From Tundra to Taiga Stu McKenzie Photography

The exhibition of Stu McKenzie’s photography aims to offer a rare glimpse into the traditional way of life of the Nenets people of the Russian Arctic and to tell the story of their daily fight, not only with the polar conditions but also with encroaching modernity.


Living a traditional way is not just a choice, it’s a battle to retain a cultural identity in an ever decreasing global society. The Nenets forge a life in the harshest of environments, herding reindeer and migrating over 600 miles twice a year, where winter temperatures regularly reach -50c. In Soviet times they were forced to integrate, their own language banned, only allowed to speak Russian. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union they have thrived, passionate about their culture and their reindeer, but now facing new threats, climate change, the draw of the big cities for younger generations and the exploitation of their lands by gas companies.


In our drive for modernity, Governments and companies hunt for natural resources wherever they can, accessing areas that were previously un-reachable, often at the detriment of those that live in such environments. For the Nenets, this has strengthened their resolve and determination to protect their heritage, to fight for the traditional way life and to challenge those that endanger it.



Stu McKenzie


Stu McKenzie is a cameraman and editor for the BBC. He recently returned to Gloucestershire after working in the BBC’s Moscow bureau for a year and a half. He has worked on stories all over the globe from the Paris attacks and migrant crisis to the Middle East and Antarctica. After a 24-year career in the Army, Stu decided that a new challenge was required, he studied and gained an MA in Documentary Filmmaking, and then he was lucky to have been offered a role within the BBC. Stu has a passion for photography and experiencing the rich cultures that span the world, coupled with a drive to tell the stories of those who can’t. He has recently travelled to Mongolia, living with Kazakh eagle hunters as they migrate over frozen rivers and lakes into the Altai Mountains. He has just returned from the Arctic, where he lived with a family of Nenets, whose lives revolve around herding reindeer in the extreme and unforgiving Arctic climate.


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