Hiding From Baba Yaga

Like the girl Vaselisa running away from Baba Yaga in the Slavic fairy tale, many people throughout history have sought protection from the Yenisei river, and the woods it runs through. Nanna Heitmann’s “Hiding from Baba Yaga” is a poetic visual journey along the Yenisei river, which is born in Mongolia, then run northwards through all of Siberia, and finally flows into the Arctic Ocean.

Near the banks lives Yuri, who has built a small hut on a landfill. Here he can find food for his 15 former street dogs, here he lives freely. Nothing keeps him in the city, where thick coal dust covers the snow in winter.

Not far from the source lives Vaselisa, in the village of Old Believers. Her parents are both deaf and the only heathens in a village that lives strictly to century-old rituals. She does not like the children in her village. Her only friend lives in the village of Sissim, separated from her by the river and a long walk.

Encountering all these different people, there is a bond which connects them with each other, the search for freedom, protection, imprisonment and isolation. The Yenisei and its woods become a metaphor of a dreamscape: Loneliness, unfulfilled dreams, death, abandoned hopes shape people as much as the vast nature, which at the same time offers freedom and places of retreat.

Nanna Heitmann

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 die Zeit, 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 and accolades that include the Vogue Italia Prize at the PH Museum women photographers grant, World Report Award, and was shortlisted by the Leica Oskar Barnack Award, the Gomma Grant and LensCulture emerging talents.

Nanna Heitmann joined Magnum as a nominee in 2019.