During the winter months in Kazakhstan’s capital city, Astana, fishermen park up on the frozen Ishim river, hoping for a bite beneath the ice. The tradition goes back for generations, back to when Astana was a small rural farming village, not the high-rise, futuristic city it is today.
When the country was part of the Soviet Union, fishing equipment was standardised and sold only at government-run hunting shops. But since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the fishermen have been constructing their own customised fishing tents, sewn together out of plastic packaging found in the city’s markets.
Aleksey Kondratyev’s new book, Ice Fishers, examines the use of this salvaged material, mostly originally used to import Western, Chinese, and Russian goods, as a means of protection against the harsh weather conditions. Kondratyev, who has lived in America for most of his life, but is originally from Kyrgyzstan, first saw the fishermen when he travelling through Central Asia in 2015 for his project Formations. “I wasn’t sure what they were, but as I got closer I could make out what was going on,” he says.
Out of a 1200km-stretch of grassland in northern Kazakhstan, glistening skyscrapers shoot up into the landscape. Among the impressive buildings rising out of the otherwise sparse terrain are two identical golden towers, a fantastical presidential palace, and a looming centrepiece that blossoms into a large golden sphere. It packs quite a visual punch, but what’s most impressive is that it’s all been built in just 15 years.
Astana became the capital of Kazakhstan in 1997, and has since developed into one of the most modern cities in Central Asia. It’s futuristic buildings are designed by world-famous architects such as Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid, their work paid for via the country’s recently-discovered oil reserves.
“When I became a parent, I had the idea to make a photographic book for children,” says Russian photographer Andrey Ivanov, who has won the Photobookfest Dummy prize. “I started to photograph subjects and images of Russian fairy tales. At first it was a series of purely staged photos, but then I began to notice that some of the documentary photos I found fitted perfectly into this fabulous series.
“The fairy tale is the most authentic source of Russian archetypes. As the saying goes: ‘A fairy tale is a lie – yet there is a hint in it, a good lesson to good fellows’. The viewer follows the photographic tracks of the main hero of the fairy tale, referring to the cultural codes of the collective unconscious, and guesses or recognises the fairy-tale images, or hints of them.”