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Based in Istanbul, Turkey

A SNOW CASTLE

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    The masts of two sails behind the wall of a snow castle. Kemi, Finland, January 2016.
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    A snow builder waits on the roof of the snow castle while the wall mold moves to the right spot. Kemi, Finland, January 2017.
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    A construction worker talks on the phone in the snow castle. Kemi, Finland, January 2017.
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    Portrait of a snow builder Teemu. Kemi, Finland, January 2015.
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    A hall in the snow castle. Kemi, Finland, January 2017.
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    Jerry fixes the main wall of the snow castle with a snow chisel. Kemi, Finland, January 2017.
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    A snow castle. Kemi, Finland, January 2017.
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    Pete and Jerry stand on the roof of the snow castle. Kemi, Finland, January 2016.
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    A snow castle under construction. Kemi, Finland, January 2017.
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    Jerry waits for the snow slinging tractor to pass by behind the snow wall. Kemi, Finland, January 2017.
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    Portrait of a snow builder Topi. Kemi, Finland, January 2017.
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    Lunch in the break room. Kemi, Finland, January 2015.
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    Ville sits on a bench in a gallery of snow castle. Kemi, Finland, January 2017.
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    Ville smokes a cigarette. He has worked for three years in snow castle construction. Kemi, Finland, January 2017.
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    A snow builder. Kemi, Finland, January 2016.
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    A snow builder between two room molds. Kemi, Finland, January 2015.
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    Pete goes for a break, passing an unfinished room with sculpting equipment. Kemi, Finland, January 2017.
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    A snow angel sculpture in the chapel of the snow castle. Kemi, Finland, January 2017.
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    Self portrait. Kemi, Finland, January 2017.
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    A roof of snow castle that's crashed down. Kemi, Finland, January 2017.
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    Portrait of a snow builder Topi. Kemi, Finland, January 2017.
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    A wall mold. Kemi, Finland, January 2015.
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    Snow and ice builders dig the first doorway in the snow castle. Kemi, Finland, January 2017.
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    A snow castle under construction. Kemi, Finland, January 2015.
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    Live action role players play in the snow castle's inner court before it will be deconstructed. Kemi, Finland, April 2016.
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    Tourists photograph a snow castle while it is under construction. Kemi, Finland, January 2017.
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    A mascot of the Snow Castle Kemi Terttu stands inside of the snow castle, Kemi, Finland, March 2017.
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    A kid runs up the stairs to the top of the snow castle. Kemi, Finland, March 2017.
A Snow Castle

A freezing wind blows through my frozen beard and bites my chin. The temperature is -27° Celsius (16.6°F), and wind makes it feel even colder. I’m standing on top of the gallery built of snow, on the shore of Bothnian Bay. The sea is covered in ice.

The engine of a tractor roars below as I watch a mass of snow flying from the snow sling at the back of it. Our work is to tamp the snow once it lands in the mold. The weather is frigid, but the physical work of tamping snow, lifting heavy tools, and cutting ice with big chainsaws keeps the body warm. Just as I’m about to run out of energy we finally have a break.

This is what snow castle builders do 12 to 16 hours per day for one month. The season will be over in spring.

The Snow Castle of Kemi is one of the biggest snow forts in the world. It is rebuilt every winter with a different architectural style. The tradition started in 1996.

The area covered by the castle has varied from 13,000 to over 20,000 square meters. The longest walls are over 1km. Despite its varying configurations, the snow castle has a few recurring elements: a chapel, a restaurant, and a snow hotel.

I was hired as a builder three years ago. Since then I’ve been documenting the life of the snow castle builders in this cold environment.

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