My work documents the Nenets, an indigenous Siberian people whose nomadic journey is the longest in the world. Each year families travel more than 1,400 miles, following the reindeer herds. The purpose of my work is to explore this human migration, the way of life that led humans to spread across the globe. It was nomadic life that brought the first humans from Asia to the Americas across the Bering land bridge from Siberia. To the stranger's eye, the Nenets' tundra world, entirely above the Arctic Circle, seems desolate, treeless, and isolated-dark and cold. However, the Nenets tell me that their world is "the land of the second sun" because the moon, clean snow, and a canopy of northern stars all create their own light in the long hours of winter darkness. In summer the Nenets know another sun, the "midnight sun" of the Arctic summer, a glorious time when days never end and the sun never sets. Today the Nenets who call this part of the Arctic home face their greatest threat: the development of Russia's massive gas reserves that lie underneath their tundra migration routes. In this century, Siberia will take on a new role as energy supplier to a world still hungry for gas and oil. Economists estimate that more than fifty percent of Europe's gas will come from Russia in the coming decades.
Excerpt from her essay in the FOTOFEST2006 catalogue.
The artist would like to thank Blue Earth Alliance for assisting with this project.
HEIDI BRADNER The Land of the Second Sun
The Land of the Second Sun, documents the Nenets, an indigenous Siberian people whose nomadic journey is the longest in the world — each year they travel 1,400 miles. For most of the 20th century, they remained deep behind the Iron Curtain, shut off from the outside world. Today they face their greatest threat, the development of Russia’s largest gas reserves underneath their tundra migration routes. In the 21st century, Siberia will emerge into a new role as energy supplier to the West. This endangers the migration patters of the reindeer and the Nenets' entire way of life.
Alaska-born photographer Heidi Bradner has documented Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Russia and the Caucasus since 1991, when she moved to Russia. Her most recent work concentrates on the Arctic. An ongoing project about the Nenets reindeer herders of Siberia, “Land of the Second Sun,” was awarded a World Press Photo Award in 2003. She is a graduate of the University of Alaska and the recipient of the Leica Medal of Excellence and the Alexia Foundation Prize for her work documenting the Chechen conflict, Europe’s longest but least-visible war. Her work is published and exhibited internationally.