artists     stories    image-search     news    contact

There Is Gas Under The Tundra

© Charles Xelot

Sabetta, Yamal Peninsula, Russia

"The Yamal Peninsula in the Russian Arctic holds one of the largest gas fields in the world. The recent development of gigantic industrial plants in this hostile environment illustrates mankind’s ever-growing appetite for energy. The naked tundra, which was once traversed by herds of reindeer and their herders, the Nenets, is now filled with pipes and flares. Tankers and ice-breakers navigate along the coast illuminating the night.

The photographs are all taken in winter, thus the tundra becomes a white landscape where the spectacle of the development of the western civilization unfolds. All the natural elements are hidden.

This project questions the concept of the frontier. This story takes place in the northern part of the country, the last frontier. Though Yamal means "the border of the world" in the Nenets' language. There is also a temporal frontier: people living almost like in the Neolithic period are living next to 21st-century factories. And finally it interrogates the limit of the development of western civilization: we managed to exploit the most remote part of the world, what’s next?

The temporal and geographic boundaries separating the reindeer herders from the industry are the focus of my work. On the one hand, there are the men of the past, representing our "natural humanity", on the other side the heavy metal industry in which men and tubes are interchangeable.

The interactions between these two populations are complex. The factories are destroying the land but giving money, wood, gasoline, infrastructures to help the locals. Nenets don’t like companies but they cannot afford to refuse their help.

The sea passage is the only way to ship gas supplies and maritime traffic is therefore increasing."

click to view the complete set of images in the archive

Institute Artist is redefining how stories are produced and told. Representing auteur-driven storytellers, we bring together talent across commercials, photography, fine art, and film. Founded by Matt Shonfeld and Frank Evers. Institute Artists multi-platform production expertise, and established global relationships in entertainment, fine art, and journalism make for unmatched reach and cross-pollination of creative work. Institute Artist has been a leading advocate of the power of underrepresented talent and is fully committed to bringing these authentic voices to our clients by helping them tell compelling and entertaining stories that better connect with their audiences.