Magnum’s Jacob Aue Sobol worked in collaboration with Leica to exhibit 28 of his images at Photo London 2017. The images are part of his latest project, Road of Bones, centred around the isolated communities that exist along the Kolyma Highway, a road that has a harrowing history.
The Kolyma Highway can be found in the far east of Russia. It cuts through the desolate Siberian landscape, where severe temperatures can plummet to as low as -60 degrees and where, despite the seemingly inhospitable conditions, isolated communities living in towns and villages line the route and carve out an existence for themselves. It’s a landscape with a dark aura and one that is haunted by the ghosts of a gruesome past, for the Kolyma Highway is popularly known by another name – the Road of Bones.
Between 1932 and 1953, Stalin’s regime sent millions of prisoners to forced labour camps, or Gulags, in Siberia, where they would be literally worked to death. One of the largest tasks undertaken was the construction of the 2,031km Kolyma Highway. It was a painful and fatal labour that saw the deaths of countless prisoners. Their bodies, rather than being buried in newly dug holes, were laid beneath or around the road. Today, the road is a grim memorial to the fallen.
Jacob’s work is famous for its stark black and white tonal range, its strangeness and its haunting intimacy. Despite the harrowing history captured in the Road of Bones, Jacob’s distinct aesthetic, shot using Leica M cameras, is able to draw out the beauty of the area and reveal the strength of the people who live there to this day.
To read the full interview with Jacob Aue Sobol, buy the latest issue (June 24) on sale now. If you’ve missed this issue in the shops, click here to buy it online.
Jacob’s collaboration with Leica
While at Photo London we also got the opportunity to speak to Karin Kaufmann, Art Director and Chief Representative of Leica Galleries International. Heavily involved in all the Leica exhibitions that take place around the world, she talks about why Jacob was represented by Leica at Photo London this year and what’s involved in putting together an exhibition.