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Photographer, Michal Chelbin captures a rural population at the cusp of adulthood.

Photos by Michal Chelbin
Words by Meryl Fontek


The first societal recognition of youthful coupledom is at prom. With the end of high school and childhood, a recent memory, partnerships hold new weight. What was once brushed off as inconsequential and childish, the debut of duality seems like the most important thing in the world. For the first time, you are seen as more than just who you are. Judged by who your other half will be for the evening, you take on another’s reputation. The pairing also offers an escape, a chance to be more than your highschool self. To be someone’s other half, even if it’s just for the night.

During an unrelated project in Ukraine, Michal Chelbin noticed this coming of age milestone. “I have always been drawn to the idea of children dressing up and wearing costumes. It’s a recurring theme throughout my work,” explains Chelbin. Drawn to the outlandish and bizarre, between 2009 and 2019, Chelbin spent time documenting the proms within a small Ukranian village. Dressed in oversized suits, homemade gowns that seem to swallow frames, children eagerly attempt to veil their inexperience with the burden of heavy fabric, complex layers, and extra material.

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