Yuri Toroptsov Revisits Baba Yaga’s House

Across cultures, it is easy to find myths and tales about evil women who ate children and lured them into their traps in unique ways. Perhaps the most memorable is the story of Hansel and Gretel who are lured into the candy-adorned cottage of a witch, who intends to consume them. In Slavic folklore, we come across a similar character, Baba Yaga.

Baba Yaga is usually an ugly old woman who lives in a house surrounded by skeletons of those who were presumably consumed by her. This fiendish character has held the populations of Slavonic regions in fearful admiration. Though the depiction of the witch-like hag differs from Serbia to Russia, she could be seen as the symbol of man’s anxiety or fear of older women.

Older women have always been either despised or feared, for they signify all things that are undesirable to humans; ageing, wrinkles, senility, bad temper, disease, and the eventual death. Thousands of women were condemned to be burnt at stakes, after being accused of being witches. Is Baba Yaga a figment of Slavic people’s imagination? On the other hand, did she even exist?

However, Baba Yaga also has a warmer side to her and is believed to help lost travellers and those who seek her wisdom and advice. Perhaps she represents the dichotomies present in humans, the good and the evil, real and the imagined co-existing.

Yury Torptsov, a Russian photographer, went back to his ancestral village in the Russian Far East. The house reminded him of Baba Yaga’s house, with ghastly light illuminating the sole cottage. Perhaps the light lured lost children into the cottage, hoping for a helping of hot soup. The photographs seem to reveal another dimension about Baba Yaga, that of a lost legend.

In modern world, perhaps there is no room for the likes of Baba Yaga and she is simply forgotten. Yury’s Baba Yaga certainly lives in a cottage that is far removed from the clutter of urban chaos. Perhaps his minimal usage of lighting creates that ethereal atmosphere of a witch’s cottage in a snowy landscape.

Yury tried to leave his ancestral house as natural as possible, and did not use special light effects to create the magical aura around the house. The only light he used was that of natural and tungsten lamp, which helped him, light the outside, in order to photograph. All it took was a 30-second exposure to capture the house in its witchy entirety.

Yury Toroptsov was born in 1974 in a small Russian village near Vladivostok. After securing a prestigious scholarship, he studied at the New School for Social Research, New York in 1998. After having experienced a career at the United Nations as a consultant, he decided to revive his passion, photography. Yury has travelled widely but retains elements of his Far eastern origins.Yury Toroptsov explores themes related to metamorphosis, profane, distant memories, and the sacred.

He has taken part in the Carrousel du Louvre, Paris (SFR Young Talents) and Scope Basel, Switzerland (Saatchi Online). Yury has also hosted solo exhibitions in 2008 at the French National Centre of Costume, Moulins. Titled “The dress of Marylin”, it took place during the International Festival Cinema and Costume. Another exhibition was the “Happiness” at Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris. Other than this, he has taken part in several group exhibitions across France. He was a finalist of the Grand Prix SFR Young Talent Photo, 2008. He also won the SFR Young Talent Photo Competition. He was featured in Saatchi Online Critic’s Choice twice by Ana Finel Honigman and Rebecca Wilson.

Courtesy Yury Toroptsov

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  • Rizmyn

    It does look like a place where someone would sitting making soup out of little kids. Baba Yaga would be proud to revisit the place.

    I wonder, though, why it is considered so vile to feed on humans when we can happily stuff ourselves with animals. After all, it’s the same thing, the satisfaction of hunger.

  • Nash

    Jaiyant….this was indeed a very interesting piece to read….n informative too….luvd it….hope more informative ones like this will come……