Hannon, co-editor, Gay Propaganda: Russian Love Stories

News and Reviews

Quartz

"Friedman’s book—which contains portraits taken from 2012 to 2014—is a meditation on the lives of these two women as they live, love, break up, and get back together."

The New Republic

In its review, The New Republic says Lyudmila and Natasha "will resonate for some and will hopefully help pave the way to tolerance for others."