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ONE PHOTO – ONE STORY

23.12.2021

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Железная Дорога (Zheleznaya doroga) – The Iron Road: Grigoriy Yaroshenko spent two years exploring the ten thousand kilometres of the Russian railway system. A symbolic witness to the industrial revolution, an expression of life, wanderlust and dreams:

"This image was taken on Lake Baskunchak, 1500 km away from Moscow. It is a salt lake that is located in the Astrakhan region, a few hundred kilometres north of the Caspian Sea, on the border with Kazakhstan. It is the biggest salt mine in Russia. It is 6km at its deepest points, and is an inexhaustible natural resource because numerous springs feed the lake, carrying thousands of tons of salt into it every day. Since Soviet times, it has also been known as an improvised resort where many people from all over Russia come for so-called spa procedures. The coast of the lake has deposits of medicinal clay and mud, and people believe in their healing abilities. There are no hotels or medical centres there, because no infrastructure is allowed in the salt mine territory; people just bathe in the water all over the lake. I did try it, of course, but I found the pleasure very questionable — since the nearest source of freshwater to rinse off the healing mixture was in a hotel 50 km away. This small fork in the railway was build in Soviet times to export salt. Since then this rusty train has been passing by once a day, every day of every year. In spring the road is covered with a layer of water, which locals call “salt liquor”.  The water level can reach up to one meter. The work still continues. After loading, the train heads back in reverse: one of the railway workers steps on the back of the last carriage with a walkie-talkie, and gives commands to the driver to avoid hitting something or someone. So, this is just a normal day at Buskunchak. Nothing extraordinary. I guess if you don’t know what is really happening it might seem pretty symbolic of the modern world: a huge, rusty train without a locomotive, that continues on its way in an unknown direction..."

Text and Image: © Grigoriy Yaroshenko
Equipment: Leica M10 with Summilux-M 35 f/1.4 Asph.


Read more about his project in the LFI Magazine 1/2022.
© Grigoriy Yaroshenko

Grigoriy Yaroshenko

Born in 1971, Grigoriy Yaroshenko is a Russian documentary photographer, curator, teacher and film director. After graduating from the   Sergei Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography in Moscow, he ran the  Leica Akademie Russia (2011–13). In 2019 he published the book ЖД The Iron Road – a year-long railway journey through Russia. Yaroshenko took part in the 64th and 65th Russian Antarctic Expedition (2019-2020) as a photographer and film maker. He has received several awards, including The Silver Camera, and is a member of the Russian Union of Art Photographers.

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