In the history of photography, there are numerous examples of artists working with a single model over an extended period of time and later building a comprehensive project around the images of that person. In such cases, the model becomes a muse, a friend, a collaborator, and sometimes even a co-creator. These relationships help the photographer to surpass themselves in a certain way and often become the signature of the author. Juergen Teller worked with Charlotte Rampling, Robert Mapplethorpe captured Patti Smith, and Man Ray photographed Lee Miller.
Nikita, whom Ukrainian photographer Marina Frolova discovered in a small Ukrainian town, the name of which she prefers not to disclose, became precisely such a muse for her. After a three-year hiatus in photography, she started photographing this subtle boy with an androgynous appearance. The result of the intimate connection between the photographer and the model is a project that merges the divine and the national.
Photographer. Exhibited in Ukraine, Italy, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
— Currently, I live in a small town where vulgarity, narrow-mindedness, fanaticism, and homophobia thrive. Sometimes it feels like this town is stuck in the 90s. Most men resemble thugs, women emphasize their hips and breasts to demonstrate readiness for procreation and childbearing. Everyone is preoccupied with satisfying basic needs. If you’re different from the rest—whether it’s in hair length, orientation, or something else—you’ll be insulted or beaten here.
My channels of perception are clogged, and I yearn to escape from this unhealthy society into my inner world. One of the ways of self-preservation for me is through photography. When there’s nowhere to run, you involuntarily start seeking beauty and constructing your parallel universe.
I came across Nikita on Facebook, and the first question I asked was how he manages to survive in this city. Nikita is a very delicate, sensitive, well-read person, and it’s not easy for a guy with such an appearance to live in such circumstances. For me, a person with a similar worldview here is a gift of fate, and we quickly became friends.
For me, a person with a similar worldview here is a gift of fate.
When we met, I wanted to start photographing again after a three-year break, and he needed photos for his portfolio. I simply wrote to him, “Nikita, you are stunningly beautiful, let me take your pictures.” At first, I was only thinking about the visual presentation; I was interested in experimenting with color and form. After a month of shooting, the meaning of the series began to emerge. But it’s only now that I have managed to plan several key shots that I will be able to take in about a month.
Nikita is perfect: infinitely beautiful and graceful, like sunrise, fire, sea, or sky. In our work, we reflect each other, and he understands me instantly. We laugh a lot during the shoots.
I enjoy creating an image that can be easily read by everyone, that is icon-like and archetypal, but that also introduces a touch of discomfort into the viewer’s consciousness. In this case, the provocative link is Nikita himself. I don’t expect to dismantle the world of homophobia and fanaticism, but it would be good if I could slightly shake his invincibility. Additionally, through this project, I am exploring my personal relationship with “God” and the “God” within myself and the surrounding world. (I am not religious and have a rather ironic attitude towards various faiths.)
The project includes a fashion component. Nikita and I have shot several campaigns for Ukrainian fashion designers and plan to continue doing so. However, we only accept orders that appeal to us in terms of clothing style and mood. I enjoy shooting fashion stories, and we make a great team.