145 - Evgenia Arbugaeva

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Evgenia Arbugaeva was born and spent her early childhood in the secluded town of Tiksi, located on the shore the Laptev Sea in the Republic of Yakutia in Russia’s Arctic North. Though she is now based in London and recently lived for a number of years in New York City, she has spent much of the past decade returning to and exploring the region surrounding her birthplace, discovering and capturing the remote worlds she finds there and the isolated characters who inhabit them. Her work is often located within the tradition of magical realism, and her approach combines documentary and narrative styles to create a distinctive visual iconography rooted in real experience but resonant with fable, myth and romanticism.

Evgenia's early series Tiksi (2010) and Weather Man (2013), which featured Slava, a lone Russian meteorololgist willingly marooned on a remote weather station, reflect her romantic fascination and childhood nostalgia for the Arctic. Between 2018-19, supported by a National Geographic Society Storytelling Fellowship, Evgenia travelled to three more outposts in the extreme north of Russia, creating three further chapters: Kanin Nos, a lighthouse on the isolated Kanin peninsula populated only by a young couple and their dog; Dikson, a now derelict ghost town where Evgenia captured the spectacular Northern Lights, and finally the far eastern region of Chukotka home to the Chukchi community, who still maintain the traditions of their ancestors, living off the land and sea with Walrus and whale meat as the main components of their diet. Collectively these stories are entitled Hyperborea and are featured in her first major solo exhibition at The Photographers' Gallery in London, now sadly closed under the latest UK lockdown.

By way of geographical contrast, Evgenia also travelled to Tanzania in 2016 to document a former malaria research center, producing a story entitled Amani, the name of the place in question.

As well as being a National Geographic Society Storytelling Fellow, Evgenia is a recipient of the ICP Infinity Award, Leica Oskar Barnack Award and the Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund Grant. Her work has been exhibited internationally and appeared in publications such as National Geographic, Time, Le Monde and The New Yorker magazines among others.

On episode 145, Evgenia discusses, among other things:

  • Memories of early life in Tiksi
  • First interests in photography at school
  • Living with reindeer herders for a year
  • Moving to New York
  • Her 3 month journey on supply ship to explore
  • Slava, the subject of Weather Man
  • The importance of forming relationships with her subjects
  • Kanin Nos
  • Dikson and the aurora borealis
  • Amani

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“The act of taking pictures is very invasive, you know, it’s a very harsh thing to do to someone and I am very much aware of that. So I want to soften it as much as I can for people, to the point where it won’t be a about photography or if it’s about photography its about making them understand what I do and them wanting to help me!”

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