Evgenia Arbugaeva (b. 1985) is an award-winning Russian photographer who grew up in a secluded port city on the shore of the Laptev Sea. Now based in London, the artist remains connected to her birthplace – recording the remote landscapes and communities of the Russian Arctic through magical realism.
The evocative images are part of a new show at The Photographers’ Gallery, London. Rooted in real human experiences, the exhibition presents four distinct visual stories: of Slava, a stationmaster in the far north; a remote lighthouse on the Kanin peninsula, home to only the keepers and their dog; Dikson, a derelict ghost town, illuminated by the aurora borealis; and of the Chukchi community, who maintain the traditions of their ancestors.
Arbugaeva presents these tales with an approach bordering on the cinematic. The pictures glow with jewel tones, otherworldly light and strong sense of contrast. They are emotion-filled and rich in powerful storytelling. By combining documentary and narrative styles, Arbugaeva’s work radiates with not only with myth and enchantment – but with truth and responsibility. Her multiple series reveal the “fragility and resilience” of Arctic landscapes, exposing the threats of environmental change.
Titled Hyperborea, the show draws on Greek mythology, which imagined a legendary realm ‘beyond the north wind.’ “I have always been fascinated by early maps of Hyperborea and the way the Arctic was alive in people’s imagination before they even set foot there,” she explains. “It continues to be associated with the magical and sublime.”
Hyperborea – Stories from the Russian Arctic runs at The Photographers’ Gallery, London, from 9 October – 24 January. Find out more here.
Lead image: From the series Dikson © Evgenia Arbugaeva Courtesy the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery
1. From the series Weather Man, 2013 © Evgenia Arbugaeva Courtesy the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery
2. From the series Weather Man, 2013 © Evgenia Arbugaeva Courtesy the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery
3. From the series Chukotka © Evgenia Arbugаeva Courtesy the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery