With average highs of -40 degrees Fahrenheit in winter, the Siberian city of Yakutsk, Russia, is one of the coldest ever populated places in the world. In 2008, a guest journalist wearing several layers of winter clothing was only 13 minutes outdoors in January, before he felt "severe pain" in his body and retreated inward.
"The first place he has to suffer is the exposed skin on my face," said the journalist, "who starts stinging and then suffering shooting pain before he becomes deaf, which is apparently dangerous because Then the cold penetrates the double glove layer and starts to cool my fingers. "
Who would want to live in such an inhospitable place? About 200,000 people, including the photographer Alexey Vasilyev, a lifelong Siberian who wants to be buried in the permafrost. (Digging tombs in the Siberian winter requires the first thawing of the frozen earth by burning a fire for a few days.) Many of Vasilyev's friends moved to Moscow or St. Petersburg as soon as they grew up ̵
Vasilyev's latest photo series is a love letter to his hometown showing how life goes on in extreme weather. It is a heartwarming collection of pictures of children skating on Lake Schorsa, outdoor markets where vendors haggle over meat and fish in the dead of winter, factories producing reindeer furs, and commuters stopping at bus stops hug for warmth. "It's cold outside, but all the houses are nicely heated," explains Vasilyev. "As long as you dress warmly outside, you're not in danger."
The series also documents the creative way in which the people of Yakutsk are coping with the cold, including building their homes on stilts, so that the central heating system releases the permafrost does not melt. In Russia, Yakutsk is known as a "city on legs" – laying all sewage, water and utility lines above the ground to prevent freezing. But even in this high north, the weather does not stay cold all year round. In June and July, the temperatures rise in the 90s and it remains bright for 20 hours a day.
Vasilyev says working as a photographer has helped to change the understanding of his hometown. "I see the city differently now," he says. "I realized that this place is not boring – you just have to look more closely."
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