Juri Rupin, Us, 1971. Silver gelatin print, MOKSOP collection
Women always appear in Kharkiv photographers’ images. But who are they — those models, acquaintances, wives, colleagues, who are always near but seem to remain in the shadow of men?
Roman Pyatkovka, from the series Sleeping Car, 1991. Silver gelatin print, MOKSOP collection
The taboo subject of the naked body made it a forbidden fruit in Soviet times, requiring considerable trust between the photographer and their model. It was usually close friends or good acquaintances who could be persuaded to pose in such shootings.
Boris Redko, Untitled, 1990—1991. Silver gelatin print, MOKSOP collection
It was not uncommon for local 'bohemians', coffee shop regulars, to get into the lens. In between joking, discussing photography, and drinking coffee, photographers took pictures of conspicuously attractive ladies, such as Lyolya Pospelova in this photo.
Gennadiy Tubalev, Lyuda, 1971. Silver gelatin print, MOKSOP collection
Lyudmila Ivanova must have been the only woman in the Kharkiv Photo Club at the Trade Unions House of Amateur Art, attended by all members of the Vremia group. She first came to the club meeting in late 1967.
Oleg Malyovany, Autumn Love, 1980. MOKSOP collection
However, we do not know her works. She became famous primarily as a heroine of numerous pictures of Kharkiv artists — Boris Mikhailov's, Gennadiy Tubalev's, Oleg Malyovany's.
Valentina Bilousova, self-portrait. MOKSOP collection
Among the participants of the landmark photographic event of the 1980s, the 'F—87' exhibition at the Students Palace of the Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute, there was only one woman — Valentina Bilousova. But, as quoted by researcher and curator Halyna Hleba, "she quickly left art photography, having realized the high professional level of her male colleagues and the fierce competition inside the Kharkiv photo community."
Juri Rupin, Anxiety, 1973. Silver gelatin print, MOKSOP collection
The subject of motherhood, traditionally poeticized in culture, gets rough handling from Kharkiv photographers. In this solarization, picturing the photographer's wife, Olena, feeding their newborn child, Rupin captures all the fears and fatigue that are inevitably present in the realities of motherhood.
Oleg Malyovany, Memory, from the series Tanya, 1971. Silver gelatin print, MOKSOP collection
Tetyana Sitnichenko, one of the wives of Oleksandr Sitnichenko, a member of the Vremia group, became the central image in a series of photomontages by Oleg Malyovany in 1971, as well as in his color equidencity The Trio Act (1972).
Viktor and Sergiy Kochetovs, Bathing Without Running Water, 1979. Silver gelatin print, MOKSOP collection
Some of the Kharkiv artists’ wives worked with photography directly: for example, Viktor Kochetov's wife Zoya retouched photographs and made photographs for documents at 'an integrated service center' — a typical Soviet establishment that provided a variety of basic consumer services (tailors shop, laundry, hairdresser, etc).
Evgeniy Pavlov, Ukrainian Night, 1994. Silver gelatin print, MOKSOP collection
Tetyana Pavlova (PhD in art history), Evgeniy Pavlov’s wife, is a professor at the Arts Academy. She was the first researcher who paid attention to the originality and significance of the phenomenon of Kharkiv photography and began to study it.
Sergei Solonsky, Untitled, mid-1990s. Silver gelatin print, MOKSOP collection
Vita Mikhailov, Boris Mikhailov’s wife, has become his partner in various walks of life. At 'The Forbidden Image' exhibition in one of the PinchukArtCentre halls, he wrote a dedication to her: "To my victim and my executioner, to my angel, without whom this and many other things in my life simply would not have happened."
Viktor and Sergiy Kochetovs, Vereshchakivka, 1994. Silver gelatin print, MOKSOP collection
In the mid-1990s, along with Boris Mikhailov, Sergey Bratkov, and Sergei Solonsky, she took part in provocative, stinging actions by the Group of Immediate Reaction which interpreted the Ukrainian political realities of the day with devastating irony.