The French photographer is a precise and persistent observer. In his multiple trips, he has captured with great sensitivity the living environments of the most diverse towns and regions. One of his best-known series is a photographic portrait of young people at the Artek holiday camp. Since 1994, Doury has traveled to this pioneer camp four times. Located near the small town of Hurzuf on the Crimean peninsula, he settled in 1925; And throughout its nearly one hundred years of existence, the camp has enjoyed an eventful history. Initially built as a temporary campsite, in the 1950s it began to evolve in accordance with Soviet ideology, until it became a modern leisure and holiday camp. A new chapter began, after the end of the Soviet Union: the complex became more commercial; but financial problems threatened its closure in 2009, so Ukraine decided to take over its administration. Even after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, the camp still stands and has evidently become more ideologically oriented once again.
Doury’s series conveys much more than mere nostalgia; it is compelling because of the photographer’s sensitive visual aesthetic. Initially he was interested in the activities that took place in the camp; however, he soon shifted his focus to the youth, who represent this vulnerable stage of a person’s life. Doury captures moments of loneliness, fragility, physical transformation, discovery of the other -focused on the game of seduction- beyond any political ideology.
How did he find out about the place and what prompted him to work there?
I can’t remember exactly how I found out about this prestigious Pioneer camp; but I wanted to discover this secret mini world, in a country that was still somewhat closed. I went to Artek for the first time in the summer of 1994. I had heard about this holiday camp in Crimea, the largest pioneer camp in the Soviet Union – and I was interested to see what had become of him, after the Union and the Pioneers were gone.
I proposed to do a report for the newspaper Libération. Then, three years later, Marie Claire France magazine wanted to publish something and sent me back there, along with a journalist. After that, it was the German magazine Mare that got interested and asked me to come back to the camp. From that moment I began to see the place in a different way. It was not so much the various activities of the children that interested me, but the relationship between the adolescents themselves: their emotions in the midst of their activities; your social life; this new and ephemeral time. So I came back two consecutive summers, 2002 and 2003, to continue this work.
Was it easy to contact management and get all the permits?
I was helped by friends who were able to communicate with the administration. During my first trips someone from the administration systematically accompanied me; but yes, I was allowed to visit the camp freely.
How did you approach the youth? Were there certain procedures to gain your trust?
During my first visits, I followed all the activities of the children and adolescents: morning gymnastics, dance rehearsals, afternoon siesta, and organized evenings. The approach was mainly collective. Later, when I returned, this time with my daughter, who wanted to integrate Artek into her vacation, I took a different approach. He no longer wanted to document the daily lives of young people, but to accompany them outside of their activities, during their “downtime” and their “daydreams”. Undoubtedly, my approach was also different because I came back with my daughter, Sasha, and I followed her roommates, in particular.
What used to be like a normal day at summer camp?
The morning activities started early with a gym session, followed by breakfast. Later came a series of sports training sessions (water sports, dance, etc.), which continued throughout the day. I finally understood why this country won so many medals in the Olympic Games!
And, as always, the technical question: what camera(s) and what lenses did you work with? An analogue Leica M6 and a Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH?
Same M6 camera with same aspherical lens: 35mm Summilux 1.4.
Did/do you maintain contact with any of the young people?
I have sometimes been contacted by young people who saw my photos on the Internet and wanted to know if they could have photos of themselves. I put aside and sent each of them a copy of my book,Artek.
You deliberately did not create your series as a documentary; but how would you describe it?
MyArtekThe series began in a documentary style, but later evolved into a more personal approach where reality and fiction merge. The moments of rest between two activities were conducive to the environment I was looking for. These spaces in time, intervals between two different activities, are characteristic of this transitional age, the time between two ages; between two worlds. The vacation colony was the perfect place to observe this transition period. I think that’s what I look for in most of my work; to capture what is timeless.
Claudine Douryshe was born in Blois, near Orleans, France, in 1959. After studying Journalism, she first worked as a photo editor, before dedicating herself fully to photography. She has received several awards for her work, including the Leica Oskar Barnack Award (1999). Her series, mostly full-length, have been published and shown all over the world. Doury has been a member of Agence VU since 1991. She lives and works in Paris. she finds out more about her photograph in herswebsiteandInstagram Page.
Number 8/2022 ofLFI Magazinepresents the series by Claudine DouryLoulan Beauty.
Doury received the 1999Leica Oskar Barnack Awardfor her seriesThe last nomads of Siberia.
The exhibitionClaudine Doury – Between magic and realityit is currently on display at the Leica Gallery, Wetzlar.
PostingArtekfirst appeared inThe Leica Camera Blog.