The work of Russian photographer Nikolai Filippov follows on nicely from the previous post. It again points to the cultural difference. I’ll split the photographs that interest me into two sections. The first series was taken in 1985 at a ballet school. The thing that interests me the most is that these three photos are of a dance exam and the girls perform bare chested. Whilst this might be startling to Western eyes, it is perfectly in line with the philosophy of naturism which incorporated a love of physical culture; dance, calisthenics, gymnastics and eurythmics.
But they also indicate that the Soviets did not regard a girl’s chest as in any way sexually provocative. They understood that a girl’s chest is physiologically identical to a boy’s and that there is no rational reason to insist it be covered. This is a Western peculiarity designed to reinforce our fetish with the female breast. We have extended this fetish into childhood so that we now train girls from a very young age to cover their chests – whilst allowing boys to run free. It seems that in the USSR both boys and girls swam and ran around in summer bare chested.
The second series of photos were taken in the 70’s. The first is from a series he took in a gymnasium. I include it to remind the reader that the word gymnastics comes from the Greek gymnos, meaning naked. Naturism looks back to the Greek tradition in which all sports were performed naked. Only men were allowed to play sports in Athens, but Sparta allowed both men and women, with boys and girls often training together – so we might call the photo below ‘Spartan girl’, because they were also noted for a dance which involved leaping. The final two photos are straight forward shots of children playing on a beach, presumably on the Black Sea.