Photo exhibition: Siberia, where winter nights never end

A photography project by Elena Chernyshova, at the PhotoIreland Festival, Dublin


‘Days of Nights, Nights of Days” is a photography project by Elena Chernyshova that charts the daily life of the people of Norilsk, the most northerly city in the world.

The Siberian city, with a population of more than 100,000, was constructed by prisoners of a nearby Gulag in the 1920s and 1930s as a mining base for the world’s richest deposit of nickel-copper-palladium. Today, its population is cut off from the rest of Russia, isolated by a lack of roads and high airfares, in a place of desperate winter cold where night lasts 24-hour-a-day for two months of the year.

The photographer worked over a period of 12 months in 2012-13 to document the lives of Norilsk’s inhabitants. She was surprised to find a welcoming and resilient community with a sense of humour, working together to overcome the extreme environment.

Chernyshova’s beautiful and uplifting photographs are some of the gems in this year’s PhotoIreland Festival which kicks off next Thursday. Her work, along with that of 26 other photographers and artists, will be shown on screens at South Studios Dublin. The print works in this year’s festival are again dotted around the city, with an emphasis on Temple Bar.

The theme – Truths, Facts, Fictions, Lies – explores storytelling, how we decide what is true and what is myth, legend, hoax or lies. Highlights include The Sochi Project, an exploration over several years of stories of the region that hosted the last Winter Olympics. Photographer Rob Hornstra and writer Arnold van Bruggen give a nuanced and complicated account. Like Chernyshova’s work, it’s an example of “slow journalism”, a documentary project that attempts to get under the skin of the subject.