Photographer Georgs Avetisjans and publishing house Milda Books have launched a crowdfunding campaign for the photo book Motherland. Far Beyond the Polar Circle. The publication is a story about northern Siberia, where destinies of deported families and local residents are revealed through research and local memories.
Motherland. Far Beyond the Polar Circle is a visual and exploratory journey through time to understand the dark secrets of the past. Using a Soviet-era medium-format camera Salut, the author of the book, Georgs Avetisjans, documented the story of Igarka, a city 163 kilometres beyond the Arctic Circle, which was once built on the bones of Soviet prisoners. Considered enemies of the USSR, they were taken to Gulag camps and left to die of hunger and cold. The photographer turned to creating the book for personal reasons — his mother, whose family was deported in 1941, was born in Igarka in 1952. But during the research process, he also got to know many stories of other Siberian families, some of which will be included in the book.
To research the past and photograph Igarka today, the author of the book travelled from Moscow to Krasnoyarsk on the Trans–Siberian Express at the end of 2019, and then travelled further to Igarka with a small plane. «It was a journey from the present to the future along the railway tracks of the past,» Georgs describes the metaphorical side of the research. «I wanted to see the city where my grandmother once lived, to find the house where my mother was born, to see the Yenisei River, which surrounds the city, and to meet its inhabitants. The seemingly endless landscapes of Northern Siberia are often romanticised, but these expanses and steppes hold many, many poignant memories, some of which will be found in the book.» The artist also reminds that this is not a story only about the horrors of the past, because the Russian regime continues to use the same methods even today: «More than a million people have already been deported from the temporarily occupied territories to the regions of the Far East in Siberia.»
Georgs Avetisjans is a Latvian-born lens-based visual storyteller, designer, and author of books. He received his MA in Photography from the University of Brighton (UK) in 2016. He was nominated for Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award, received the Riga Photography Biennale Award, the Poznań Photo Diploma Award, the Magnum Photos Graduate Photographers’ Award, and was selected for Plat(t)form at Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland. He is one of the artists for the 3rd and 4th cycles of Parallel — European Photo Based Platform and Docking Station in Amsterdam. Through rigorous research, his work looks at contemporary stories through a historical lens. He has been participating in international shows since 2015.
Milda Books has previously published Georgs Avetisjans’ book Homeland. The Longest Village in the Country. Photobook Motherland. Far Beyond the Polar Circle is the second part of the envisioned trilogy. It is planned that the theme of the homeland and motherland will be followed by an autobiographical study of the theme of the fatherland.
You can learn more about the upcoming book and support it on the Kickstarter website.