Childhood memories are powerful and surreal at the same time. They can let you live in a nostalgic mood until you find out that things have changed and memory plays tricks.
Some images stuck in her head pushed Evgenia Arbugaeva to look for the truth. She was born in 1985 in Tiksi (Russia) on the shore of the Laptev Sea, which feeds into the Arctic Ocean. When the Soviet Union collapsed she moved to Yakutsk, an eastern region of Russia. She’s graduated in photojournalism at the International Center of Photography of New York. Life in New York is way far from the life in Tiksi, the first one is crowded and noisy whilst the other one was isolated and cold. Nevertheless, all her childhood memories were all really bright, beautiful and she started to question herself if was it really this way? Thus, she decided to get back to Tiksi, but what she found clashed with her memories. Tiksi was then home to a USSR military base, an Arctic research outpost, and a major seaport, but after the collapse of USSR the number of the population decreased dramatically, the percentage of unemployed people is getting higher and higher, the quality of life declined, and alcoholism has become a common problem. She took some photos, but was disheartened by the project – until, back in her new home of New York, she was struck by one image of a little girl skimming stones into the sea. She decided to go back there again and find the little girl, Tanya. The little girl becomes the protagonist of the series Tiksi who gives the photographer the possibility to express the fairy memories she had about her birthplace. The shots of this series are a mix of memories and imaginary moments. Tiksi is soundless, cold, and white, and the ability of Evgenia was to give to Tiksi a fantastic aura. Tanya was playing on rusty abandoned ships; however, we don’t perceive the decline, rather we lost ourselves on icy, horizonless landscapes. Thanks to Tanya, Evgenia expresses her childhood memories and she felt child again. Thanks to her work, Evgenia won important awards (like the Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund), and she returned to Russia several times. During these trips she noticed how the meteorological stations have turned into modern and technological, until she meets Vyacheslav Korotki also known as Slava a 63 years old man, the protagonist of the series Weather man. Slava is exactly the opposite of modernity, a lonely artic wolf. She depicts his daily life in a simple way, without details that can distract, putting the stress on the solitude. For this series she looked at Russian and European oil paintings, in fact the images are into a picturesque dark mood and a classic composition. Now, Evegenia is sent on an assignment for National Geographic, but she doesn’t view herself as a reporter or journalist because she said “the facts that I care about are not really newsworthy”.
All images © Evgenia Arbugaeva
Written by Anna Trifirò