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."
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