Dina Dubrovskaya (b.1990) is a self-taught portrait and documentary photographer from Saransk, Russia. ‘Instant Yearbook’ is one of her projects set in rural Mordovia in Western Russia where government intended to close some schools on financial grounds. Dina decided to document the life of those distant communities in the region and made a yearbook of the students going to be affected by the decision. Her method of taking pictures of the students relied solely on the agreement of the children photographed… the way they wanted to be photographed and nothing else. Images of these lovely kids do make a beautiful and interesting yearbook.
About me: I am a self-taught photographer, mostly interested in portraiture and documentary. I started with taking pictures of my friends and gradually came to creating my own photographic projects. I’ve always been fascinated by the uncertainty and fleeting nature of adolescence, so for the last couple of years I’ve been making portraits of kids and teenagers for several photo series.
My methods and approaches: Almost all of my photo shoots are prearranged – people know that I am coming to photograph them and they have some time beforehand to make some decisions about how they want to be pictured. It’s especially interesting to see with kids and teens – the way they stand before the camera, the poses they strike – they make a statement about who they are and I let them do it. I usually don’t do location hunting and let my models find the place they feel comfortable in. In some cases, like when I photograph in schools, I only have one classroom at my disposal – so the only thing I can do is look for the best lighting in a given room.
My photo projects: I have two big series about kids and teens – “A Promise of Beauty” and “Instant Yearbook”. For the first series I photographed teenage girls thinking back to one of the happiest years of my life – the year when I was thirteen. I also talked to girls and published their words together with their portraits, creating a “catalogue” of faces and thoughts that were going to change very soon.
For my recent project “Instant Yearbook” I photographed the pupils of small village schools in the region of Mordovia, Russia. Village schools in Russia differ greatly from the schools located in cities, so this project started with my curiosity, with a wish to peek inside small, isolated places. But once I was there and met those bright, exciting, and rebellious young people, the project became about them – about their faces, smiles, thoughts and fears.
Some of the schools I visited will soon be closed for the lack of students. So this project is also a try to create a yearbook of sorts for them. For the portraits I didn’t ask children to strike any particular pose. They smiled if they want to, though often they preferred to stay serious and looked directly in the camera. I tried to portray 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.
My influences etc.: Some of my favorite photographers are August Sander, Jock Sturges, Judith Joy Ross and Rineke Dijkstra. I also get a lot of inspiration from art – especially Renaissance portraits. I love looking at people’s faces!