Ice Rider, Siberia, 2005

The Story:
On November 7th 1889 a young Cossack, stationed on the border of Russia & China, mounted a small gray horse named Serko with the firm intention of getting to Saint Petersburg, the capital of the empire. The 18-year-old Dimitri Peshkov (who had never been out of his village) set out across Siberia on horseback to ask the Tsar to uphold his promise to protect the native Evenk tribe from abuse at the hands of a corrupt local Governor.

The distance from the Amur River to St Petersburg was nearly 9,000 kilometers (over 5,000 miles), no one believed they would make it. On 19th May 1890, Dimitri and Serko – both in excellent shape – arrived in the city of the Tsars, having traversed the Russian Empire from Asia to Europe, crossing The Eurasian Steppe, Tien Shan Mountains and Siberian forests. Having covered more than 9000 kilometers in less than 200 days, the young rider has achieved and the most amazing equestrian feat of all time.

About the Photograph:
Photographer Matthieu Paley created this series of photographs recreating this moment in history. These images were used for the cover and inside pages of the book “Serko : Ou comment Dimitri Pechkov traversa la Russie d'est en ouest sur son petit cheval gris” which translates to “Serko: Or how Dimitri Peshkov across Russia from East to West on his little gray horse”.

This photograph depicts “Dimitri” and “Serko” crossing Lake Baikal with Olkhon island in the background. Researchers and historians acknowledge Olkhon island as the birthplace of shamanism A large minority of people in North Asia, particularly in Siberia, still follow the religio-cultural practices of shamanism to this day. Olkhon is an important Shamanist centre and the home of Shamanka, or Shaman’s Rock.

Location: Irkutsk District, Siberia, Russia
Photograph Date: 2005
Medium: Chromogenic Print
Edition: 200

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Photographer Profile: Matthieu Paley

Matthieu Paley is a National Geographic photographer living between the remote and a small village on the Aegean coast in Turkey. He recently completed a global story for National Geographic Magazine on the Evolution of Diet.

Over the past 15 years, Paley has held assignments with various magazines all over the world, from the base camp of the highest unclimbed mountain in the world in Bhutan to Nauru, the world’s smallest republic in the middle of the Pacific ocean. Paley has published numerous books including a book on Siberia, a monograph on Mongolia and a commissioned book about Nomadic America. His last and longest book project, “Pamir, Forgotten on the roof of the World” (“Pamir, Oubliés sur le toit du monde”), was started unexpectedly in 1999, on a high mountain pass on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Paley’s photographs have been exhibited in private galleries in Hong Kong, Paris and Istanbul. Paley has recently lectured at the Royal Geographical Society and the Asia Society in Hong Kong and will soon be presenting his Evolution of Diet story at National Geographic Live in Washington DC.

Matthieu is a member of The Photo Society, a group of contributing photographers for National Geographic magazine. He regularly leads National Geographic workshops, more recently in Paris, Turkey and Mongolia.