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Photography by Derek Henderson

Words by Sophy Roberts 

Kamchatka is one of the world’s most spectacularly tectonic landscapes, the peninsula, which pokes out into the North Pacific, riven with rivers, gorges and mountains. The peaks run like a shifting, living backbone down this remote land in Russia’s Far East. It’s a landscape so alien it seems impossible that people could exist here, in this wildly beautiful back country sandwiched between a constant, grinding paradox of freezing winters and molten lava.


Yet this close to the Earth’s core, there is a strange alchemy: the same fires that can destroy everything in their path also sustain life here. Bears, birds and fish abound, unhindered by human encroachment. Hot springs bubble up through the ground, feeding tropical blushes of green. Boiling geysers burst into the air, like shooting stars.


There are people, too, lured to the stark outlines of Kamchatka’s volcanoes. In summer, they reap the rewards of the fecund soil, when the forests are richly carpeted in mushrooms and berries. In winter, these same people ski in the shadow of Kamchatka’s groaning, grumbling giants.


Derek Henderson’s Kamchatka photography exemplifies the contradictions of a landscape that constantly threatens even as it nurtures the lives it shelters.