The story of Secret Agent Moscow began with a photography project at Santa ClaraUniversity. I was taking advance photography during the summer of 2004, with Renee Billingslea, and the assignment was to do a series of self-portraits. I was 21 at the time, and I had made it my mission to come out of the closet to anyone and everyone, whenever the opportunity presented itself. I liked the idea of coming out as another character. I’ve had a strong interest in theatre, film, and my Russian heritage ever since I was a little girl, so I knew I wanted to dress in something theatrically Russian. I adored the look of Russian fur hats and coats. I tried on a (faux) fur hat and coat with sunglasses one day and it immediately made me think of a secret agent – I thought, “what an appropriate character to come out with.” Secret Agents are in many ways like those within the queer community. Not everyone can be free to be themselves in the open, their identity must at times remain a secret.
After that class, I had always imagined doing something more with the story and the character, such as a screenplay, but I didn’t revisit Secret Agent Moscow until the fall of 2007, when I realized I needed the character’s help again.
Life changed unexpectedly after college, and I found myself becoming attracted to a man, who later became my husband. The transition was not easy. I still felt like the same person as before, but a lot of outside forces were telling me I wasn’t, and at times it was hard to cope. Like my main character, Natasha, I didn’t want to forget my past, because although it was not visible for people to see, it was still a big part of me.
From the original assignment I kept the title; Secret Agent Moscow, The main character’s name; Natasha, Natasha’s secret agent uniform with the fur hat and coat, and her identity as a lesbian. The time, locations, main character’s nationality, and all secondary characters have completely changed.
Over five years later, the wealth of research and experience I’ve had with a multitude of influential people, has morphed the story into something really special. I would have never expected the end result to be the way it is now, back when I created the first photographs of Secret Agent Moscow in 2004. It has been a labor of love and patience – a creative project that I’m truly proud of.
To see the rest of the photographs please visit the galley here: http://www.secretagentmoscow.com/#!beginning/c12g0
To purchase the graphic novel: http://www.secretagentmoscow.com/#!store/cdod
Thank you! ~ Jennifer Jigour