For UNICEF, Mary Gelman photographed the story of Baurzhan, a 14-year-old advocate for young people living with HIV in Kazakhstan.
“I am one of those 149 children. I am HIV-positive and today, I am the only teenager in Kazakhstan with HIV who is living openly.”
This story is part of a special series produced by the UNICEF Europe and Central Asia Office and photographed by VII Photo Agency to mark 30 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Follow along over the next few weeks as we share additional stories, photographed by VII’s Anush Babajanyan, Franco Pagetti, and Maciek Nabrdalik, of young advocates using their voices to protect and promote the rights of other young people.
Mary Gelman’s new personal project about fat-shaming and fatphobia in Russia was published on Takie Dela. “Do Not be Ashamed” shares the stories of people of different genders, sexual orientations, and professions who have experienced, or are still experiencing, prejudice due to their weight.
Oli, St. Petersburg, Russia (seen above). “I was always fat and had various problems. It started in kindergarten. There was a girl who set others up against me. At school, they called me “hippo”, “fat” and started fights.
Most of my life I lived with my grandmother. She always said that I was special and life would be hard for me. She asked if I had friends and how others relate to me. I basically only spoke to people on the Internet, because they did not see how I looked, and I felt inferior.
By adolescence, other family members began to pay attention to my weight. Until the age of 16, I was bought clothes that I didn’t like — they were ugly and covered my whole body. I was terribly embarrassed about myself and always walked past the mirrors. I did not love myself, because I could not express myself as I wanted.
Later, at the university, I found a circle of people who did not humiliate or criticize me for the way I look. I photographed myself on the phone and participated in the filming of other photographers, learned about feminism and body positive. My attitude towards myself began to change. People still look askance in my direction, I get a lot of terrible comments on social networks, but now I don’t care.”
On assignment for Takie Dela, Mary Gelman photographed the story of the Belovol family.
“An hour’s drive from St. Petersburg, beyond Gatchina, there is the village of Big Kolpany. There is a big house in it. And there lives a large — very large — family in it: mom, dad and children, many children. Sometimes more than 10. It all depends on the custody — some children are sometimes taken away when their birth parents announced.”
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