Frozen in time: a photographer returns home to the Arctic after almost two decades

26 August 2021

Yulia Kopr moved away from her Arctic hometown of Norilsk in 2002, to start a new life in Vienna at the age of 19. On her return, almost two decades later, she discovered that the city of her childhood — with its socialist tower blocks, Lenin statues, and industrial chimneys — had remained almost as she’d left it.

The realisation was comforting. “I was anxious and full of expectations. As soon as the airplane landed, I burst into tears,” Kopr says, describing her arrival in 2019. “I felt I was home. I felt whole, for the first time after so many years.”

With memories still fresh in her mind, she set out to photograph her cherished but otherwise ordinary corners of the city. “I remember it like it was yesterday: running home from school with white frost on my eyelashes, grabbing onto the icy railing of the bridge so as not to trip.” One of the photos shows a nook where her and her peers would break off icicles and eat them like candies. “I also photographed the cemetery where my great-grandmother is buried. Truly, nothing had changed.”

The resulting series, titled Black Snow, recently travelled to Sarajevo, Bosnia, to appear at the Brodac Gallery. The exhibition was a part of a two-week arts programme centred on the theme of borders and migration by Kuma International School.

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