The artist who dropped out at VHUTEMAS (Higher art and technical workshops) before Norilsk was in charge of the illustration and art department of the Izvestia newspaper editorial board. He was friends with Lev Kassil, Mikhail Koltsov, Alexey Garry, whose essays he illustrated in the newspaper. With one of them, Harry, he met in the late 1930s in Norillag, where he was sent after his arrest in 1937 under the notorious 58th article. There Arkady Sorokin was used according to his profile, entrusted with the organization of a photographic laboratory to collect photographic documentary material on the history of the combine construction.
One of the tasks facing the photo laboratory was to illustrate of geological museum with photographs, from which the future Norilsk Museum began. This is how the most famous Sorokin’s photographs from the life of the Nganasans appeared, taken by him during a trip to one of the Nganasan collective farms.
There were two of them in the Avam region: one named after Schmidt with its center on the Heta river at the mouth of the Boganida river and the other was on the Avam river near its mouth. The collectivization that had taken place by that time had little effect on the way of life of the original people, although the staged shot called In the Dining Room seems to indicate the opposite.
However, the pictures – Nganasan Chum and At the Balok – return everything to its place. In the photographs, you can see in detail both the faces and clothes of the chum’s owners, its decoration and the mobile houses, against which the father and son were filmed.
The birth of a child was considered a great joy in the Nganasan family. He was placed in a cradle that his father had to make. The walls were painted with black and red lines. Copper buttons, badges, chains were hung from the hoop at the head. The baby was wrapped in a fur envelope and never washed. The child did not receive a name immediately, and most often it was associated with some event. Most likely, the child in the cradle photographed by Arkady Sorokin was still unnamed at the time of shooting.
Read other materials of our photo project in the History spot section.
Text: Varvara Sosnovskaya, Photo: Nornickel Polar Division archive