Monday, 28 March 2011

Paul Fusco - Chernobyl Legacy

After the terrible events in Japan I was a bit at a loss as to what to say. The images that streamed from TV screens seemed biblical in their scale and impact and as a spectator watching them on the other side of the world, a feeling of utter helplessness engulfed me. Then as if an earthquake and tsunami were not enough there was the threat of a nuclear meltdown as well.

The media reported the quake and tsunami much in the same way that I felt; a stunned sense of disbelief, but for me some of the reporting on the nuclear incident at Fukushima lacked fact and seemed to be mostly based on rumour and speculation, some of it seeming to do nothing other than scaremonger! It was this lack of clarity that sent me off to find other sources of information. The reports of radiation leaks and of an imagined meltdown inevitably drew parallels with past disasters such as Chernobyl and it was through this that I discovered the work of Magnum photographer Paul Fusco.

Most of us know about Chernobyl and the events of 26 April 1986, (for a quick refresh here is a link to a time-line). Fusco spent a year planning a visit to Chernobyl in 2006, 20 years after the event to see what the human consequences of the meltdown were and his photo essay pulls no punches, I watched it with my heart wrestling with my Adam's apple, the photos show the legacy that the disaster has left behind. Generations of children have born with a wide array of birth defects caused by the radiation levels. The photographs not only illustrate the lasting effects of radiation and the community but also of the raw power of photography.

The work of Robert Polidori and his book Pripyat and Chernobyl looked at the devastation that was wreaked to a number of towns and cities around the Chernobyl reactor. His photos showing Marie Celeste like spaces where objects were left in place, as if someone had just stepped out of shot. These are haunting and leave you feeling as if maybe the disaster at Chernobyl was just collateral damage but the work of Paul Fusco takes those deserted buildings, streets and towns and places real people, real stories and real consequences in them.

I have attached a couple more of his images from this series but I highly recommend that you click here and take a look at his images in full and hear him talk about this project. I warn you that it is not for the faint hearted.

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