A guide to the New East

Cold spell: Evgenia Arbugaeva’s mesmerising photogaphs of a vanishing town

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With their snowy landscapes and candy-coloured houses, photographer Evgenia Arbugaeva’s images of the Russian town of Tiksi, conjure up a magical winter wonderland. Arbugaeva returned to the town, situated on the far northern coast of the Arctic Ocean, in 2010 after a 19-year absence to try and capture the spirit of the place where she grew up. Her first attempt left her disappointed, she says — the photos seemed too distant from her own childhood memories. One picture, however, stood out: the image of a young local girl, Tanya, sitting on her bed. Seeing herself in the girl, Arbugaeva decided to tell the story of Tiksi through Tanya’s eyes. The result is a series of ethereal photos that, on closer inspection, tell the story of a town that has been abandoned. An important military and scientific base throughout the Soviet Union, Tiksi boasted a population of 12,000 at its peak. Since then, numbers have dwindled to around 4,000. With her project, Arbugaeva not only succeeds in bringing the town and its history to life but also in telling a moving personal story.

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