haru li wdo
artist, documentary photography

haru li wdo (they/them, Elizaveta Vdovina) Born in Moscow in 1993. Studied at Moscow State University Philological Faculty, Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics. After graduating in 2015, Elizaveta began to study photography. In 2017, they completed professional retraining courses in photojournalism at Moscow State University, Faculty of Journalism. At the same time, they attended workshops in photography by internationally renowned photographers. The author's biggest influences are Stanley Greene, Collier Schorr, Raymond Meeks, Rineke Dijkstra. From 2017 to 2022, they studied at the Rodchenko Art School documentary photography workshop.

Their work includes contemporary documentary photography and photo books exploring public through personal and their characters' identities within society. Central themes in Elizaveta's artistic practice are queerness, femininity, and adolescent sexuality in patriarchal communities.

The story revolves around a house. This project was shot in Moscow Oblast, Zvenigorod, in Gorodok (a township whose name means «small town» in Russian) and partially in Moscow, where the artist lived. Two worlds collide in this project: the artist’s present queer life and their childhood in a traditional orthodox family. Growing up queer in an orthodox family and trying to thrive in complicated yet genuine and deep relationships built on support, acceptance, and absolute sincerity. The project explores the artist’s consciousness and identity in and out of relationships with people in their life.

The artist’s childhood home stands in a small township atop a hill surrounded by ramparts. Behind the ramparts—which were once the walls of a fortress—steep ravines begin where rivers used to flow. There’s a church in the center of the town where the girl’s father is a priest. The town on the hill is a fairy-tale world where the girl grew up, and her parents were both the creators and the main characters. The Russian Orthodox Church is an authoritarian and conservative institution heavily intertwined with the Russian state; it is an integral part of the propaganda machine. Although her parents oppose the authoritarian rule, their being a part of the institution makes the family closed and subject to predetermined rules. Queerness in the family is already a controversy inside the religious community.

The second world doesn’t present a picture this perfect. It shows the artist’s complex relationships with their loved ones as an adult. The artist’s transition into the territory of queerness is reflected in a series of self-portraits where they demonstrate their newfound identity by opening up to the camera instead of merely exploring it. The artist cautiously reveals their changing identity to their loved ones while trying to become reacquainted with their parents, who surprise them with their sincerity and inner freedom. In these pictures, the artist’s connection with the characters partly stays beyond the frame, leaving an observer’s detached, moving gaze. There is no confrontation here, only an attentive and tender attitude toward all family members, their traditions, and desires.


Diploma project at Rodchenko Art School

Round and round
If the ratio between the two parametric equations is a rational number, the moving P is returned to the starting point within a time period equal to the least common multiple of the periods, with the same speed vector it had at the start, forming closed figures. If the ratio is irrational, it produces open figures.

You're on the outline of the circle, motionless. Both your physical body and your consciousness are suspended. You are unable to act, unable to finish a project, unable to hold onto an idea. You're numb. Things that used to matter cannot evoke any feeling inside you anymore. To break this cycle of inability, we took long walks along the silent, abandoned streets but found ourselves pacing the same circle again and again. Mood swings break you out of the cycle, out of the circle, by making you finally feel something.
But you'll be back soon enough.
Back on the same old circle.


2022 selfpublished book Round and Round, hand-crafted, 20 copies

I made this work during a severe depressive episode.
I shot self-portraits in my room, standing on the bed. These photos are as intimate as possible due to the absence of any posing, interior manipulation, or distinct clothing. I stand in front of the camera open and devastated.
I printed this photo in human size and placed it in an abandoned room as part of "interiors" — a one-day exhibition organized with other artists in an abandoned house up for demolition. The room's interior becomes the context of my inner state, amid which i stand bewildered and defenseless. Perhaps still, or maybe this house and this room no longer exist.

work made for a one-day group exhibition in an abandoned building in 2021

Gaya flashes before me in the dense thicket of the mystical forest of the unknown as if winking and enticing me to follow her. I am pulled along behind her. I make my way, picking up bit by bit fragments of her story from scattered photographs of her life. Knowing only the name Gaya, signed on one of the childhood photographs.
Her powerful energy draws me into an image of a whirlpool and of the hidden, leaving only a flicker of her story.

