A compelling photo series that explores the parallels between Kazakhstan’s nomadic past and its modern life.

A story of contrasts, the Ice Fishers photo series by Aleksey Kondratyev features striking portraits of Kazakh fishermen. Taken on the frozen Ishim River that flows through the country’s futuristic, high-rise capital of Nur-Sultan, the series also looks to Kazakhstan’s past. Beyond the skyscrapers and modern buildings of the capital, the river flows and then freezes as winter temperatures reach minus forty degrees Fahrenheit. Here, fishermen set out on the frozen river surface to catch fish, using the same knack for improvisation as their nomadic ancestors. Due to the extreme temperatures, the fishermen need protection while fishing. They use salvaged pieces of plastic from the discarded packaging of the city’s markets. From the stalls that sell western, Chinese, and Russian products, the bags become an indispensable tool.

Brought into this winter landscape by economic necessity, the plastic also represents the reach of a global economy. Widely available, the bags and sheets transform into improvised shelters. They mirror the need to improvise and adapt to a changing environment – a basic necessity, but translated for modern living. The photographer perfectly captures the sculptural silhouettes while offering a thought-provoking parallel between the country’s past and present. Photographs© Aleksey Kondratyev.

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