Photographer Jan Erik Waider has captured the eerily empty town of Pyramiden in the Svalbard archipelago, which is now mostly home to polar bears.
His misty images focus on the deserted buildings and rocky landscape of the former Soviet mining center, which has been out of action for the past 20 years. It was once home to around 1,000 people and had a swimming pool, sports field and herd of resident cows.
Waider discovered the town while watching documentaries about Svalbard and shot his photographs across two visits to the area. Both were accompanied by a guide with a rifle, who was on hand to keep an eye out for the polar bears that wander through Pyramiden. There are stories of the bears breaking into the town’s hotel — one of a tiny number of buildings still being used — and looting the bar.
Pyramiden was founded by Sweden in 1910. Credit: Jan Erik Waider
His images capture how well preserved the remaining architecture is, highlighting how much effort must have gone into building the town. “There are wooden panels, and there’s no wood in all of Svalbard, so they had to import it from Russia,” says Waider. “You can really feel they paid a lot of attention to detail.”
The photographs also focus on some of the damage done to the town by frequent spring floods, eroding buildings and leaving vast muddy patches behind.
“I like to get a sense of the history of the buildings,” he says. “It’s a place that’s been simply left behind. Nothing’s changed, and nature has found its way back.”