I left to fill the void within me. A detective looking for clues to my own emotions, I searched for the answers blindly. For two winters, I collected in small boxes the instant shots of two journeys. Located in the far East of Siberia, Yakutia is crossed by the Kolyma Highway. This 2032 km road travels between the capital of Yakutsk and the port city of Magadan.
Known to be the coldest inhabited region in the world, it is a place where temperatures drop to negative 60°C. The days are short and the harsh air stings. The floating icy flakes act as spears, piercing my asthmatic lungs. Villages and mountains form a landscape of foggy white blurs as silhouettes dressed in thick fur roam around in slow motion.
Surrounded by mountains and frozen rivers, I photographed abandoned villages and empty valleys. I met people living and surviving in the extreme conditions of the region. In each person I shared a moment with, I found a piece of myself. Along the Kolyma Highway, herds of wild horses trot in complete darkness and exhale gigantic clouds of smoke from their nostrils. Stray dogs adopt me into their pack wherever I went and at times I snuggled in the snow, embracing the sky.
The life that has evolved in these brutally harsh conditions is inherently warm. In its resilience, the environment is both wild and uncommonly beautiful.
On February 8th I received the news. In the overheated rental room in Yakutsk, I came face to face with the reality of death. The pain was suffocating as I grieved the loss of my Grandmother. Since that moment, I still surprise myself several times a day in apnea.
I boarded on a flight to Paris the next morning for her funeral.
Visiting Siberia I intended to collect enough material for my first book. A book I would offer to my Grandmother. For she was an artist too.
“Despite your memory loss, you would have looked at me with your grey-blue eyes. You would have taken my hand in yours. But you are not here anymore. So I went back into the cold of Siberia to finish this project. For you.”
The content of this book was photographed during March and April of 2016 and from January to April of 2017 in the villages along the Kolyma Highway, in Yakutia.
The picture page 20 was taken the last time I saw my Grandmother alive in August 2016, in Tourtoirac in France.
My grandmother and artist Yolande Cartis died in her sleep on February 8th 2017
This book is dedicated to her.