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Thirty-Six Views of Degtyarsk

Living in the shadow of spoil and waste, black-and-white photography by Fyodor Telkov.

Degtyarsk was founded in 1914 near the deposits of iron pyrites. During the Soviet years its residents worked in local Kapitalny (capital) copper mines and brought wealth to the growing town. Since then its population dwindled and the once flourishing mining operation went bankrupt – leaving two huge irradiated spoil tips and poisoned ground waters. The massive waste mountains, which are considered to be “strategic reserves” by the local government, can be seen from across the town, looming over its inhabitants.

Fyodor Telkov took his first photograph of the Degtyarsk spoil tips in 2012, while scouting the location for the upcoming Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art: “I was fascinated by the spectacle – huge yellow heaps, surrounded by the green forests.” Soon the idea for the project started taking shape: “I collected views of the tips and what was happening at their foot. I visited all the local public events and tried to understand how these industrial remains influenced the life and feelings of Degtyarsk residents.” 

The photography book, compiled by Fyodor and printed by Spanish publisher Ediciones Anómalas, is titled “36 views,” a reference to the famous collection of etchings – “Thirty-six view of Mount Fuji” by Katsushika Hokusai. The vibrant chronicle of traditional Japanese life is reimagined by the contemporary photographer and transformed into an aesthetic meditation on the current economic and ecological conditions of struggling Russian mono-cities.

The book won the First Fotocanal Photography Book Competition, organized by Comunidad de Madrid and Ediciones Anómalas. It can be ordered via the publisher’s official website.