Meet the Queer Photographer Behind 'CURIOUS?' Slava Mogutin

Meet the Queer Photographer Behind 'CURIOUS?' Slava Mogutin

Meet Slava Mogutin, a Russian-born, New York-based Russian-American multimedia artist and author exiled from Russia for his outspoken queer writing and activism. Known for his transgressive photography, he has published several critically acclaimed books, including Lost Boys, NYC Go-Go, Bros & Brosephines, VTMNTS Uncensored, and Analog Human Studies. Mogutin’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide and is currently on view at The Bureau of General Services–Queer Division in NYC and Sigtuna Museum in Sweden.

Slava Mogutin by Joseph Wolfgang Ohlert, Berlin 2022


We recently collaborated with Mogutin on 'CURIOUS?' our latest visual campaign that encourages users to discover their deepest curiosities and desires by exploring the wide variety of kinks and fetishes found on Sniffies.

“Partnering with Slava Mogutin is a natural fit for our ‘CURIOUS?’ campaign. He’s been one of my creative heroes and a true inspiration for the Sniffies aesthetic, said Eli Martin, CMO & Creative Director at Sniffies. “Slava’s work challenges societal norms and encourages people to embrace their individuality and rawest desires. There’s no doubt his unique perspective will resonate with the primal energy we all possess and inspire users to explore their curiosities.” 

Slava Mogutin on the set of ‘CURIOUS?’ Campaign at Runyon Canyon Park, a popular cruising spot in Los Angeles. 


We had a chance to chat with Mogutin post-production to get to know him better. Check it out. 

Sniffies: So, where are you originally from? 

Slava Mogutin: I was born in the industrial city of Kemerovo in the Southern-Eastern part of Siberia—closer to China and Mongolia than Europe. My family moved around Russia throughout my childhood. I came to Moscow as a teenager to go to college and lived there for several years before emigrating to the US.

Sniffies: When did you come to the United States? 

Slava Mogutin: I was exiled from Russia in 1995 at 21. I became the first Russian to be granted political asylum on the grounds of homophobic persecution, which set a precedent and opened the door to many similar asylum cases for queer refugees from many parts of the former USSR.

Sniffies: Can you tell us about your journey as an LGBTQ artist and how your experiences have influenced your work?

Slava Mogutin: As an LGBTQ artist, my personal experiences have had a significant influence on my work. Growing up in Russia, I faced a great deal of homophobia and discrimination, which ultimately led to my exile from the country. This experience has shaped my understanding of queer identity and the struggles faced by the LGBTQ community and has motivated me to use my art as a platform for social change and activism.

Sniffies: Your work often explores themes of identity, desire, and masculinity. How do you hope your art can challenge or subvert traditional notions of these concepts?

Slava Mogutin: Growing up in Russia, there was a stereotypical view of gay people as effeminate, campy, morally and physically depraved and corrupt. So I wanted to overthrow these stereotypes, create a dignified and honest portrayal and representation of queer communities in my native country and around the world. I aim to challenge traditional notions of masculinity and femininity. Instead of focusing on aspects that divide us, I want to highlight those aspects that bring us together—regardless of nationality, gender and sexuality.

Slava Mogutin on the set of ‘CURIOUS?’ Campaign at Runyon Canyon Park, a popular cruising spot in Los Angeles.  


Sniffies: How do you approach the intersection of sexuality and politics in your art?

Slava Mogutin: I believe that art can be a powerful tool for social change. Queer sexuality and imagery are still considered taboo in many parts of the world. I was censored in Russia 25 years ago just as much as I’m being censored now on social media in the US. Virtually every queer artist I know has experienced censorship in one way or another. We’re still being marginalized and policed by governments and corporations alike.

Sniffies: Your work often features provocative and explicit imagery. What challenges have you faced in presenting your work to audiences, and how have you navigated those challenges?

Slava Mogutin: I’m interested in exploring transgressive subcultures, fetishes and kinks that don’t have objective and honest representation in mainstream culture. I want to shine a light on the darkest corners of human nature and sexuality as a way to understand and embrace our differences, embrace otherness. Some people may be uncomfortable with the explicit nature of my art or may misunderstand its message. However, I believe that it’s important to push boundaries and challenge societal norms, even if that means facing censorship, criticism or controversy.

Sniffies: How do you see the LGBTQ art scene evolving in the coming years, and what role do you hope to play in that evolution?

Slava Mogutin: I believe queer art is here to stay, despite all the censorship and homophobia, and it will be just as culturally and politically important. I know so many incredibly talented

young artists who continue the legacy of those who came before us. My mission as an artist is to pay tribute to queer elders while supporting and promoting queer youth.

Slava Mogutin on the set of ‘CURIOUS?’ Campaign at Runyon Canyon Park, a popular cruising spot in Los Angeles. 


Sniffies: Going off the title of the campaign CURIOUS?’ How does your curiosity about sexuality and the human body inspire and inform your artistic practice, and how do you see these themes evolving in your work in the future?

Slava Mogutin: I enjoy working and collaborating with people from all walks of life, and my curiosity has always been a driving force behind my artistic practice. I’m constantly exploring new ideas and experimenting with different genres and media. It’s a learning experience, and I hope to continue using my art as a means of promoting greater acceptance and understanding of queer experiences and identities.

Sniffies' 'Curious?' campaign with Slava Mogutin launched on Wednesday, April 26th, 2023.

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