Russian photographer Evgenia Arbugaeva remembers attending “Meeting of the Sun” reindeer festivals each February as a child growing up in Siberia. Herders would dress in traditional clothing while their reindeer pulled sleds through the village.
The warm memories led her to spending a cold year with five separate nationalities of nomadic reindeer herders throughout the Republic of Yakutia. As her first in-depth photo project, she said it taught her a lot about the technical side of things, but also about the kind of stories she wants to tell.
“I want to be really involved with the people,” Arbugaeva said. “I want to experience their lives.” Living with her subjects gives her a personal view into their lifestyle and culture.
Used to living in below-freezing temperatures throughout the winter, the herders provided Arbugaeva with traditional clothing and a sleeping bag made from goatskin to keep warm.
“But I would wake up in the morning and my eyelashes would be icy,” she said. “It is a tough life, but they’re used to it.”
The nomadic tribes relocated their settlements every week or two, packing all their belongings on the reindeer sleds and traveling to the next location.
“I wanted to photograph the beauty of this lifestyle,” Arbugaeva said, adding that most of the people had never had their picture taken.
“In the age of urbanization and technological progress, these people have maintained an ability to live in complete harmony with nature and each other,” she says on her website. “I think that’s how human relationships should be.”
- Elizabeth I. Johnson, CNN