Here it is: Norilsk – photographed by Russian photographer Elena Chernyshova. You’ve probably never heard of the city, and there’s no particular reasons you should have. Its list of achievements include being the 7th most polluted city in the world. That’s no surprise, Norilsk is a mining city, the closest to the polar circle. Its mines and metallurgical factories were constructed by prisoners of the Gulag. All together, there’s no happy story there, and yet, there’s something charming in these photos looking into life there and, in Chernyshova’s words, looking at ‘human adaptation to extreme climate, ecological disaster and isolation’. I love the photos, their details, hidden symbols and atmosphere. But life there must be really tough.
There are more than 170.000 people living in Norilsk and more than 60% of them are involved in industrial processes. Read toxic processes. The average temperature is -10C, reaching lows of -55C in winter, when for two months the city is plunged into polar night. And yet life seems to go on, kids learn to play the violin and do gymnastics, people meet the sun in the solarium and devote their free time to alternative ways to be in touch with nature. They make a home out of an unfriendly place.