Claudine Douri "Artek: summer in the Crimea"

Throughout the history of photography, the authors have often addressed and still address the topic of memory and the attempts to capture the fleeting transitional states of different kinds — transitions of light, different emotions and states. Photo projects often touch upon the theme of growing up as a special form of transition inherent in every living being.

Despite the fact that the authors turn to this subject in photography more than often, not every photographer manages to convey this process sensitively, with tenderness and a kind of awe, recording subtle changes that occur with a person when he ceases to be a child, but has not yet become an adult. In this respect the story of the French photographer Claudine Doury «Artek: l'été en Crimée» stands out especially strongly against the background of the other projects.

Claudine Douri is a French photographer living in Paris. She has been a member of the photo agency Agence Vu since 1991, and also has a large number of awards, including the Leica Oskar Barnack Award, which is given to the photographs expressing the relationship between man and the environment. Before the Artek series in 1999, she had already released a photo album «Peuples de Sibérie», the works from which were awarded a solo exhibition at the Academy of Fine Arts in Paris.

During the period from 1994 to 2003, the French photographer came to Artek and the neighbouring camps 4 times, as a result of her trips, she collected a huge amount of material, which in 2004 was published in the form of a photo album. This album is unique not only due to the high level of professionalism of Claudine Douri, but also because it is almost the only selection of non-staged photographs reflecting Artek's real life.

All the pictures from the camp are a true story about Artek's life, about growing up and the subtle experiences.
The children's camp itself appeared in 1925, a year later the first guests from abroad entered it, and by the 1930s it was transferred to the year-round camp. However, as in the case of any major state event, all photos officially taken at that time in Artek could be divided into three categories: Artek holidays and events, landscapes and views of Artek, static photos of different people "for memory" with counselors, friends and sightseeings.

That is, before Claudine Douri's first visit, there were no photographs that would reflect the moments of everyday life in the camp. Most likely, the phenomenon of these pictures is connected with the fact that she looked at the life in the camp through the eyes of a person from the outside who didn't know about the "Artek myth", which the official images diligently sought to maintain.
Of course, such pictures attracted attention, including that of our compatriots. If abroad, the vast majority of the pictures caused delight and admiration, than among those who were directly close to the culture and myth of Artek, one could hear indignation.

As one counselor said: "It's just awful! The children in clothes lying on bedspreads on beds! Moreover, they also play cards".
Additionally, five years after the publication of the album a scandal has occurred related to the seduction of the children by the camp administration, and this album was used as one of the evidence. Even Claudine Douri felt the consequences of the scandal — some psychologists reproached her for creating a series specifically for "adults prone to pedophilia".
Some photos from the series really look sensuous, but now it is difficult to say whether the scandalous moments really took place during the photographer's stay in the camp or not. All this in no way detracts from their primarily artistic value of the work.

In the Artek series Claudine Douri shows the complexity and at the same time the incredible fragility of adolescence with its first love, worries, delights and problems. It is this feeling of a childhood that is already passing away, but has not ended, that everyone can feel after watching the album about Artek…
Text by Ekaterina Surat
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