Road of Kolyma
by Ingmar Björn Nolting and Maximilian Mann

“If bones could freeze, then the brain could also be dulled and the soul could freeze over. And the soul shuddered and froze - perhaps to remain frozen forever.“

- Varlam Shalamov, Kolyma Tales -

From 1932 to 1953, millions of prisoners were deported to remote labor camps in the course of the Stalinist repression. Political opponents, criminals and innocent people became inmates of the Siberian seclusion. Due to the extreme conditions there was no escape, in the 80 Gulag camps of the Kolyma region the prisoners found death at work. They also built the “Kolyma Highway“, one of the largest construction projects of the labour camps. The highway runs 2031 kilometres through Russia‘s Far East. It was supposed to connect the region to the outside world, preparing the way for gold and silver mining, on which the socialist state was urgently dependent. Tens of thousands died at work. The bones of those who froze to death became part of the road foundation. The highway was given its second name. Road of Bones.

The highway is one of the most dangerous in the world. Over large parts of the “Kolyma Highway“ there is no mobile phone reception, the nearest hospital is often hundreds of kilometres away. Gold mines and abandoned towns, built by prisoners of the gulags, still tell stories of the region. But the traces of the Stalinist era are disappearing. Many inhabitants of the region did not experience the horror, were born into the harsh everyday life along the road of Kolyma.

For “Road of Kolyma“ we travelled for one month in winter on the Kolyma Highway from Yakutsk to Magadan to tell about the everyday life, the living together and the dreams of the inhabitants. Our photo essay interweaves the history of the road with the living conditions of today‘s inhabitants and tells of life and survival in the inhospitable expanse of Russia‘s Far East.

This project was supported by VG Bildkunst.

︎︎︎ Home 

Ger-District (2019)

Few countries in the world are as affected by climate change as Mongolia. Once nomads and cattle found everything they needed to live in the steppes. But it is becoming increasingly difficult. Never before in history has there been such a great rural exodus as in recent years. Every year, thousands of families with their children move from the steppes to the capital Ulaanbaatar in search of urban happiness and work.The yurt districts on the outskirts of the city are growing rapidly. 60 percent of all Ulaanbaatar's inhabitants now live in these suburbs, some of them in yurts. Poor hygienic conditions, a lack of drinking water systems and medical care are characteristic of these residential areas.For me, the yurt districts are a symbol of the incredibly rapid change in Mongolia. They form a kind of transition between country and city and between nomadic and urban life.

Michael Horbach Stiftung, 09.05.-25.06.2021, Köln


Fading Flamingos(2018-2019)

Largely unnoticed by the world public, a major environmental disaster is taking place in Lake Urmia in northwestern Iran. Where ten years ago the waves splashed against the walls of the villages, today you see an almost endless desert. Ships that once brought people from one side of the lake to the other now lie like stranded whales on the shore, decaying.
Salt winds from the desert are spreading further and further over the residents’s fields, causing the crops to dry up. Robbed of their livelihoods, the residents are fleeing to the surrounding towns, and the villages around the lake are dying out.
Lake Urmia was once the second largest salt lake in the world, ten times bigger than Lake Constance in Germany. However, within a few years, the surface area of the lake has shrunk by 80 percent. Both climate change and the agriculture sector’s enormously high water consumption rates are responsible for this.

If this disaster is not stopped, up to five million residents could be forced to leave the area in the future.




A photo-essay about the psychological difficulties during the second Corona Lockdown in Germany.
In collaboration with Arne Piepke 

As the days became shorter, stricter measures were inevitable. The panic and fear of the first months and the relief during the summer now give way to isolation and loneliness. Life is once again shifting to the four walls of one‘s own home.

How do people endure such circumstances during this dark season? And how do people cope with having fewer social contacts?

Since November 2020, Arne Piepke and Maximilian Mann are photographing people who have been particularly affected by the restrictions. Personal stories that tell of emotional complexity and exceptional psychological situations. Conditions that are individual and at the same time collectively experienced.


L’Espresso - Jan. 2021
TAZ - die Tageszeitung - Jan. 2021

DER - Feb. 2021

Exhibition – “Besondere Zeiten” – Dortmund, 30.03. - 20.05.2021


Bulgarian Community in Duisburg, DIE ZEIT (2020)

Parcours „Creature“ for Ben J. Riepe, Pina Bausch Zentrum Wuppertal (2021)

Wind turbines are dismantled, STERN Magazine(2021)

Volunteers on the Hallig Langeness, “Bundesamt für Familie und zivilgesellschaftliche Aufgaben” (2021)

The abuse case of Lügde, SPIEGEL Magazine (2021)
(In collaboration with Aliona Kardash)  

“Flower Power”, STERN Magazine(2021)

Dr. Salim Namour, Syrian doctor at the underground hospital in East Ghouta, DER SPIEGEL (2020)

Ryan Gellert, CEO Patagonia, Bloomberg Green (2020)

   Mortician Christoph Kuckelkorn, DER SPIEGEL (2021) 

Pediatrician Tanja Brunnert, SPIEGEL Magazine (2020)

Lisa Köhler, 10 years after the Love Parade tragedy in Duisburg, ZEIT ONLINE (2020)


Amateur football in Bielefeld, 11 FREUNDE (2020)

Window manufacturers Stefan and Eduard Appelhans, DIE ZEIT (2020)

Alice Schwarzer, DER SPIEGEL (2021)

Nadine Plutzas (Jobcenter Gelsenkirchen), DIE ZEIT (2019)