For the last five years Russian photographer Evgenia Arbugaeva has been shooting stories based on individuals from her Arctic homeland. These images create a mesmerizing look at an isolated place and culture unfamiliar to many of us.
Born in Tiksi, Russia, Arbugaeva’s unique childhood informed her entire approach to photography. She developed an appreciation of colour and light from her arctic surroundings. The polar light and snow enveloped landscape act as a huge reflector bouncing light into every crevice and ensuring any flash of colour pops. This aesthetic developed into her signature style.
Arbugaeva was first introduced to photography through her father’s darkroom. She quickly became fascinated by the process, which from a young age seemed magical as she watched floating prints develop. Although Arbugaeva dreamt of becoming a painter, she ended up focusing on photography as a profession after studying at the International Center of Photography in New York in 2009.
Sharing stories of her native community is front and centre to her practice and Tiksi called her back after graduation. Returning to the tundra nineteen years on, to connect with the memories of her childhood, she met thirteen-year-old Tanya Semivelichenko who captured her imagination. The Tiksi series is a highly personal look into Tanya’s life projected as a fairytale, capturing a sense of freedom and play that remain detached from the politics of the land.
The Weatherman series explores the life of meteorologist Vyacheslav Korotki, a specialist in the polar north. He lives in extreme solitude in Khodovarikha, an Arctic outpost where he measures the temperatures, snowfall and winds for the government.
This fascinating narrative, both beautiful and melancholy, comes to life in Arbugaeva’s images that defy the limits of the viewers’ imagination. They feel like film stills, some even have a slight Wes Anderson tone – it’s hard to imagine this exists in reality. Her expertise lie in creating otherworldly images, blending magic and reality from her own point of view.
Magical realism is the essence of Arbugaeva’s work and her unique ability to accentuate the ethereal qualities of her home country. Currently focused on personal and editorial work, Arbugaeva is yet to tackle a commercial brief, but it won’t take long for brands to harness her powerful aesthetic.