Nika Russia любовь {LOVE}

Nika Russia LOVE,  любовь in Russian, is an intimate portrait in photography, film and a series of interviews, often conducted like prose, assembling a young woman’s life, Nika, and that of her friends living in Russia’s metropolis Moscow, most of whom are coping with HIV and their addictive past.

The project, in its essence, is an ode to friendship and hardships fought in Moscow’s daily life. Where love, warmth and the intimacy of friendship reigns as a sensorial antidote against the personal struggle of those within the HIV-community, remaining clean, and to safeguard a positive and activist position imagining one’s future, all the while living an underdog position within Russian society. All the same, the project is a remembrance of those photographed, unable to overcome their struggle with addiction. In the end, they succombed due to an overdose…

The project may have a pursuit, in film, with new characters (based upon the short film created in 2005-2007): A Russian Tale {of LOVE}.


A photographic essay was published, ‘Nika’s Journey Growing Up‘, at Time Lightbox in December 2011, by Paul Moakley.

Ilse Frech followed Nika, from 2005 until 2007, in between Moscow and St. Petersburg. During these years, she forges a relationship of trust, becoming a friendship for life.

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I.: Si je vais dire ‘Nika’, tu vas me raconter quoi, de toi-même?

N.: Je vais dire que c’est un prénom. C’est tout. Je ne sais pas. Une personne…avec un coeur. Avec un grand coeur. Une petite personne avec un grand coeur! Une personne, qui sait ce que l’amitié veut dire. Nika, elle a beaucoup de personnes qui l’adorent, plein de gens qui l’aiment.



I did not only wish to be admired, but to be famous, to be a star. Because I was lonely, and it was not enough just to have a few friends… I wanted to have more and more.

Z.: When I used this drug, every fucking day, we would sit in the kitchen and talk, and talk, and talk… Take this drug and talk and talk.

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