Eighty-year-old Werner Freund would rather be a wolf than a man. He’s been raising and living with wild wolves in Germany for the last 30 years and considers them his family. Last January, Gersin Paya from VICE Germany and a small crew drove to the town of Merzig to meet Werner and help him feed raw deer meat to his furry brethren.
Every year, a massive “dead zone” blooms in the Gulf of Mexico. Inside its amorphous boundaries almost all life is extinguished.
VICE Loves Magnum: Jonas Bendiksen Takes Photos in Countries That Don’t Exist
Unlike almost all of the other photographers we have spoken to in the VICE Loves Magnum series, Jonas Bendiksen’s work isn’t focused on war zones or conflict. Having worked his way through Magnum, starting as an intern and going on to become a full member, his view on how photography can engage with the world around us is pretty informed. From examining life in marginal post-Soviet states to exploring humanity’s ever-quickening transition from country to city life and its impacts, we talked to him about his work and why people should stop seeing slums as aberrations.
VICE: I’m sure you’ve been asked this lots of times: As someone who’s worked his way up through the ranks at Magnum, you must have an interesting perspective on the agency as a whole. If you were asked to sum it up, what makes Magnum so important in the photography world?
Jonas Bendiksen: Well, I think what makes Magnum interesting and still relevant is that you have this incredibly diverse range of photographers, who in their own ways create photography that’s a commentary on what they see around them. And I think Magnum has become even more interesting in recent years because it’s become more diverse.
As you said, it’s a very diverse group of photographers. But would you ever say that there was a kind of “mission”?
Magnum has a common goal: to use photography to be part of a conversation about the world around us. Within that, each photographer might be interested in different things, but that goal is the common denominator.
New Laws Would Make Environmental Protest “Terrorism”
Most people have heard of tree-sitting—a tactic environmentalists use to prevent old-growth trees from being cut down and whole forests decimated. In its heyday, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, members of groups like Earth First! climbed 100-foot-tall Redwoods and stayed there to save them. Beginning in 1997, one woman in Humboldt, California, named her tree Luna and stayed in it for two years, until enough money could be raised to prevent it from being axed. In 1998, in a Northern California old-growth forest, another treesitter named David Gypsy Chain was “accidentally” killed when loggers felled a tree that came crashing into the protester. He died instantly of massive head trauma.
This style of protest was also hugely successful—that is, until a series of arrests in 2005 against radical environmentalists who were labeled “terrorists.” It scared the shit out of the environmental-activist community, and folks started drifting away.
Now, there’s a vibrant national protest movement reviving those “direct action” tactics of civil disobedience again, and adding a new political savvy to the mix. They, too, have been incredibly effective. In Oregon, in the summer of 2011, one blockade took 50 cops, a backhoe, and a 125-foot-crane to remove treesitters. A few days later, activists locked themselves together in an Oregon Department of Forestry office. The group responsible, the Cascadia Forest Defenders, say they won’t stop until the Elliott State Forest is protected from clearcutting.
As a result—surprise, surprise—politicians are trying to create new laws that make tree-sits and other direct-action techniques illegal. The bills even single out the Elliott State Forest campaign by name and allow corporations to sue protesters for costing them money.
Ian Berry Takes Jaw-Dropping Photos of Massacres and Floods
Magnum is probably the most famous photo agency in the world. Even if you haven’t heard of it, chances are you’re familiar with its images, be they Robert Capa’s coverage of the Spanish Civil War or Martin Parr’s very British holiday-scapes. Unlike most agencies, Magnum’s members are selected by the other photographers on the agency, so becoming a member is a pretty grueling process. As part of an ongoing partnership with Magnum, we will be profiling some of their photographers over the coming weeks.
In 1962, Ian Berry was invited to join Magnum by Henri Cartier-Bresson—which, in photographic terms, is about as close to canonization as you can get. His invitation followed his work in South Africa, where he was the only photographer to witness the massacre at Sharpeville, one of the more brutal events in late-apartheid history. His photos were retrospectively used in court to prove that the protest had been peaceful. He has covered conflict in Czechoslovakia, Israel, Ireland, and Vietnam.
