Utrish is a Russian Nature Reserve on a half island located on the Black Sea. It is the only place in Russia that has Mediterranean vegetation such as 500-year old pistachio and juniper trees. Since the 1960s, its lagoons have been a hotspot for nudists and hippies who come to stay over the summer. While the tourists leave as it becomes colder, a handful of people live in the forests and mountains throughout the year: Russian Orthodox hermits, Krishna followers, veterans, families and people who decided to live a life in nature, away from civilization. Most of them perceive ‘Utrish’ as an almost sacred place.

This August a large fire blew through the Utrish reserve. While authorities hastened to accuse tourists, environmentalists proved that it was deliberate arson by finding traces of kerosine on different spots. Utrish is an ode to the beauty of the place, its inhabitants and subculture that face an uncertain future in the middle of corruption and politics in modern day Russia.

Nanna Heitmann is a documentary photographer, based between Russia and Germany. She joined Magnum as a nominee in 2019.

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