By Simone M. Scully
Detroit-based photographer Aleksey Kondratyev, 22, spent two months this winter photographing the fishermen of the frozen Ishim River in Kazakhstan’s capital city of Astana. Wrapped in giant plastic bags to shield themselves against frigid winds, these fi
Detroit-based photographer Aleksey Kondratyev, 22, spent two months this winter photographing the fishermen of the frozen Ishim River in Kazakhstan’s capital city of Astana. Wrapped in giant plastic bags to shield themselves against frigid winds, these fishermen can be seen out on the ice all winter long, braving temperatures that can drop as low as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
“The cold was memorable,” Kondratyev told weather.com. “I don’t think that I’ve ever felt anything like it. Astana was definitely the coldest climate I’ve ever experienced.”
Kondratyev said he decided to photograph the fishermen because they illustrated an interesting “melding of tradition and modernity.”
Ethnic Kazakhs come from a nomadic background, but today, many live (and fish) in their new, modern capital city. Astana was only a medium-sized provincial town before the fall of the Soviet Union, but it replaced Almaty as the country’s capital in 1997. It was then rapidly built up into the modern place it is today, a city full of sleek, futuristic buildings.
The men on the river “are ice fishing, which is a nomadic practice,” said Kondratyev, “but at the same time, they are using these plastic bags, a product of the way of the west. I was interested in looking at the meeting point between those two things.”
In order to emphasize the juxtaposition between tradition and modern creations, Kondratyev opted to manipulate his images and remove the backgrounds. The effect was to leave the fishermen isolated under their plastic domes in a dreamy white landscape.
“I was interested in this idea of cutting oneself off from the world with the plastic bags,” he explained, “so by removing the background, I could further that idea.” Also, by removing the background, he added, the photos would focus the viewer on the unique sculptural forms created by the bags in the bone-chilling wind, rather than the surrounding city.
Kondratyev is currently working on a book, which will be published by Fabrica + Institute. To see more of his photographs, visit his website.