Garden of Industry

Krasnoyarsk-based photographer Pavel Limonov captures the beauty of Norilsk expanses.

The city of Norilsk, situated in the Russian Far North, houses one of the biggest mining and metal production complexes in the world. Here, Pavel Limonov talks of his trip through the city’s industrial sites.

One of my friends, who knows of my fascination with industrial sites, once offered me to travel to his hometown of Norilsk. This city along with several lesser settlements, situated nearby, comprise one huge industrial area and are united in a single technological cycle for local non-ferrous and precious metals production: copper-nickel ore is mined at Talnakh, then processed in Norilsk and finally shipped through the port of Dudinka. At the same time, this conglomeration is pretty much isolated from the rest of the country since you can’t reach it by land – only by air or water.

We booked our plane tickets: I wanted to photograph some of the industrial landscapes and my friend came along for the sake of nostalgia. The series was not conceived as a special project and I wasn’t commissioned by anyone – I just generally feel better in such surroundings. The city itself is not featured in the photos, as anyone can research Norilsk via a simple online search, and I wanted to tell a unique story and capture the beauty of this place. 

We rented a car and roamed the grounds surrounding the city, replete with derelict houses, cars, factories, mines and small settlements. Ever since people began migrating to the mainland and some of the manufacturing facilities became obsolete, nothing has been built or recycled there. Norilsk doesn’t have the capacity for re-processing iron and removing it costs more than it’s worth. Consequently, the city is encircled by deserted buildings and scrap-metal dumps. Production sites in operation can be easily accessed and local skaters explore the factories, enjoying an unlikely riding paradise.