Solovki Islands// Russian Far North

Solovki Islands is the biggest archipelago, about 30 miles deep in a windy and cold White sea, and some 100 miles away from a polar circle. There are 6 large and about 100 small islands only few of wich are populated. Its a part of Far north of Russia, known for its extremely harsh climate. In ancient times this area was populated by Saami who supposingly left these mystic labyrinths made of rocks and other stone settings – seitas. In 15th century two monks founded there the Solovetsky Monastery wich by the end of the 16th century had emerged as one of the wealthiest landowners and most influential religious centre in Russia. After the October Revolution 1918, the islands attained notoriety as the site of the first Soviet prison camp (gulag). Solovki is the testimonial of greate human sacrifises where everything and anything was coming with great deal of sweat and countless human lifes.

Based on my travel expirience there, i would could cut down Solovki to just this: water, forests, rocks, and roads, which you walk or bike along to hit (after 10 to 15 km of forests) the waterfront. And although there is no great visual difference, forests are just forests, and water is just water, at Solovki Islands nature feels in a much larger way. It’s more massive, more complete, more mature. And it seemed to me that it’s not the historic events that makes Solovki a very unique place on earth, but the other way round.

What i was really drawn to is the modern story of people who let Solovki into their hearts, those who over years return to the Islands again and again, and instead of just having easy time here, takes less paid and often more heavy work here, then those thay usually do on the big land.

I think it’s no coincidence that, apart from orthodox piligrims and wild nature seekers, Solovki attract so many art people: actors, directors, performers of all sorts, writers, visual artists. And there’s this inner metamorphosis that happens to people here, which I am trying to explore visually. As if they were letting in this primal, primogenitor character of local nature. Of a landscape that does not shock you but charms and hypnotizes. I think that people who are mesmerized by Solovki also start getting more visual similarities with the primo- rock, primo forest, primo water of Russian North. As of they get filled by this magic, fairy-talish Russian quality, where people often turn into rocks, while rocks and plants turn into people.

// 2014