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Exhibition: Iron Closet by Misha Friedman

  • FotoWeek Central 2801 16th Street Northwest Washington, DC, 20009 United States (map)

Photographer: Misha Friedman
Curator: Evey Wilson
Courtesy of The Pulitzer Center

About the Exhibition:
Being gay in Russia is lonely and extremely dangerous. Homophobic rhetoric is encouraged by the state. Violence and discrimination are tolerated.
Although homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia more than 20 years ago, it remained classified as a mental disorder until 1999. In the last few years, homophobia has significantly worsened. According to a recent official poll, 80 percent of respondents oppose gay marriage. 41 percent say they support
discrimination based on sexual orientation. 20 percent consider gay people dangerous and say they should be "isolated from society.” Only 3 percent of respondents say LGBT people should be able to raise children.
An amendment to Russia's Child Protection law passed in June 2013 criminalizes what it calls “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors.” Its ambiguity and selective use effectively make it illegal for any kind of gay event to take place or to even mention acceptance of homosexuality in public.
As Putin's regime blames the West and its values for the wrongs in the world, social groups and religious organizations promoting traditional family values are on the rise. LGBT communities have been forced to retreat.
Hate crimes are on the increase. Gay activists are routinely attacked. The police turn a blind eye to reports of murders. Coming out can lead to overt discrimination such as violence and being fired from your job.
Hundreds of LGBT people, viewed as “enemies of the people" by the government, are leaving Russia and seeking asylum in the United States. Photographer Misha Friedman documents how members of the LGBT community in Russia live under these conditions. They are prisoners in their own homes, hiding their identities, afraid to live a full life while looking for hope elsewhere.

Photographer's Bio: 
Misha Friedman was born in Moldova in 1977, and graduated with degrees from Binghamton University and London School of Economics, where he studied economics and international relations. He worked in corporate finance and later in humanitarian medical aid while teaching himself photography. Friedman’s analytical approach to storytelling involves trying to look beyond the facts, searching for causes, and asking complex and difficult questions. Sometimes he succeeds.

Friedman regularly collaborates with leading international media and non-profit organizations, including the New Yorker, Time Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Amnesty International, and Doctors Without Borders. His widely-exhibited work has received numerous industry awards, including multiple grants from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Friedman lives in New York City.

About the Pulitzer Center: 
The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting is an innovative award-winning non-profit journalism organization dedicated to supporting the independent international journalism that U.S. media organizations are increasingly less able to undertake. The Center supports journalists to cover under-reported topics, promoting high-quality international reporting and creating platforms that reach broad and diverse audiences, including education programs to reach students of all ages.
When Joseph Pulitzer III became editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch a half century ago, he said, “Not only will we report the day’s news, but we will illuminate dark places and, with a deep sense of responsibility, interpret these troubled times.” In keeping with its deep ties to the Pulitzer family’s legacy of journalistic independence, integrity, and courage, that same mission and deep sense of responsibility drives the Pulitzer Center, in times just as troubled.

On view at FotoWeek Central