When he visited the scene of an oil spill last summer in Siberia, photographer Igor Tereshkov decided to bring some of it home.
He filled a plastic bottle with residue that had pooled in the land. Back in Moscow, he began to experiment, leaving spools of black-and-white film in the oil for five hours.
It left white blotches on the negatives, which later appeared black when Tereshkov printed the photos. The effect is haunting. The bucolic scenes appear ravaged, and the images have an aged look.
“These spots became black, like the oil spills themselves,” said Tereshkov, 29.
Residents in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug (KhMAO) in northwestern Siberia — the country’s top oil-producing region — are no strangers to encroachment by oil companies.
There have been multiple spills by major firms and outdated pipelines in recent years. Greenpeace Russia, where Tereshkov also volunteers, has tried to highlight the environmental damage.
The areas hit by the spills are usually in the tundra, home to the Khanty people, one of Siberia’s many indigenous groups. Largely nomadic, the reindeer-herding Khanty move between villages, hunting animals and staying in “chums,” or tents.
They live on legally protected land, and getting into their territory requires a special permit. Knowing he would face difficulties, Tereshkov managed to sneak in with the help of some locals, trudging through swampland before reaching a settlement.
He spent just under a week in the region in June 2018, shooting on a Leica camera with a 50mm lens.
While the Khanty nominally own their land, “they are often deceived,” Tereshkov said. “They are forced to sign papers they don’t understand, giving away their land to oil companies.”
For the majority of Khanty families who do not get a cut from the oil firms, life is poor and opportunities limited.
“Paradoxically, often the only jobs available are at oil companies,” Tereshkov said.
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