Last week I posted a photograph taken in an abandoned kindergarten in the ghost town of Pripyat inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Here is what the very same room looked like less than 12 months earlier.
As a documentary photographer I have followed the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident for 25 years. At 1:23 am on April 26, 1986 reactor #4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant blew up. The radioactive fallout spread over thousands of square kilometers, driving more than a quarter of a million people permanently from their homes. More than 100,000 people may have succumbed to Chernobyl-related illnesses.
In 2011, the Ukrainian government legalized trips to the Chernobyl exclusion zone, which has since become a disaster-tourism destination. The most riveting attraction is the ghost town of Pripyat, now in full decay: dolls are scattered in abandoned kindergartens, floors are rotting, paint is peeling from the walls, and gas masks litter evacuated schools.
While the accident itself created chaos of apocalyptic magnitude, three decades later, tourists and guides are creating another bewildering disturbance. With limited time in the zone, the visitors often add to or alter existing arrangements, making compositions designed to be photographed close-up – and they are, by countless cameras and phones. The ever-falling chips of chalk from the ceilings have blanketed some of these “still lifes,” furthering the illusion for the next visitor that this is how the evacuees hastily abandoned the scene.
@natgeo @natgeocreative @thephotosociety #Chernobyl #Pripyat #Ukraine #abandonment #decay #dolls
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