Friday, 11 September 2009

"The Arctic is my home"

Viktor Zagumennov, right, has been photographing the North for 30 years. He has received the World Press Photo award twice, and his work has been featured in exhibitions all over the world.

(All photos in this article can be clicked for larger view.)

Left: By the roadside - two men in a remote part of Russia, year unknown. "The face of Russia" ... "Simple, good faces!" ... "Workers! The ones who keep the world going!"... That's some of the comments the photo has received from other members.

In his photos, Zagumennov has first and foremost devoted himself to documenting the everyday lives of rugged northern men and women.

Zagumennov himself grew up by the North Sea, and he says this has given him a special relationship to the modest northern nature, the darkness of the long nights of winter and the never setting sun of summer.
His passion for photography was sparked in 1st grade, when his parents bought a cheap Smena camera. He eventually went on to study photojournalism at Moscow State University.

He was assigned his first professional photoreportage in June 1977, for the newspaper Trud. The theme was "The mighty Soviet North", documenting the achievements of industrialization on the route Surgut - Nadym - Salekhard - Yamal Peninsula.
When Zagumennov set out on the trip, he was full of expectations coloured by the romantic landscapes of his childhood - "white nights, northern lights, fishermen at lakes like mother of pearl", as he describes it in his bio. "And suddenly it all changed. I saw the disfigured nature perishing under the barbaric onslaught of civilization; stern, unsociable people meeting each plane from the Big World, watchful - what will they bring this time, the 'aliens'. I realized the great hypocrisy of what was going on - [in our reportage] we were about to glorify murder, sing the hymn of the Molokh of oil, which was exterminating entire civilizations of northern people without mercy."
He says he accomplished little of any worth during this trip, except one photo: Reindeer herders of the North.

The photo was made at holiday festivities on the Day of Youth. The men are inhabitants of the village Aksarka in the tundra of Baydaratskaya Bay. They are Komi, Nenets, Khanty and Selkup. This photo (which was given the World Press Award in 1980) inspired Zagumennov to devote himself almost exclusively to photographing the people of the North.

These two photos are from a series on walrus hunters, Sireniki Eskimos on the Chukchi Peninsula in the village Sireniki in the mid-1980's.

Right: During class, unknown location, somewhere in the North, featuring a teenage boy with incredible eyes.

Several collections of photos by Viktor Zagumennov can be viewed on Photopoligon.
Don't miss the photostory from August 1981 about Gavrila Nikiforov, a Koryak man living by himself with his dogs by a river in Kamchatka, 20 kilometers from the nearest village. He hunted nerpa seal, fished and collected berries and herbs. The only things he needed which nature could not give him were bread and sugar, and these were provided to him by hunters, fishermen and the fishing inspector whenever they passed by. Zagumennov mentions that a flock of wild geese were hanging out at Nikiforov's house. They lived there every summer and had learned not to be afraid of him, but would fly away if strangers approached.

Here are some other galleries with Zagumennov's photos:
Zagumennov's official site -
More photos at


ainur said...

Gavrila and his doggies hanging out on the porch - lovely! It looks like the dogs live their own half-feral life, and gather around him for fun, or follow him if something interesting is happening. A tough life, but they look quite satisfied...

bubu said...

Miks mää asun täällä?

Anonymous said...

the photo Komi, Nenets, Khanty and Selkup. Do you know who is a Komi, Nenets, Khanty or a Selkup?

Tinet said...

Sorry, I don't know enough about the peoples to tell exactly who is who. They might even be mixed, I'm not sure.