In the winter of 2010, Evgenia Arbugaeva returned for the first time in 18 years to Tiksi, a small town on the shore of the Arctic Ocean in Russia where she grew up. Though the Siberian outpost was now nearly abandoned, she says, "the beautiful scenery of endless tundra was still there". The photographer, now a resident of New York, met and made friends with a young girl, Tanya, who acted as her guide.
"With my new friend as a subject, I wanted to capture Tiksi, both the way it really is, as well as the way it exists in a child's imagination." And so she saw her childhood home afresh through Tanya's eyes. And in capturing that vision, she also captured the title of Bright Spark, as winner of the Magenta Foundation's annual Flash Forward competition, which showcases the best emerging photographers from the UK, Canada and the US.
Here, Tanya can be seen with her friend Pasha during Kolyada – a traditional Slavic Christmas Eve ritual when children dress up in costumes and walk house to house, singing and sifting grain in return for sweets and loose change. The ambiguity as to quite what Pasha thinks he is doing – flying, perhaps, or lording it as king of the castle – is precisely what Arbugaeva hoped to illuminate: the way a child can create their own world – a world rich with chimerical energy – from nothing.
Other regional Flash Forward 2012 winners include 18-year-old Lissy Laricchia of Canada, who was 16 when she was playing around with the idea of levitation and came up with this surreally manipulated image; and 35-year-old Michal Solarski, who, two decades after his family used to visit the Hungarian Lake Balaton on holidays, returned to "stroll among ruins of the once-glamorous concrete villas of Castro, Brezhnev and Honecker" and see again "the world through the eyes of a six- year-old" – only to discover that what he had once thought of as a paradise was now "a bit more rusty".
An exhibition of the Flash Forward works is being held at Photo Fusion, London SW9 (photofusion.org), from tomorrow to 30 November. Submissions for its ninth Emerging Photographers competition are now open; the deadline is 31 December. For more info: magentafoundation.org