So I continue to wander through the magical forest of her life, with glimpses of mirages. I dip my face into the water, trying to see, but I see only a trembling reflection in the water, moving water, running away and taking the image with it, not allowing it to be seen in its entirety. I carefully collect history from fragments.

Deep female energy is closely connected with the image of water and the forest, stemming from the mythological female: the spirits of a mermaid and a dryad. For me, this story has become an intersection of mockumentary and emotional perception of coming in contact with the unknown.

Gaya is all I know about the woman in this story. Once in Syktyvkar, I found a Soviet suitcase full of family photos and a few items on the street near a garbage dump in the pouring rain. It was a miracle because I was walking down the street, desperate to find archival photographs. I was in residence but did not want to do documentary work about life in a Komi Republic village, yet I wanted to include the place where I ended up. This is how I met Gaya.

This work was done in 2019 during a residency in the Komi Republic and presented at group exhibition Rom, Syktyvkar, Komi Republic

I wanted to talk about the pointlessness of endless projects for the sake of projects. I'm tired of far-fetched and artificial "performed" projects. I tried to escape that as much as possible; I wanted something fresh and alive. The exhibition presented, before anything else, my reflection on artistic practice as such. In recent months, I have turned to drawing as an intuitive method with only momentum and no claim to artistic value. Only the photographs that reveal genuine emotions, abstract memory, and personal experience of perceiving reality will remain, not ones that contain hidden superfluous symbolism.

I wanted an exhibition about pure emotion, clarity, and nakedness. A fleeting feeling of one hungover morning.

the project was presnted at personal exhibition in 2019 085, Rodchenko Art School, Moscow, Russia

Flora VSR-98
"Flora VSR-98" is the name of the typical camouflage which the girls from the Russian cadet police school wear. Russian police system is very masculine. While camouflage is primarily a men's attribute associated with force and brutality, its name "Flora" refers to blooming and femininity.
While only 14-15 years old, girls embark on a path of brutal patriarchy of the military regime.
Trying to combine femininity, youth, and the harsh reality of service, they are doomed to be new faceless cogs in a war machine.
I'm interested in the interaction between the system ruled by men and the evolving girls' world. The way they express themselves, looking for their sexuality, tiny details popping out through the official uniform. The system changes them, but they also shift its boundaries.

the project was presented at group exhibitions:
2019 Target, Sphere Contemporary Art Foundation, Moscow
         Target, TIAM, Tula, Russia
         Training Alert, Center for Contemporary Art Winery, Moscow, Russia

layout of exposition

When I was a child, I joined a synchronized swimming team. I left the sport at 13, but I'm still fascinated by the interaction of the human body and water. In this project, I look at myself from the past by examining present youth who are just starting to look for their true selves.

In search of creative expression, a person turns to the element of water. Sometimes succumbing to the flow of water and other times overcoming its density. From this alternation of struggle and consent, a dance emerges.

This dance becomes their only expression of sexuality, rivalry, accomplishment, anxiety — life.

I was interested in the teen sports bracket — between 12 and 15 years old. Their professional development and formation in sports coincide with their personal growth. This period will determine these young girls' future, but they have little influence over whether they can get into high-performance sports. While training from 8 to 8, they are not sure of the reason why they do it. Their body, interacting with and developing in water, acquires new plasticity properties. The person practically dissolves in water and is reborn from it in a new quality. This is how the "mermaid" is made.

the project was presented at group exhibition:
2018 Class Meeting, Center for Contemporary Art Winery, Moscow, Russia

Distance: 8 hours

In the age of email, chats, photos and video calls, high-speed trains and airplanes long
distance relationships take a new form.
Distance here is only a physical quantity. A quantity which could easily be reduced to
nothing in a measly eight hours. And relations are not limited to love or intimacy.

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