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TED2014

Uldus Bakhtiozina: Wry photos that turn stereotypes upside down

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Artist Uldus Bakhtiozina uses photographs to poke fun at societal norms in her native Russia. A glimpse into Russian youth culture and a short, fun reminder not to take ourselves too seriously.

- photographer + visual artist
Russian artist Uldus Bakhtiozina creates magical photographs of whimsy and irony. Asking questions about gender and cultural stereotypes, she presents the world with humor and thoughtfulness. Full bio

Good afternoon.
00:12
My name is Uldus.
00:14
I am a photo-based artist from Russia.
00:15
I started my way around six years ago
00:19
with ironic self-portraits
00:22
to lay open so many stereotypes
00:25
about nationalities, genders,
00:28
and social issues —
00:32
["I am Russian. I sell drugs, guns, porno with kids!"]
["Vodka = water. I love vodka!"] (Laughter) —
00:33
using photography as my tool to send a message.
["Marry me, I need a visa."]
00:36
Today, I am still performing in front of the camera
00:41
and trying to be brave like Wonder Woman.
00:44
I focus on balancing meaningful message,
00:48
aesthetic, beauty, composition,
some irony, and artifacts.
00:51
Today, I'm going to tell you about my project,
00:57
which is named Desperate Romantics.
01:01
They're my artifacts, or paintings
01:04
from pre-Raphaelites Brotherhood England
01:05
mid-19th century.
01:10
I took the painting
01:12
and gifted new, contemporary meaning
01:14
talking about issues which are surrounding me
01:18
in Russia,
01:22
capturing people who are non-models
01:23
but have an interesting story.
01:26
This boy is a professional dancer,
01:29
only 12 years old,
01:31
but at secondary school, he hides his dancing classes
01:33
and is wearing the mask of brutality,
01:37
trying to be united with the rest of his classmates
01:39
like a storm trooper has no personality.
01:44
But this boy has goals and dreams
01:46
but hides it to be socially accepted,
01:49
because being different isn't easy,
01:52
especially in Russia.
01:55
Next portrait interpretation is metaphoric.
01:57
And this is Nikita,
02:01
a security guard from one of the bars
02:03
in St. Petersburg.
02:06
He likes to say, "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry,"
02:08
quoting Hulk from the movie,
02:12
but I've never seen him angry.
02:14
He hides his sensitivities and romantic side,
02:16
because in Russia, among guys,
02:19
that's not cool to be romantic,
02:21
but it's cool to be surrounded with women
02:23
and look like an aggressive hulk.
02:26
(Laughter)
02:28
Sometimes, in my project,
02:31
I would take the painting
02:33
and give it new meaning
02:35
and new temptation about it.
02:38
Sometimes, I would compare facial features
02:41
and playing with words:
02:44
irony, Iron Man, ironing man.
02:46
(Laughter)
02:51
Through the artifacts,
02:54
I bring social issues
02:56
which surround me in Russia into the conversation.
02:58
Interesting fact about marriage in Russia,
03:01
that most of the 18, 19-year-old girls
03:04
are already ready, and dream to get married.
03:08
We're taught from childhood,
03:11
successful marriage means successful life,
03:13
so most of the girls kind of fight
03:16
to get a good husband.
03:18
And what about me?
03:21
I'm 27 years old.
03:23
For Russian society, I'm an old maid
03:25
and hopeless to ever get married.
03:28
That's why you see me in a Mexican fighter mask,
03:31
in the wedding dress, all desperate in my garden.
03:34
But remember, irony is the key,
03:39
and this is actually to motivate girls
03:41
to fight for goals, for dreams,
03:44
and change stereotypes.
03:47
Be brave. Be ironic — it helps.
03:50
Be funny and create some magic.
03:53
(Applause)
03:57

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About the speaker:

Uldus Bakhtiozina - photographer + visual artist
Russian artist Uldus Bakhtiozina creates magical photographs of whimsy and irony. Asking questions about gender and cultural stereotypes, she presents the world with humor and thoughtfulness.

Why you should listen

Uldus Bakhtiozina is a photographer and visual artist who lives and works in Russia. Born in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, Bakhtiozina studied and worked in graphic design and photography (and even politics, briefly) before settling on her particular style of absurd photos. Whether depicting a young boy in a tutu and Stormtrooper helmet or a hulking man wearing a collar of Barbie dolls, Bakhtiozina challenges gender and cultural norms with humor and magic, creating a fairytale world for the viewer.

More profile about the speaker
Uldus Bakhtiozina | Speaker | TED.com