Inner visions: inside a children’s art school in one of Russia’s closed cities

Sergey Poteryaev photographs a children's art school in the closed city of Zarechny

The town of Zarechny in the Penza region 640km south-east of Moscow is one of the 44 remaining closed cities left in Russia, a curious relic of the Soviet era. Photographer Sergey Poteryaev spent ten days in Zarechny in 2013 capturing the town’s life. After photographing streets and parks he became interested in a the hidden side of the city’s life: the way children spend time while their parents are work at state-owned corporations that manufacture parts for nuclear weapons. Poteryaev photographed a children’s art school where around 800 children study dance, music, painting and drama. “All the schools in Zarechny continue till 2pm, and after that almost all the children go to art schools or project groups — it’s amazing how important art is there,” remembers Poteryaev. “I wanted to photograph children involved in artistic practices in a closed city. Of course it’s not as closed and isolated as it used to be in the Soviet times, but still I was looking for their sense of freedom in art.” Combing strong portraiture with shots of the tranquil streets and school halls, Poteryaev produced a unique glimpse into childhood in this strange and historically unique place.