INSTANT YEARBOOK: DOCUMENTING RURAL SCHOOLS IN RUSSIA
With too few students to sustain their funding, some of the village schools in the Russian region of Mordovia are scheduled to be shut down by the government this year. In an attempt to document these disappearing academic communities, photographer Dina Dubrovskaya embarked on a project to create a yearbook of sorts for the students studying in them. She was originally attracted to the idea of photographing small village schools because of their stark contrast with the bustling urban centers of learning. Having set out to explore isolated areas, what struck her instead was the bright, exciting, rebellious young people she met there. The project soon became the people rather than the places: about their faces, smiles, dreams and fears.
Dina Dubrovskaya avoided staging or directing the portraits, allowing instead for each child to choose how they wished to be represented.
“They smile if they want to, though often they prefer to stay serious and look directly in the camera. I try to show them exactly as I found them – at their desks, reading the books, passing through the dark school corridors, turning to meet the gaze of a stranger.”