PAUL’S PHOTOS || Athlete

He doesn’t know English. Not a word. He’s looking at his wife, both for a translation of what I’ve said and (I’m sure) for reassurance. From the beginning, I didn’t expect this to work.

I think the presence of his wife made me particularly shy. I stammered “Is he…going to be…nude?” She smiled, said something to him in Russian and his clothes came off. I turned to Trevor and said “Well, let’s set up then and give this a try.”

He’s a world-class athlete.  He and his wife have moved to San Francisco because some of the best coaches in the world–Russian and Chinese–live here.


The posing was awkward for two reasons, really. First, of course, was the fact that I would say something, his wife would translate and he would do something entirely unexpected. The second reason should be obvious. I was overwhelmed by his beauty. What do you ask such a phenomenon to do?

For the most part we were all silent as I moved about, as Trevor would adjust lights. There was a particular air of responsibility at work here. How to do justice to this?

Occasionally I’d ask his wife if he was ok. She’d say something to him and he’d respond “Ya da.” Idiomatic for “I’m good.”


At one point I said to Trevor “We should be sculpting him!”  Trevor smiled and agreed.

He and his wife met when they were eight years old.  They’ve trained together ever since, serious martial artists.  They got married three months ago, just prior to moving to San Francisco from Siberia.


I thought a great deal before posting these photographs.  At every moment during the shoot, and as I posted each of these, I questioned my reasons for all of it.  Is my purpose equal to the seriousness and the sanctity of this young man?  I know this sounds pretentious.  But as he sat, wordless and trusting, I had to wonder: am I worthy of his trust?


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