Minya writes on the blackboard in the village study room, while Tatyana looks on.
2022 Photo Contest, Europe, Honorable Mention



Mary Gelman

15 March, 2020

Minya writes on the blackboard in the village study room, while Tatyana looks on.

This collaborative project portrays Minya and Tatyana, a couple with Down syndrome in their 50s, living in the social village of Svetlana, near St Petersburg in Russia. The photographer has visited Svetlana and stayed there for a few days every two months since 2016, and feels it has become a part of her life. She taught Tatyana to take photographs and the polaroids in the story were shot by her.

Svetlana is home to around 40 people with various mental differences, together with their mentors and volunteers. It is part of the international Camphill Movement, in which residential communities provide support for the education, employment, and daily lives of people with developmental disabilities and other special needs. Every resident is valued, and everyone works for the common good. Minya and Tatyana worked as bakers, and also helped with cooking and cleaning. They enjoyed painting and performing in plays. Tatyana died after contracting COVID-19, in the spring of 2021.

Down syndrome is a condition in which a child is born with an extra copy on their 21st chromosome. This causes physical and mental delays and disabilities as well as a number of medical conditions, many of which are now treateable. As a consequence, life expectancy has increased dramatically, from 25 in 1983 to 60 today. People with Down syndrome attend school, work, have meaningful relationships, contribute to society, and lead fulfilling and productive lives.

Mary Gelman
About the photographer

Mary Gelman is a Russian queer photographer, visual storyteller, and producer. She is represented internationally by VII Photo Agency.   After graduating with a degree in sociology, Mary got involved in photography. She often explores themes such as identity, trauma, vulnerability, and resilience, and seeks...

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Technical information
Shutter Speed





Canon EOS 6D Mark II

Jury comment

The jury chose to award an honorable mention to M+T because it highlights a loving relationship between a couple in a way that is sensitive, gentle and intimate. Through the long-term collaboration between the photographer and the couple, the project sheds light on beautiful and intimate relationships and in doing so challenges the experience of ‘otherness.'