A PRT Interview with Herman Cater
I was very lucky to meet Herman Cater, who lives in Slovenia, in 2006 during a trip to Skye. He had travelled to the UK to spend a week photographing with us and invited us to spend a week with him in Slovenia. This trip took place in May 2008 and during this time I had the opportunity to interview him about his photography adventures in Siberia.
He has produced a fantastic book of over 100 images that record his experiences and anyone interested in purchasing this can contact him at his email address
More of his work can be seen here.
Claire : When did you visit Siberia?
Herman : The first visit was in April 2007 and the second in September of the same year.
Claire : How did this opportunity come about?
Herman : I was invited to take photographs of a region in Siberia by Mr. Nekir who is a hospital manager there. The images have been used for a book and were exhibited in an exhibition in Pit-Jah town hall.
Claire: Where were you based?
Herman : I took a flight to Moscow from Croatia and then flew for another 3 hours to reach Surgut, a further 120km by road took me to my base which is an oil town called Pit-Jah. From here I had access to a taxi and personal driver and covered between 200 and 500km a day.
Claire : What were your expectations before you went?
Herman: I had no expectations but was just interested to go. I imagined it would be flat and snowy and thought photography would be difficult.
Claire : What was the reality?
Herman : I was very impressed with the infinity of the country. The beauty is in the space. I found many subjects from landscapes to portraits and covered themes ranging from people at work to religion.
Claire : What time of the year would you recommend visiting?
Herman : In April the temperature ranged from 0 degrees to minus 20, this is still winter and if it is winter scenes you want this is a good time to go. The summers are short and hot and very humid with lots of insects. The autumn colours are short lived but stunning and I’d suggest mid-September to mid-October.
Claire : Where did you stay?
Herman: Pit-Jah being an oil town has some wealth but as yet no hotels. I stayed in what can be described as a container that the workers are housed in. It was warm and functional but not accessible to tourists. It is not a place where a visitor can just turn up; you really need the help of someone who knows the locality who can organise accommodation in advance for you. There are some agencies that do tours within Siberia but as you can imagine it isn’t really on the main tourist map.
Claire : What were the highlights of your trip?
Herman : Light after a storm. Big skies. Intense snowstorms.
Claire: What about lowlights?
Herman : I had been photographing some barracks and the police took exception and escorted me to the police station! Fortunately my driver contacted the main man at the hospital who explained the purpose of my trip and I was released.
Claire : Will you go again?
Herman : Most certainly. I’d like to visit more northerly regions and meet with the “indigenous” groups of people. These account for below 10% of the total Siberian population. Many of the individual groups are close to extinction, or in the process of assimilation (“Russification”).
Claire : Were you made welcome?
Herman : The people were initially suspicious. They really couldn’t understand what I was doing but this all changed after the exhibition and TV interview I gave. They were always helpful and following the interview showed great enthusiasm for the project. Some people definitely expressed surprise when they saw that there was beauty in their midst – it maybe helped them see their land with new eyes.
Claire : Thanks Herman for sharing your images with us, they are stunning and certainly have helped dismiss some of my preconceptions about this obviously fascinating region.
This final image shows Herman being interviewed for a TV appearance with his images on show in the background.
Some facts and figures.
Siberia is the name given to the vast region constituting almost all of Northern Asia and for the most part currently serving as the massive central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation. Geographically, it includes a large part of the Eurasian Steppe and extends eastward from the Ural Mountains to the watershed between Pacific and Arctic drainage basins, and southward from the Arctic Ocean to the hills of north-central Kazakhstan and the national borders of both Mongolia and China. It makes up about 77% of Russia’s territory (13.1 million square kilometres), but only 30% of Russia’s population (42.2 million people).