Whereas Pyramiden was abandoned a deacade ago, Barentsburg remains as the only operating Russian coal-mining community deep inside the Arctic Circle on the island of Spitsbergen at 78° North. From a distance it seems that the settlement is almost completely enveloped in dense black smoke from the local coal power plant. But just 600 miles from the north pole Barentsburg is surrounded by fabulous views of glaciers, icy mountains and a glimmering dark-blue fjord. Once entered the city one can feel the vibrant colors and utopian dreams behind the dusty patina of the former Soviet Union.
Every now and then in summer a few tourists dressed in outdoorwear walk along the main street Ulitsa Ivana Starostina catching a glimpse of some of the 400 russians left on the island. These morose coalminers and workers outlast almost half a year of darkness in arctic conditions waiting that the polarnight comes to an end. On the hillside above Barentsburg behind crumbling buildings that are not inhabitated or left to decay a fivepointed star becomes visible again in March when the midnight sun is coming. Through the years this Northern Utopia is observed by the second most northernly statue of Lenin. Miru Mir – Peace to the world.
Barentsburg is one of my longterm projects as a photographer to evaluate the impact of human influences on the sensitive arctic regions during the coming decades. I have visited Svalbard and Barentsburg several times and will return to continue my research.
Cycle of Works
Type of Work
Longtime project, free work
2006 to 2015