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Russian Spring
Ryazan, Russia, April - May 2011

During the exceptionally warm and dry summer of 2010, the most extreme heatwave was recorded in western Russia (NOAA). Hundreds of forest fires burned around Moscow from the end of July to the beginning of September. The smoke produced heavy smog in Moscow creating a serious health problem that disrupted public life. International media covered this environmental problem extensively.

Forest fires are a common and natural phenomenon in Russia. The exceptional circumstances in 2010 were created by a combination of extremely high temperatures, little precipitation, dehydrated soils, change in forest management and human-induced recreational fires, which made forests extremely vulnerable to the outbreak of wildfires. Ryazan Oblast, a timber-producing region to the southeast of Moscow, was one of the areas that suffered most from these uncontrollable fires. Within the dehydrated peat soils of this region, wildfires can continue burning unnoticed underneath the forest floor. This makes it extremely difficult to control these fires. Trees affected by peat fires may look undamaged but have burned roots and are rendered unviable.

Over a period of six weeks, ten locations in these forests were photographed four times. In this time the forest changed from a, burned, and still, winter state to a flowering, summer, state. This period was chosen to visually study the sudden change from winter to summer, which is typical for the temperate land climate in this part of Russia.

This project was funded by the Sem Presser fund and the Van Bijlevelt Foundation.