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  2. Photographer from Syktyvkar won the Andrei Stenin Photo Contest with a series about Vorkuta. We asked him about the pictures' story

Photographer from Syktyvkar won the Andrei Stenin Photo Contest with a series about Vorkuta. We asked him about the pictures' story

Maxim Polyakov, photos by Sergei Parshukov
Embankment of the river Vorkuta. On the opposite side is the abandoned village of Rudnik

Sergei Parshukov, a photographer from Syktyvkar, reached the list of the Andrei Stenin International Photo Contest’s winners. His series about the town of Vorkuta called "The Capital of the Vanishing World" won in the My Planet category. Sergei Parshukov told 7x7 what had appealed to him in the polar town, what kind of contrast he had found there and what had made him feel that the North brings people together.

Сергей Паршуков

Sergei Parshukov, photo by Kirill Shane

- The first time I have been to Vorkuta was several years ago. It was a business trip: I was there for a few hours and then left. But this time was enough for me to be caught by the visual component, the vibes, the minimalism of the outskirts. In a word, the North is addictive. At that moment, I thought that I would definitely come back there.

After a while, I entered the Docdocdoc School of Contemporary Photography. At the same time, journalist Elena Kabakova suggested me working with her in tandem. I told her about several topics of my interest, and in the end we chose the largest and most complex one - Vorkuta. She was working on a text about the town, and I was taking photos. This was the first trip, and I worked alone during the rest of them.

Studying at Docdocdoc improved my skill as a documentary photographer, so I had an understanding of what, how, and where I would take photos. I make a road map of the town — a list of important places to go. For example, going to Vorkuta means taking a photo of a mine and so on, there are always plenty of places like this in my list. Then I do research [look for locations]. Generally, I do this all in advance, so I do not waste time searching when I am already working “in the field”.

Reindeer herders before a team sled race during the Town Day’s celebration

Sergei and Olga - former workers of a mine in Vorkuta in their apartment in the village of Severny

A hostel in Vorkuta

I documented the daily life of Vorkuta. My goal was not to show negative or positive sides of the town. Vorkuta is closing in, unfortunately, entire villages are dying out, but at the same time, in Vorkuta itself, for example, in the Palace of Children and the Youth, every auditorium was full of children. In moments like this, on a certain contrast, you feel life and hope that the situation can be fixed if handled properly and the town has a future.

My series is called "The Capital of the Vanishing World". Almost immediately after the foundation of Vorkuta, there was one of the largest Gulag’s camps there, where prisoners from all over the world were exiled. By 1951, there were 73 thousand people there including foreigners. That is why the town got the second, unofficial name "the capital of the world". Many people stayed in this harsh land after doing their term. And now this world is rapidly disappearing.

Мемориальный крест, установленный родственниками ссыльных поляков в поселке Рудник

High cross installed by relatives of exiled Poles in the village of Rudnik

Two friends playing musical instruments over dinner

In Vorkuta, greenery is grown indoors all year round; nothing grows in the open ground in the permafrost zone

For me, Vorkuta is a town of fabulous energy. There are people who seem cold on the outside, but when you talk to them, they turn out to be very kind. At least, I have met only such people. I must admit that it did surprise me at first. It was as if people wanted to talk, but there was no one to talk to. For example, I was going to the village by taxi, there were some other people in the car on their way to the same village, of course, I got acquainted and talked to them. A few days later, I visited a taxi driver, and a few more days later, one of the passengers invited me over. People there are very open, they share their life stories, help each other. At this point, I was convinced that the North brings people together.

A beach near the closed village of Rudnik

A miner of the Komsomolskaya Mine having come up from the shaftbottom

Здание компании "Воркутауголь"

Foggy Lenin Street in Vorkuta with an administrative building of the Vorkutaugol Company in the background.

Boarders of a school for children of reindeer herders in the village of Vorgashor standing near a tepee 

Memorial to miners and mine-rescuers who died in the accident at the Severnaya Mine in 2016

The photographer's website


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