On the shores of Lake Svetloyar in northern Russia, an ancient legend responds to people’s eternal quest for meaning and enlightenment. With his photographic series “Svetloyar,” photographer Jewgeni Roppel takes viewers on a journey into the Russian belifes.
For Russians who are open to the mystery and allure of legends and fables, the city of Kitezh is a magical place, sunken below the surface of Lake Svetloyar. Often referred as the “Russian Atlantis,” the story goes that Kitezh faced an existential threat from marauding Mongol hordes in the 12th century. Rather than succumb to the invaders’ torches, the brave citizens chose to transform their city into a lake, protecting it from destruction.
The name of the lake, Svetloyar, is derived from the Russian word “Svet,” for light and world. Though the myth has since been disproved, the tale has nevertheless inspired a range of works, from paintings, references in pop culture, and opera to video games and more.
More recently, photographer Jewgeni Roppel has sought out his own artistic interpretation of the Lake Svetloyar narrative. Beginning with this wondrous tale, he brings to his images a welcome re-enchantment, while also weaving in important social observations about his former homeland.
As for Roppel himself, he can’t prove that supernatural elements exist at Lake Svetloyar, but he can re-create them through his photography. Ultimately, his interest is less on the visual than it is on the invisible: what is it about this place that triggers something so specific in the psyche of people? “If you visit and listen to these stories, you begin to empathize with their experiences. Slowly, the legend itself starts to influence you. Of course, that all depends on how open you are to it…”
Published: Camera Austria Magazine
Online Feature: Lensculture.com
Deichtorhallen Haus der Photographie, Hamburg 2018
Kultur Bäckerei, Lüneburg 2018