This series of portraits focuses on the lives of gay people in Russia. It is a visual tale of melancholy, loneliness, and being uncertain about the future.

In Russia, the level of intolerance toward homosexuality has increased sharply in the last few years. A survey from 2013 found that 74% of Russians said that homosexuality should not be accepted by society. Furthermore, 16% of Russians think that gay people should be isolated from society, 22% think they should be forced to “undergo treatment,” and 5% think they should be “liquidated.”

In 2013, the national parliament unanimously adopted a nationwide law banning “gay propaganda”—i.e. the “promotion” of homosexuality to minors. Under the statute, it is effectively illegal to hold any gay pride events, to speak in defense of gay rights, or to say that gay relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships. This reality has driven the gay community underground and into the shadows.

This extreme disparagement explains why this series, titled “Days of Melancholy,” is so dark. The aesthetic features of these photographs mirror the idea that being gay in Russia is not a bright or rainbow-colored life; rather, in our country, the rainbow is filled with somber shades.

Still, despite the harshness of the surroundings, I chose to take poetic, intimate portraits that depict the internal beauty of my subjects. I hope these photographs help us take a few moments to recognize the beauty around us and force us to recognize the consequences of attacking each other for our differences.

—Tatiana Vinogradova

Editors’ Note: For those interested in the subject of homosexuals’ struggles in Russia, we suggest looking at the work of Mads Nissen—courageous documentary photographs for which Nissen was awarded the World Press Photo of the Year in 2015.