In a society in which the church plays a major role, it is still a taboo to talk about topics like sexuality. In her photo series Zenth, Margo Ovcharenko (1989, Russia) connects religion and sexuality, two topics typically considered separate by society, even though they are actually rather intertwined.
Religion is made visible in Ovcharenko’s images of ruins of abandoned churches in Moscow and churches that have been built since 2010. According to the photographer, these account for the national trauma of religious persecution and the current governmental sponsorship of Christian Orthodoxy. Religion’s counterweight, sexuality, is brought out through portraits of young individuals and intimate family life scenes, in which emotional interaction and sexuality play a central role. By sequencing these images together, Ovcharenko questions the missing link between intimacy and religion.
The way in which the people are photographed, which seems naturalistic rather than posed, adds to the pureness of the pictures. When looking at the intimate life scenes, you feel like a voyeur, interrupting people’s lives and environments. “I don’t want to transform people to make them more or less attractive. I put the stress on light, color and silence”, the photographer explains. By focusing on the pure and supernatural aspect of love, Ovcharenko is able to connect the apparently conflicting themes of religion and sexuality. This connection is strengthened by the use of light circles, which refer to halos and the way in which saints and miracles are portrayed in religious art.