Tuesday, April 15, 2014

30 Years After Chernobyl’s Meltdown, Gripping Photos Expose the Human Fallout

On April 26, 1986, operators in this control room of reactor #4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant committed a fatal series of errors during a safety test, triggering a reactor meltdown that resulted in the world's largest nuclear accident to date. [Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, Ukraine 2011]

Part of the mystery and terror of the Chernobyl disaster is the invisibility of the threat. The explosion at the Vladimir Ilyich Lenin nuclear power plant released more radiation than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and one might never know they were being poisoned until months, even years later. Veteran photographer Gerd Ludwig’s spent 20 years photographing the area, chronicling the ongoing consequences of the radioactive release.

“You don’t see it, you don’t feel it, you don’t smell it, you don’t taste it, but it’s there,” he says. “It’s around you, and that makes many people oblivious to the danger.”

Ludwig has photographed the benighted reactor and the 18-mile exclusion zone surrounding it nine times in the last two decades. The photo book he’s crowdfunding, The Long Shadow of Chernobyl, gathers the deeply affecting images he took and shows why the disaster, which occurred on April 26, 1986, remains relevant.

“I want to give a voice to those people that suffered this tragedy and still are suffering,” Ludwig says.
The book, which started life on the iPad, is divided into four categories: the compromised reactor; the abandoned town of Pripyat about a mile away; the contaminated villages farther out; and the medical and emotional impact of the disaster in places like Belarus and Ukraine. The photos recount the still-unfolding narrative of the meltdown but remain fixed on the people involved: A man and child hospitalized with cancer, a 93-year-old woman who defied an evacuation order to live out her life at home, the tourists who venture among the ruins.

Beyond the looming threat of radiation, visits present a host of practical and bureaucratic hurdles and usually are limited to a few days at most. Accessing the reactor intensifies the risk, and the hassle, and Ludwig reckons he’s gone deeper into the belly of the beast than any other Western photographer.

He first entered in 1993 on assignment for National Geographic. During another visit in 2005, he took advantage of the administrative confusion caused by the Orange Revolution to extend his stay to nearly two weeks. By the time he visited in 2011 and 2013, he was using Kickstarter and arts grants to help cover his expenses.

For the rest of the story: http://www.wired.com/2014/04/gerd-ludwig-chernobyl/#slide-id-721461

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