Once upon a time in Siberia, on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, in a warm bed in a small town, a little girl woke up from a dream. It was morning, but it was still dark out, for the little town was so far North that the sun would not show itself for many months. They called this the Polar Night.
The little girl rubbed the sleep from her eyes and dressed in the dark. She put on her pink jacket and red stocking cap and stepped outside. Her breath froze and she walked in the direction of school. All around her were endless fields of frozen tundra. But the fields were not white like you might think, for up above the Aurora Borealis lit up the sky. It looked like a big green breath frozen in the heavens and all around the little girl were beautiful colors. The snow was painted green. And on some mornings—if she was lucky—she’d even see bits of blue, yellow and pink on her walk to school.
She loved these colors very much. Walking through them made her imagination come alive. She liked to think of the fields as blank canvases for Mother Nature to paint upon. And what did that make her? Was she part of the painting too, in her pink jacket and red hat?
She smiled and her mind began dreaming of the days when the Polar Night would come to an end, when the first sun would light up the snowy mountains, making it look like blueberry ice cream. And then the summer would come, thesnow would melt and the tundra would transforminto planet Mars with it’s golden color seeming to stretch out forever in every direction.
She thought to herself, “Every season has its own colors.” She stored all these colors in her heart, and walked beneath the Aurora Borealis in this little town way up North.
The town was called Tiksi…
Tiksi is a real town, situated on the Arctic coast of Siberia and the girl is also real. I was born in Tiksi in 1985 and spent my childhood days there.
In the days of the Soviet Union, Tiksi was an important military and scientific base. People came from all over the country, some driven by employment opportunities, and others driven by a romantic dream of the far North. Although the town is very far north and surrounded by vast expanses of tundra, there was an abundance of beauty.
After the fall of the USSR government stopped financing it’s Northern projects and many little towns were left to their own survival. In 1991 my family, along with many others, boarded the windows of our home and left for a bigger city. I was 8 when we left, and ever since then I have never been able to forget Tiksi. The scenery, the colors, and the moments of pure childhood imagination made a lasting impression on me. I have always wanted to be that little girl again.
For the first time in 18 years I went back to Tiksi. The scenery was still there, but the town was nearly abandoned.
I met Tanya, a young girl who reminded me of myself when I was a kid. She had a similar fascination with the sea and the tundra, and a similar urge to explore her environment. Soon after meeting Tanya, she told me how much she admired Jacque Ives Cousteau (the red hat is a tribute to her hero). She quickly became my friend and my guide to Tiksi.
I wanted to document my connection to Tiksi. With my new friend Tanya as a subject to capture Tiksi, both the way it really is, as well as the way it exists in a child’s imagination.
Evgenia Arbugaeva was born in 1985 in Tiksi, Russia. She now lives and works between Russia and New York. She is a winner of numerous photography competition and a recipient of Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund grant which supported continuation of her Tiksi project
September 13 – October 21, 2012
Chassé XXL (Chassé Park)