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FILM FRIDAY: Trip to Arkhangelsk, Russia by Dierk Topp

FILM FRIDAY: Trip to Arkhangelsk, Russia

by Dierk Topp

Hi Steve and Brandon,

In 1964 I worked as a sailor before I started studying, In 1966 during the semester vacation I hade the chance to work on a trip to Arkhangelsk, Russia. The trip started in Hamburg, Germany and we went up North to the Lofoten, Norway, passed the North Cape, passed Murmansk and down South up the Dvina River to Arkhangelsk. Before we arrived Arkhangelsk to old boats came to us (old ships from the WW2 German Marin) with the controlling gang.

(Wiki: Lofoten is known for a distinctive scenery with dramatic mountains and peaks, open sea and sheltered bays, beaches and untouched lands. Though lying within the Arctic Circle, the archipelago experiences one of the world’s largest elevated temperature anomalies relative to its high latitude.)

More links to google maps at the end (I don’t want to lose you here already 🙂 )

I had my Edixa Reflex with me and took slides during these once in a lifetime trip of the Lofoten and North Cape. I had been the electrician on the ship and had to stay on board most of the time while they were loading wood for Germany with or machines. There where no cranes! But they did a poor job and the captain asked me to take some documentation pictures of the loading. Taking photographs where not allowed in the harbor and when the Russians saw me taking pictures they came after me and I had to escape into the captains room. They did not come in but the next day three Russian officers came on the ship and ‘wanted’ the film (with all my images from the trip and Lofoten and North Cape!). I hade to give it to them and they told me, that I will get it back, if there was nothing forbidden on the pictures. Of corse I did not see it again 🙁

This war in the middle of the Cold War! I learned from this experience to be careful when taking pictures. Outside the harbor it was permitted and I always hade my Edixa hanging round my neck in front of me. This camera had a finder like the Hasselblad and you could see and control the image by just looking down into the finder. This way it was easy to take pictures without being noticed 🙂

These are 50 years old slides! I digitized them with a Sony A6000 with an Rodenstock enlarging lens on a bellows and used a Nissin TTL flash as light source.

I may have used the Agfa CT18 at that time but I am not sure and don’t want to tear the slides apart. It must have been a very early slide film, if I look at the grain.
On some images the left side is overexposed from malfunction of the shutter curtain, but I did not try to correct it. It is part of this form of documentation.

The processing was done with CS6 and LR5 and LR/Mogrify 2 for the framing and text. For the WB I tried to find some white in the images to correct the colors but they are still not perfect.

If you want to comment on specific images you find its number above the image.

Please excuse my English, I hope that you may understand what I want to describe 🙂

Image 1: Let me start with a picture from the Lofoten, O made it on the way home but this was my impression on the tour to Arkhangelsk. To me it looked like the Alps under water, a landscape like a dream! google link follows at the end.

Image 2: The harbor of Arkhangelsk, of corse a forbidden photograph. All the wood was transported on the water and moved with ships. This wood was not for us, we got prepared wood as you see on image14.

The harbor was far outside the city and we had to use the tram to go into the city or to go to other parts of the harbor, where a sort of ‘disco’ and dancing was going on. My colleagues always knew, where it was 🙂 At one of these places I met two girls, how spoke German and they told me, that they would like to go to Germany with me. Impossible, when we left a gang cam on board and checked every part of the ship, where a human body could hide, that was the only thing, that interested them.

The exchange rate was 4 DM for a Rubel what made everything very expensive for us. At that time Nylon shirts where very much wanted from the Russians and some of my colleagues where wearing several shirts together when they went on land and sold them for a very good price. As far as I remember, a bottle of Krim champagne was 5 or 7 Rubel.

I was told, that one guy sold all the shirt and got a problem with the watching officer, when he got back to the ship without a shirt 🙂
One Russian guy asked me in English to sell him my jeans, he did not care, how I will get back on my ship :-))

The next images are from ‘Downtown’ Arkhangelsk






The following images are from the harbor area, where even the streets are made out of wood It has been April and still quite cold. When I cam back to the ship before 12 PM at night the wooden street has been very slippery and I had to watch my steps not to step into one of these holes of missing wood.






This guy I found at many places, must have been very important there 🙂


On our way back to Hamburg…the problem with the shutter on the left side must have been only with certain shutter speeds.




If you made it down here I promised you some links

google maps of the Lofoten

some fantastic images from the lofoten at google

and of course Arkhangelsk

My flickr album with all (these and a few more) images from this trip
Thanks for looking and I hope it was informative for you