VICE: I understand you’ve been with Magnum for longer than 50 years now. Is that correct?
Ian Berry: Yes. I’m horrified to admit it, but yes. That says something about my inability to let go, I think. I think of quitting every year and never get around to doing it.
You got your start in South Africa. How did you end up there?
Well, as a young Brit, I wanted to travel. And in those days you could get assisted passages to what was formerly, and in those times still, the Commonwealth. So, you could go to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa. South Africa sounded the most exciting. You know, I thought I’d be seeing lions on the streets of Johannesburg and so on.
As it happened, my family knew a photographer there who had just come back from the States assistingAnsel Adams. And he was prepared to stand as a guarantor for me for a year. I didn’t actually need a visa but you had to have someone guarantee you. So I legged it out to South Africa, and that was it really. No regrets, either—it was a very exciting time to be there.
You had no real formal training in photography beyond that, did you?
College for photography really didn’t exist at that time. The best thing you could do was become somebody’s apprentice, and that’s what I did. I mean, he was shooting on a four by five, and everything was lit, and so on. So it was great training, even though I realized that it wasn’t what I wanted to do.
The Photography of Carl Heindl
Carl Heindl has always been one of our favorite Canuck photographers—and not just because his sister got bookz. Carl has the unique ability to strain the best parts of life through his camera and pull out dark and gritty images that make everything seem much more interesting than it actually is. He also manages to be very lucky when it comes to being at the right place at the right time, and we’re starting to wonder if he goes around setting cars on fire himself and staging supposedly “impulsive” drunken trampoline parties underneath large chandeliers. Either way, we love his work and you probably do too. Click around to find out.
Meet the Last Lykov (Not Many Other People Have)
All photos by Peter Sutherland
There are certain ethical quagmires, grappled over by anthropologists and ethnologists since time immemorial, in attempting to document uncontacted or lost people tucked into the few remaining hidden pockets of this earth. But these issues become moot when the invasive and kudzu-like world inevitably finds its way to them. The Lykovs—a Russian family who lived in the Siberian wilderness without human contact for most of the 20th century—are not an undiscovered tribe like the few that remain hidden from the modern world in South America. Nor did they violently resist outside contact like the Sentinelese of the Andaman Islands, who continue to do so today. When I asked 70-year-old Agafia, the sole surviving member of the Lykov clan, if she wished that the geologists who discovered her family in 1978 in the completely isolated wilderness of Siberia’s taiga forest had never found them, she shook her head. “I don’t know if we would have survived [without them],” she said. “We were running out of tools and food. I no longer had any scarves.” For once, humanity’s unyielding curiosity to uncloak every remaining secret of this world may have preserved rather than contaminated a singular phenomenon.
It all started in 1936 when Karp Lykov and his wife, Akulina, spurned civilization completely. Fed up with the Communists and city living in general, they journeyed deep into the taiga with their two sons. The impetus for their journey was the murder of Karp’s brother, who was shot by a Bolshevik patrol on the outskirts of their small village near the city of Kursk, in far western Russia. The Lykovs were strict pacifists, members of the Old Believers, an ultra-orthodox sect of Christianity that split off from the Russian church in the 17th century.
After choosing their plot, the Lykovs built a cabin, birthed two more children, and lived the kind of brutal existence that made Little House on the Prairie look like spring break in Daytona, Florida. They relied on a spinning wheel they’d dragged hundreds of miles with them to make clothing and survived on potatoes and wild mushrooms. In 1961, after almost three decades in the woods, a snowstorm wiped out their crop. They survived by eating tree bark and their shoes; Akulina starved herself to death so her kids wouldn’t go hungry.
