In Russia, people have a lot of prejudice towards people with mental disorders. They are not considered full-fledged people with abilities to learn and socialize, they stay unemployed. But there is a place where everything is different. Svetlana is a unique social village in Russia, Leningrad Oblast. This Сamphill gives an opportunity for people with different mental disorders to live free and be supported by tutors and volunteers.
However, for the residents these roles mean nothing. This place is not a boarding school or a clinic. No one is controlled and the doors are always opened. Residents don’t draw a line between healthy unhealthy, normal – abnormal. Everyone is valued as an individual. Capabilities and abilities are the only things that matter. Residents believe in the person, you can become in spite of your past time.
Svetlana is the community of nearly 40 residents. They live in four large houses, have a garden, a farm, a bakery, a carpentry etc. The residents are living off the subsistence farming and work despite their differences. Villagers are served five meals a day, visit sauna on weekends and do the plays on holidays. People with special needs are free to go out, work, have friends and fall in love. They can realize themselves in any employment or creative activities. For example, at first some residents could not even hold a spoon, but now bake bread for all the habitants of the village or get engaged in the performances.
Mary Gelman is a documentary photographer and sociologist from St. Petersburg, Russia. In 2016 she graduated school of modern photography “DocDocDoc” (Saint – Petersburg) and was a participant in various international and local workshops. She works as a photojournalist and teacher. The most important part of her professional life is personal projects. She explores issues of gender and body, boundary, discrimination, identity and human relationship with the environment.