Nanna Heitmann

6x6 Europe Talent: Nanna Heitmann, Germany/Russia

Hiding from Baba Yaga is a magic trip. The opulence and soul of her quiet images make Nanna’s work a must-see.” - Carol Körting, photo editor at Leica Fotografie International Magazine and 6x6 nominator, Colombia.

Nanna Heitmann is a German/Russian documentary photographer, based between Russia and Germany. Her work has been published by TIME Magazine, M Le Magazine du Monde, De Volkskrant, Stern Magazine and she has worked on assignments for outlets including The New York Times, TIME Magazine, The Washington Post and Stern Magazine. She has received awards that include the Leica Oscar Barnack Newcomer Award, the Ian Parry Award of Achievement. She joined Magnum as a nominee in 2019.

Hiding from Baba Yaga

Hiding from Baba Yaga is a poetic journey along one of the most powerful currents on earth, the Yenisei River. It flows 3438 km from the Mongolian border northward through Siberia into the Arctic Ocean. For centuries, people have sought protection and freedom on the banks of the Yenisei and the adjacent Taiga River.

For a long time, the banks of the Yenisei were pervaded by nomadic people. The Russians, coming from the west in search of valuable fur, reached the river in 1607. Over the years, criminals, escaped serfs, apostates and adventurers joined together in wild horse rider associations and expanded ever deeper into the vast wild Taiga. Members of the Old Believers–a Russian Orthodox community that left the church in 1666 in the face of state-issued church reforms–settled on lonely banks of the Yenisei to escape from the Tsar and later the Soviets.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, the area suffered from a structural change. Infrastructure collapsed in the remote regions of Russia, including many parts of Siberia. Isolation, unemployment, the closure of schools, and lack of medical care, were some of the effects. Many settlements and villages are on the resettlement list, which seeks to relocate people to milder climate zones. Some people have already moved away, but for many leaving is not an option. They either cannot afford to leave or cannot imagine doing so. They are used to harsh conditions.

A small ferry boat is the only connection to the Old Believer village Erzhey. There are many small Old Believer villages along the upper reaches of the small Yenisei. They still try to live a self-sufficient lifestyle, far away from Western influences. 9 July, 2019.

Yuri in front of his self-built home on 5 August, 2018. "I am a simple worker. Nothing keeps me in the city anymore. All my friends are in the cemetery because of drugs or alcohol. Here the air is clear and not dirty from all the coal dust in the air.” 

Biologist Nikolai Putinzov has the largest collection of insects and amphibians in the Tuva area. The biodiversity and water quality are under serious threat from Chinese companies mining gold in large quantities, managing the mercury in the Yenisei and clearing the forests and exporting them to China on a large scale. 13 July 2018.

During the Soviet Union, there was a lot of industry in Siberia. Today, people feel forgotten by Moscow politics. In Tuva, unemployment is very high. The former huge flour factory is closed. Even grain is only imported. Alcohol consumption and the use of synthetic drugs have become a major problem. The capital of Tuva, Kyzyl, is considered the most dangerous city in Russia. 5 August 2018.

Weg vom Fenster (Gone From the Window)

Coal mining enabled Germany‘s participation in the industrial revolution and contributed to the German “Wirtschaftswunder” (also known as the Miracle on the Rhine) after World War II, resulting in the development of today‘s key industries. However, today coal mining has disappeared with Prosper Haniel, the last remaining colliery, closing at the end of 2018.

Weg vom Fenster (Gone From the Window) focuses on the inhabitants of Germany’s last operating coal mine. The project examines the camaraderie of the workers facing an uncertain future, as well as those rendered ill by decades of work underground. Broken knees, herniated discs and black lung are typical conditions. In the worst case, the inhaled coal dust leads to the malignant form of silicosis. Fortunately, the once widespread miner‘s disease has become much rarer. But this doesn’t erase the memories of seeing elderly individuals, sitting by the open window, gasping for breath. If cancer killed one of them, he was “gone from the window” – that‘s where the German phrase comes from.

Today, energy transition and ecological restructuring have radically changed the region. Blue skies and picturesque landscapes, whose foundations of the coal and steel industry are hardly recognizable, have brought a new quality of life into the Ruhr area.

Mike Pallenberg. His main task is to attach a 550-pound drill with six to eight other miners so that it can worm up to 80 meters into the rock and drill holes. Every step has to be perfect and everyone has to rely on each other. Any mistake can be fatal. 28 February 2018.

The Prosper-Haniel guard of honor at a traditional gathering of former miners on 24 September, 2017. Over 800 miners came together. 

A powerful metal machine mills its way further and further into the seam. It cuts coal off day and night. Earlier, Hauer did the work with a hammer and a chisel, a life-threatening job. Today only a few men are needed to clear the way for the machines. They set supports of steel or wood that the 1200 meters of ground above them won't breakthrough. 27 November, 2017.

Miners gather together and smoke their last cigarette before their night shift begins on 19 December, 2017. Underground, any fire and electronics are prohibited because of possible fire damps. They sniff tobacco as a cigarette substitute and also to clear the nose from the coal dust.

Discover work by the 6x6 Europe talents, and find out about 6x6’s nomination and selection process.