After Akulina died, the family continued their insular existence until 1978, when the geologists (who were surveying the area for potential oil deposits) happened upon their settlement. Over the next few years, word of the strange, secluded family living in the absolute middle of nowhere slowly but steadily spread throughout Russia, and they became unlikely folk heroes. Much of the attention was due to Vasily Peskov, a Russian journalist who wrote several articles about the family as well as a book, Lost in the Taiga, that was a bestseller in Russia but totally flopped in English markets. (Last we checked, it’s out of print and copies on Amazon were going for $900.) One by one, each of the family members died. Some have speculated that the introduction of foreign germs by the geologists to the Lykovs’ immune systems was ultimately responsible for their deaths; others believe their deaths were natural. Whatever the case, Karp passed away in 1988, outliving all of his children except Agafia, his youngest daughter. Agafia buried him on the mountain slopes with the help of some geologists who had befriended the family. As my film crew and I were preparing for the trip to visit the last remaining Lykov, we almost called off the story when the Smithsonian published an archive-based article in January that ended with Agafia, then 45 years old, deciding to continue living alone in the Siberian wilderness after her father’s death. But that was 25 years ago, and the author did not have either the means or the fortitude to travel to the taiga to see how life was treating Agafia at 70. So we went.
In February, we flew to Siberia to find Agafia and catch the world up to speed on her life. She lives more than 155 miles from civilization and getting there required navigating seemingly endless, onion-like layers of Putin’s government approval—including getting past various park officials who dubiously claimed jurisdiction over the taiga—to track her down. In the summer, I was told, she could be reached via a seven-day canoe trip. In the winter, the only way to get to her was by helicopter. Considering the hardship of her daily existence, I thought it only proper to visit during the most challenging time of the year.
When we arrived, Agafia was waiting for us outside her cabin like a sweet granny expecting a visit from her grandchildren. The nature reserve where she resides was named the Lykov Territory in honor of her family, and her cabin sits atop a bluff near the swiftly flowing Erinat River. For a 70-year-old woman who once had to eat her shoes to survive, I was surprised by how nimble and healthy she appeared. Her property includes several cabins and smaller buildings for goats, chickens, supplies, and preserved food, as well as a garden on the steep hill behind the main dwelling. (The garden was covered in snow during our visit, as it remains for much of the Siberian winter.) Throughout the years, with the help of friends and admirers, she’s built up her property from the one-room shack the whole family used to live in. Dozens of cats freely roam the property.
After giving her a goat and a chicken I had brought as gifts, I interviewed Agafia at a little table by the banks of the river. I asked what had happened since her father died nearly 20 years ago. “When he died,” she said, “I had nobody left to help me or to rely on. I cut firewood myself.” Like many older folks in Russia, Agafia receives a government subsidy but is still mostly self-sufficient—cooking, foraging, and fishing on her own. She told me the strains of day-to-day life in the taiga have become more difficult as she gets older.
“It’s not easy to cut hay and take care of my goats,” Agafia said and went on to explain how she now owns a shotgun to fight off local wildlife. “Last summer, a bear came and was vandalizing around here while I was hiding inside. He grabbed a bag of my flour and trampled down my carrots. I dug out a hole, and the bear got trapped in it.”
Agafia, however, is not entirely alone. She has a neighbor named Yerofei Sedov. He initially came here to work as an oil prospector and lived about ten miles away from Agafia, with other geologists from his company. Eventually, he was fired from that job for reasons that are unclear and which he wouldn’t comment on. He then returned to the big city, where he somehow ended up with gangrene and lost his leg. When a doctor told him that moving back to the clean waters of the taiga might help his health, he set up shop down the hill from Agafia, on the banks of the river, where he’s lived for the past 16 years.
Meet 73-year-old Arthur Boyt, notorious resident of the remote town of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall and roadkill connoisseur. Nothing is too far-fetched or fancy to end up on his plate. In this film, we take a trip to Arthur’s house and learn how to cook a badger casserole and how to best prepare polecat meat before cooking.
Here’s a quote from Arthur to whet your appetite:
“I ate a badger once that someone else had picked up because they wanted its skull. It was blown up like a horse on the Western Front and smelled rather horrible. When I cut into it, the flesh was green, but nevertheless, I persevered and stewed it. It made the house smell like the old-fashioned mental hospitals used to, but boy, it tasted delicious!”