Igor is an environmental activist and founder of the Bryansky Les Nature Reserve in Russia. The camera is Igor’s most powerful companion in the struggle to protect the Russian wilderness. Igor first got interested in photographing nature at the age of 13 when, exploring the Bryansk Forest in western Russia, he discovered a meadow in the woods filled with hundreds of wildflowers. When he was finally able to buy a camera it was too late. Upon he return to the meadow, instead of seeing masses of wildflowers, he found tractors, black upturned earth and large piles of cut logs. This scene is one that determined the future direction of his life.
With his camera in tow, Igor pushed for creation of a nature reserve to protect disappearing nesting habitat of the rare black stork. As a result of his pushing, in 1987, the Bryansky Les Zapovednik (strict nature reserve) was created. It granted protection to more than a dozen black stork nests. He became the reserve’s first director at the age of 27. During the 11 years that followed, he and his colleges granted protection for another 12 nature refuges.
The reason that I chose to write my artist report about Igor Shpilenok is because of a story that he had posted to his blog. It was about a charming and sly fox that lives near the Bogachevsky-Kronotsky estuary, that Igor has affectionately named, Mr. Sneaky Evildoer.
The story that I am referring to is not a happy one. In his post Igor writes that he was spending the day with his wife and two sons near the Kronotskaya river estuary, when he noticed what looked to be like paw prints from a fox that was carrying something extremely heavy. After following the tracks for about a hundred yards, he and his family found the fox, Mr.Sneaky Evildoer, with a giant fishing net wrapped around his neck.
Igor and his family were able to free Mr. Sneaky Evildoer from the net but he did not have the energy to get up right away. He made many attempts to get up and crawl to the fresh water to drink. By the time that he was able to drink the surrounding bears became very interested in the family and the little fox. Igor sent off a flare in order to scare the bears away and he and his family stayed with the fox for another 2 hours, until it got dark. Having no other choice but to leave the little fox behind, taking him to the ranger station would have been to stressful on the animal because he would have to go on a boat and there was no medical personnel or equipment at the ranger station, the family got on the boat and went back to the station. The following evening Igor went back to look for Mr. Sneaky and found him. Mr. Sneaky came out to greet Igor even though his neck was unnaturally stiff and his back legs wouldn’t listen to him.
The following day at 9am Mr. Sneaky Evildoer passed away. He left behind a mate and cubs.
Even though this animal lives on an estuary “long hands of ecological irresponsibility can reach even here, being brought by the ocean. Every time during my patrolling trips along the coast I collect and burn the nets that I find, but every time the ocean brings more.”
Here is a quote from Igor this type of oceanic pollution:
“Our planet, our big cities and small towns, our land and especially oceans has a lot of garbage problems. We are suffering ourselves, our pets are suffering, our nature is suffering along with the wild animals. We have to be more responsible, we should learn how to live with no waste, it is not impossible. We can learn to clean after ourselves wherever we go, and, if needed, after other. To explain and encourage those, who don’t notice the problem, and maybe even force those, who resist.”
Here is the link to his blog: http://wildlife-photo-russia.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2011-08-07T06:17:00-07:00&max-results=30&reverse-paginate=true