‘Flash Mob’: Arctic Nomads Say Cheese for First Time

Indian Country Today

Winter is upon us.

But even this cold weather doesn’t compare to the brutally low temperatures sometimes registered in the remote areas of northeast Russia.

Sasha Leahovcenco

Two men and some of their livestock pose for what could possibly be the first picture ever taken of them.

An intrepid photographer, Sasha Leahovcenco braved -45 degree temperatures early last year in the winter to take photos of a small nomadic tribe of reindeer herders in Russia’s Chukotka region. Their way of life has barely changed in thousands of years, says the UK Daily Mail. They sustain themselves by whale hunting, herding reindeer and fishing.

This cute child watches as his friend helps with the light outside of the nomadic tribes tent on the Russian tundra.

The tribe, which is cut off from the modern world, has never been photographed before. Leahovcenco printed the photos he took and presented them to the men, women and children. (The Daily Mail adds that many of these Inuit people had never entertained a guest.)

When asked to describe his experiences in the frozen wilderness and what the photographs meant to the people who he snapped, Leahovcenco said he was sure it changed them – because it definitely changed him.

“If I would choose one word to say, it would be memory,” said Leahovcenco according to Help-Portrait.com. “More than that – good memories.”

“Eight months during the year, it’s winter there. More than that half of this time, people don’t see sun, because it just don’t raise-up [sic]. People are just depressed,” said Leahovcenco, who is from the former Soviet Republic of Moldova. “And when I was photographing them, that was the moment when they actually could smile and forget all their troubles and problems in life, and feel happy for a minute; and I would capture that on a photo, which they will cherish, I believe for the rest their life.”

Sasha Leahovcenco

Woman poses for a photo in the Chukotka region in Russia

Sasha Leahovcenco

A woman holds her own picture inside her tent in Chukotka, Russia

Traditionally, Chukotka was the home of the native Chukchi people, Siberian Yupiks, Koryaks, Chuvans, Evens/Lamuts, Yukaghirs and Russian Old Settlers. Now, members of the Inuit tribe live in this region at the far northeast end of Russia, North of the Bering Sea, in a desolate wilderness.

Sasha Leahovcenco

A young child poses with his portrait

In 2011, Leahovcenco was invited by a missionary friend to Chukotka to photograph the way of life there, but a busy schedule kept him from coming. He told Help-Portrait.com that he always wanted to go back to Chukotka. He finally went back last winter.

‘We hope to engage humanity’s deep rooted fascination with nature and desire to understand humanity,” Leahvcenco told the Mail. “Perhaps by getting a glimpse of this nomadic way of life we will reflect on this modern world and what in our lives is truly important.”