New East Digital Archive

Teen spirit: coming of age in a former pioneer camp

Life at a Soviet summer camp by French photographer Claudine Doury

28 May 2015

For ten years French photographer Claudine Doury documented life at Artek, formerly one of the biggest summer camps in the Soviet Union. Located on the Black Sea in the town of Hurzuf on the Crimean peninsula, the pioneer camp was established in 1925 as a place where the privileged girls and boys of the Soviet Union could enjoy the summer. “I decided to shoot Artek in 1994 when I first heard about it. Since the Soviet Union had collapsed, I wanted to see what had remained of that camp,” says Doury. Throughout this time, Doury managed to create a delicate visual portrait of adolescence that crystallized the passage from childhood to adulhood. The images capture this fragile moment with a note of nostalgia for a time that the youngsters didn’t think they’d lose. Doury has a very personal perspective, focussing on the relationship between the girls and boys at the camp. With a highly cinematographic style, she alternates between magical and peaceful scenes that arise spontaneously in front of the camera and more constructed images. “Artek was my first work on adolescence. Here I became interested in exploring the slow passing of teenage life in the camp, which led to my future projects on the subject. Writer James Agee says ‘Adolescence is a kingdom of fallen or still falling angels, but it is yet a kingdom.’ I like to photograph young people because they live in a sort of ‘in between’ space where everything is possible.”