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We don’t belong here — a story about North

I was born and spent most of my life in a small Russian town above the Arctic Circle. Stunning landscapes surrounded my everyday life. But among them, a constant reminder of the past were these: abandoned and long forgotten settlements with their once thriving streets slowly rotting and turning into dust. Their placement seemed so random and irrational it was impossible to believe an actual human being built them.

20 July 2022, Kuzomen, Murmansk oblast, Russia. Kuzomen used to be a fishing village, now it’s mostly abandoned – 20.07.2022

For the most part they were old military settlements made with the sole purpose of sustaining their own respective base. When they were no longer needed, everyone just forgot about them, like they never existed. Some mining and fishing villages here and there can’t even be found on the maps anymore. I had no desire to consult the archives for the truth of their histories. What could possibly be of interest there? However, with time, my imagination began slipping away back to them searching for an answer to the great mystery of those silent phantoms. What happened to them? Why were they abandoned? 

11 August 2023, abandoned military base near railway station Pinozero, Murmansk oblast, Russia – 11.08.2023

I must’ve come up with a dozen different explanations and thrilling stories, each one nothing like the other. Sometimes the only thing tying it all to reality was the actual placement of buildings, and even that didn’t hold my imagination for long.

 It quickly became normal for me to live in two worlds simultaneously: a boring reality, where greed and an unstoppable obsession with saving money have won, and a grim fairytale, with a bunch of mysterious events that left such a meaningful impact for everyone to see.

3 August 2023, mostly uninhabited houses, railway station Pinozero, Murmansk oblast, Russia – 03.08.2023

I’ve tried to fuse elements from all those different stories into a single consistent tale, creating my own North: broken, but nonetheless somewhat appealing. And now I think I’m finally ready to uncover some of his secrets.

The photographic body of this project is a documentary research of Arctic’s abandoned settlements but its textual part remain purely emotional as I simply can’t find the power in me to see the ugly political and economical truth behind a grim but yet captivating facade I have constructed over the years.

3 August 2023, railway station Pinozero, Murmansk oblast, Russia – 03.08.2023
11 August 2023, wrecked car bodies, abandoned military base near railway station Pinozero, Murmansk oblast, Russia – 11.08.2023
15 August 2023, ruined building in a deserted military city, still in possession of Ministry of Defence, thus cannot be demolished, Kandalaksha military city, Murmansk oblast, Russia – 15.08.2023
11 August 2023, abandoned military base near railway station Pinozero, Murmansk oblast, Russia – 11.08.2023
24 August, deserted military city, Pechingskiy district, Murmansk oblast, Russia – 24.08.2023
20 July 2022, Kuzomen, Murmansk oblast, Russia. Kuzomen used to be a fishing village, now it’s mostly abandoned – 20.07.2022
20 July 2022, Kuzomen, Murmansk oblast, Russia. Kuzomen used to be a fishing village, now it’s mostly abandoned – 20.07.2022
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Alexey Derevtsov

Documentary and art photographer, student of Academy of Documentary and Art Photography Fotografika

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