Michal Chelbin Takes Us Inside Ukraine’s Military Boarding Schools

Unease rises in a series where theatricality is revealed as reality: through the lens of Israeli photographer Michal Chelbin, we meet the children of a military boarding school in Ukraine.

These intimate portraits of young boys in military uniforms and young girls in wedding dresses seem the stuff of fiction: schools are no longer places for indoctrination of the youth into state politics — or are they? Chelbin sheds light on this somewhat disconcerting reality by showing that these institutions exist, and by offering a disquieting representation of them. She explains these schools as places that teach heightened gender roles, all “in the service of forming a new governing military elite.” Chelbin’s series explores the naivety of the children at this academy through their blank expressions: a young boy bears a gun that is the length of his body; girls in matching wedding dresses limply link arms; a child in a gas mask and covering stands, arms outstretched, in the quadrangle. While her statement on the series maintains that she is more interested in documenting the reality of childhood than she is with engaging in political conversation, her series offers a different perspective: it is heavily tempered by unease and feels eerily silent.

iGNANT-Photography-Michal-Chelbin-Ukraine-012
iGNANT-Photography-Michal-Chelbin-Ukraine-005
iGNANT-Photography-Michal-Chelbin-Ukraine-013
iGNANT-Photography-Michal-Chelbin-Ukraine-020
iGNANT-Photography-Michal-Chelbin-Ukraine-006
iGNANT-Photography-Michal-Chelbin-Ukraine-008
iGNANT-Photography-Michal-Chelbin-Ukraine-001
iGNANT-Photography-Michal-Chelbin-Ukraine-007
iGNANT-Photography-Michal-Chelbin-Ukraine-009
iGNANT-Photography-Michal-Chelbin-Ukraine-015
iGNANT-Photography-Michal-Chelbin-Ukraine-018
iGNANT-Photography-Michal-Chelbin-Ukraine-019
iGNANT-Photography-Michal-Chelbin-Ukraine-017
iGNANT-Photography-Michal-Chelbin-Ukraine-010

All images © Michal Chelbin

x