Staggering Photos Capture a Frozen Apartment Complex in Vorkuta, a Dwindling Russian City That's the Coldest in Europe
Photographer Arseniy Kotov is dedicated to documenting the changes in Russian life and architecture since the fall of the USSR, a commitment that brought him to the coldest European city last February. Located about 110 miles from the Arctic Ocean, Vorkuta is a small mining town that once held one of the largest and most grueling forced labor camps during Stalin’s reign. Often plagued by temperatures as low as -45 degrees Celcius, the city now has one of the fastest dwindling populations in all of Russia.
During Kotov’s visit, he toured various housing complexes built for workers, many of which were abandoned when the mines closed. One building in particular, though, is evidence of how desertion continues to unsettle the once-thriving city, an ongoing problem that Kotov captured in a stunning series. His photographs frame the dilapidated, five-story structure that’s entirely subsumed by feet-long icicles and mounded snow. Relics from former residents and the chipped, blue paint peek through the frost, much of which clings to the stairs and banisters and climbs the walls.
Kotov tells Colossal that often, buildings are transformed into similarly chilling caves when pipes burst due to lack of maintenance, leading to splashes of hot water, subsequent high humidity, and then ice growth on every surface. At the time of his visit, one family remained in the Severniy-district building, which was still connected to the central heating system that runs through Russian cities, making it easier to pass through some of the walkways thanks to warmth from the radiators. Although Kotov wasn’t able to meet the sole occupants, he did hear that they moved not long after his tour, saying:
As I know, locals said that after one week as I visited this building, he and his wife were resettled to another apartment, and this whole building was cut off from all the communications (water, heating, electricity). This is a usual story in Vorkuta: as less and less people are left, it becomes unprofitable to heat an entire building, and people are gradually moved to others where there are more inhabitable apartments. Local authorities call it a “managed compression strategy.”
Many of Kotov’s photographs are compiled in Soviet Cities: Labour, Life & Leisure, and his second book, which is full of images he captured while hitchhiking around the country, is slated for release in November. Prints are available from Galleri Artsight, and you can follow Kotov’s sightings and travels on Instagram.
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In a single, fortuitous photograph, Daniel Kordan proves his astute eye as he documents two of nature’s rarely seen phenomena: the brilliant trail of a meteor streaking through the sky and Klyuchevskaya Sopka as it spews a mass of glowing lava. Striking and similarly explosive, the pair even reflect in the small body of water in the foreground.
Raised near Moscow, the now-itinerant photographer took the unexpected shot while leading a 2016 workshop at the Kamchatka Peninsula, which sits at the northeast corner of Russia facing the Pacific Ocean. The group was in the area hoping to capture the dramatic eruptions from Klyuchevskaya Sopka, which is the tallest active volcano in Eurasia—records show it’s been live since 1697—and the highest in the region scaling 15,580 feet. “We stayed with my group at camp close to a small pond,” Kordan says. “We caught reflections of volcanoes, and accidentally, I also caught a shooting star during a long exposure (of) 25 seconds.”
Kordan is known for his stunning landscape and outdoor photography, including shots of the jagged icicles on Lake Baikal, Namibia’s rippled sand dunes, and Lofoten, a fairytale-like town in Norway, to name a few. Follow his travels on Instagram, and pick up a print in his shop. (via PetaPixel)
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After embarking on both permitted and illegal ventures into the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, British writer and photographer Darmon Richter was able to document the ghostly ruins and abandoned structures throughout the hazardous region. He captures eerie Cold War-era relics in a series of mysterious photographs, including a paint-curling mural venerating Soviet heroes and the room where the initial malfunction, which decimated an area now part of Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia, occurred in 1986. Decades later, the nuclear disaster still is considered one of the worst catastrophes throughout history.
Published by FUEL, Chernobyl: A Stalkers’ Guide encompasses Richter’s unprecedented access to the mysterious zone in its 248 pages. The volume is available from the publisher or for pre-order on Bookshop. Keep up with Richter’s travels on Instagram, and check out his blog for further dives into abandoned history. (via Hyperallergic)
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Seeing a raccoon washing its paws in the rivers of Saint Petersburg or an octopus tumbling out of a city bus would be a startling sight for most city dwellers. Artist Vadim Solovyov, though, takes those surreal scenes a step farther as he imagines massive rooks, penguins, and chameleons invading the Russian city. While many of the composites feature the animals in nature, some position them in spaces typically occupied by a human, like a sloth behind the candy-covered counter of a convenience store.
Solovyov tells Colossal that he began the uncanny series as a way to explore strange events in his real life. For example, he said the giant raccoon and its presumptive counterparts “quietly make their way through the deserted evening city to the embankments and shyly rinse something in the water there. Thoroughly. Not less than 20 seconds,” which is a reference to current handwashing suggestions to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.
The artist says he values his work’s visual and textual components equally.
Giant animals (are) only one of the features of this world. Their origin, the history of the world itself can be found in fragments from the texts under the posts. Many posts exist in the context of actual events in my city and country. Through my work, I often convey in a veiled (and sometimes weird) way important for me issues or problems of society (attitude to animals, politics, social flaws). But this, of course, does not exclude the fact that some works are an ironic “visual game” without additional deep meanings.
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As travel slows due to the global coronavirus pandemic, a new advertisement released by Apple provides an expansive view of one of St. Petersburg’s most-visited institutions that’s accessible without having to venture into crowded spaces. Clocking 5 hours, 19 minutes, and 28 seconds, the single-shot video spans the Hermitage Museum in the nation’s cultural center. It includes a look at 45 galleries, 588 works, and even has live performances from Russian composer Kirill Richter and a ballet duet from the Hermitage Theater.
The ad was shot to showcase the iPhone 11’s battery life but also offers an impressive view of artworks by Rembrandt, Raphael Loggias, and Caravaggio. “This video to me is all about connection through time,” filmmaker Axinya Gog told ArtNet. “Art that is timeless meets modern life and state-of-the-art technology.” Using a complex system of handheld stabilizers, cranes to span rooms, and even a custom app to control the camera, Gog and the group behind the ad created the single-shot take during the course of six hours in the museum.
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Born in Kirov and now based in Moscow, photographer Aleksey Myakishev is adept at capturing the simple moments of life and transforming them into alluring black-and-white images. Taken mostly throughout Russia, his projects tend to focus on unassuming subjects as they navigate their daily lives. In one photograph, three figures walk over a snow-covered landscape away from a lit firework, and in another, Myakishev creates an uncanny juxtaposition between a hilly horizon and a man swinging a child by his hands as a winter boot flies from his foot. When describing the dozens of series he’s created, the prolific artist said capturing life in his native country can be complex.
It is always difficult to photograph the place where you live. Nevertheless, sometimes I pick up my camera and go to the streets to capture the city’s pulse. When I look through the camera’s viewfinder, a dialogue with the city takes place. There are lots of everything here, be it people, vehicles, buildings. Sometimes the city looks ugly to me, sometimes beautiful. Through photography I try to find something especial in this city, perceiving the underlying surrealism of what is going on.
Myakishev also has published three books chronicling his monochromatic works. To find more of his documentary-style images, head to his Instagram and keep an eye out for his upcoming project on provincial Russia.
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