Before They - Photography Project by Jimmy Nelson

VI. Siberia - Yamal

All journeys Ethiopia Indonesia + Papua New Guinea Kenya + Tanzania New Zealand Mongolia Siberia - Yamal Nepal China Vanuatu Argentina + Ecuador Namibia India Siberia - Chukotka The Netherlands Archive South Sudan French Polynesia Peru Chad
Siberia - Yamal
With Moscow as home base we flew to the Yamal peninsula in North West Siberia. Continuing by car to where the Ob river and the Ural mountains meet the Arctic Coast. 
Clear blue skies don’t make for very interesting pictures. Challenging conditions on the other hand, really reflect in the faces of the people you photograph. The more we as a crew and the models have to endure meteorological hardships, the more powerful the images become. 
"We would always choose to travel to places when the chances of rough weather were best"
Our guides on location however didn’t always understand this. In Yamal too, our guide would often direct us towards area where the weather was better, whereas we were really looking for conditions that impressed even the locals. Only when the Nenets – a tribe used to coping with extremely low temperatures– would comment on the cold, that’s when we would break out our camera gear and start shooting. 

Nenets

Russia

View tribe ›
The Nenets are reindeer herders, migrating across the Yamal peninsula, thriving for more than a millennium with temperatures from minus 50°C in winter to 35°C in summer. Their annual migration of over a 1000 km includes a 48 km crossing of the frozen waters of the Ob River. 
“If you don’t drink warm blood and eat fresh meat, you are doomed to die on the tundra”
The discovery of oil and gas reserves in the 1970s and the expanding infrastructure on the peninsula, has challenged their indigenous lifestyle. From the late Stalin period, all children have been enrolled in Soviet boarding schools, this has become a part of the typical Nenets life cycle.