In the remote village of Yar-Sale in Northern Siberia, live a group of elderly women. They were once part of a nomadic community of reindeer herders. However, in their old age, they spend most of their days in seclusion, isolated from the world they loved and their community. (* Like Last Year’s Snow – a Yiddish expression, referring to something which is not relevant anymore.)
Oded Wagenstein is a photographer, exploring the relationship between Aging, Longing, and Memory. It took a flight, a sixty-hour train ride from Moscow, and a seven-hour bone-breaking drive across a frozen river to meet them. Oded immersed himself in their closed community, and for days, and over many cups of tea, they shared their stories, lullabies, and longings with him.
In this series, the memories and longings of the past, represented by the images of the outside world, are combined with the portraits of current reality “By doing so”, Wagenstein explained “I tried to give their stories a visual representation. One that could last after they are already gone.”
This series from Siberia is part of a larger project that Oded has been working on in recent years on the subject of aging.”After losing my grandfather, who was a significant role model in my early life, I became both interested and frightened by the subject of Aging. Not long after, I discovered the power of photography and I was fascinated by the ability of the photographic image to freeze time and preserve a memory. Over the past five years, I have been on a journey during which I met with elders in different communities around the world. I used the camera as my passport, but the actual photo-making took only a fraction of the time we spent together. I was more interested in hearing their stories, memories, and longings and asking them my unanswered questions about aging. The same questions which I did not have the opportunity and maturity to ask my grandfather.
I believe that our society is often too focused on the young generation – in the media and in the workforce, and by doing so, we miss the opportunity to learn from our elders. One must remember – we all age, and as the body betrays, and memory fades, that sense of belonging might just be all that is left. ”