Photographer Gerd Ludwig is capturing haunting photos of Chernobyl, its surrounding areas, and the people who are still affected by the 1986 nuclear disaster.
Considered by many as the worst nuclear disaster in history, the breakdown of Reactor 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant has affected hundreds of thousands of people, while doing extensive damage to wildlife and the environment.
Roughly 28 years have passed since the explosion of the reactor, spreading plumes of radiation across the world. This disaster has changed the life of thousands of people and photographer Gerd Ludwig has documented the impact it has had on life near the Ukraine-Belarus border through a series of haunting photos.
The elders decided to stay in Chernobyl’s “exclusion zone” and die in familiar places
Ludwig has made his first trip to the Chernobyl area back in 1993 with the National Geographic team. The goal was to learn more about pollution in what used to be the Soviet Union.
Although access was restricted back then due to obvious reasons, he had managed to get inside the “exclusion zone” where he had met with people who were residing in the forbidden area.
A lot of elders decided to stay in the exclusion zone because they were old and wanted to die in familiar places, not in the areas where the government was relocating them.
Gerd Ludwig’s return to further document the Chernobyl nuclear disaster aftermath
Gerd Ludwig has returned to Chernobyl in 2005 accompanied again by the National Geographic team. Although the “exclusion zone” was not out of reach anymore, this did not mean that it was safe to enter.
The Ukraine government has allowed them to spend only 15 minutes a day around Reactor 4’s contaminated areas. Moreover, he has had to wear a protective suit and a gas mask due to the high radiation levels.
The photographer says that this has been his most challenging photo session ever as the areas inside the reactor are “dark, loud, and claustrophobic”. There is no time to setup the shots properly, you simply have to look out and capture as many photos as possible.
The third trip to Chernobyl coincided with the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster
In March 2011, Ludwig went back to Chernobyl. However, this time he was on his own and with help from money raised on crowd-funding platform Kickstarter.
The timing could not had been worse as the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster had just happened. He was spending time with people containing and cleaning up the areas when the news broke down.
As it turns out, such accidents can happen regardless of where a nuclear power plant is located and we simply have to accept that nuclear power is dangerous or reduce our dependency on it.
Haunting photos of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster aftermath now in a photo book
Gerd Ludwig has spent a lot of time with people suffering from cancer and mentally as well as physically handicapped children in Ukraine and Belarus.
People have been affected by the high doses of radiation immediately after the Reactor 4’s core explosion. The world found out about the accident two days after the April 26 accident, as Swedish nuclear power plant workers noticed that their shoes had somehow been contaminated. Even so, the most affected areas were near the Ukraine-Belarus border.
If you want to see the haunting photos of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster’s aftermath, you can go on Kickstarter and pledge some money to “The Long Shadow of Chernobyl” photo book.
Backers will receive a photo book containing striking information and images regarding the accident gathered by photographer Gerd Ludwig.