Svetlana Bulatova · Summer Camp - Adults with Autism

Jan 14, 2021

Svetlana is a Russian photographer who started documentary photography following her interest in social studies. In her series 'Summer Camp - Adults with Autism', Svetlana portrays the people and activities involved in a Russian camp for adults with autism spectrum disorder. Quiet and moving images with a cinematic quality, give us an insight into the world of people with autism, at the time that make us embrace our differences and promote acceptance at all levels.

am - First of all thank you very much for your contribution to our project. Can you please introduce yourself for us?

SB - My name is Svetlana Bulatova and I’m a photographer from Russia. I graduated in historical studies and later developed an interest in social studies and different communities through documentary photography. Since 2016 I have been working in the North Caucasus and currently I’m working on a photobook about this region.

 

am - What does photography mean to you?

SB - Photography is like a language, and I can express myself better through images.

am - What is 'Summer Camp - Adults with Autism' about?

SB - On the banks of Russia’s scenic Vuoksi River, there is a camp for Russian children and adults with autism. Every summer, campers ranging from the age of 18 to 40 and a handful of volunteers, gather to boat, craft, and cook at this Soviet-era tourist destination. The camp is an initiative of 'Anton’s Right Here', a center in St. Petersburg that provides support to people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It aims to make socialization easier and help transition campers into a more independent lifestyle afterwards. In Russia, where there are no statistics about the prevalence of autism and limited medical assistance, it is a rare place of freedom and understanding.

In July 2019, I traveled to the village of Losevo to document the summer camp. The camp runs two sessions: one for children and another for adults. I attended the week-long adult camp and photographed the 15 participants, 21 volunteers, and other staff. For people with autism it is very important to learn how to be independent in their everyday life, since this will help them in the future at home. After the camp, it becomes easier for them to make contact with new people, take care of themselves in the absence of their parents, and visit unfamiliar places.

The motto of the 'Anton’s Right Here' center is “Help us to help them. Help them to help you". This resonated with me. After a week, I left with the reminder that each person has a right to a place where they can be themselves. By accepting others, in the end, you accept yourself.

 

am - Who are your favourite photographers / artists?

SB - I don’t have favourite photographers or artists.

 

am - What is your favourite movie?

SB - Great Soviet-era movies.

 

am - What is your favourite photo book?

SB - 'Liquid Land' by Rena Effendi.

 

am - Thank you very much for your time and your contribution to analog magazine.

All images © Svetlana Bulatova

 

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