Photographer Gerd Ludwig has returned from three weeks inside the Chernobyl exclusion zone documenting the nuclear disaster 25 years later.
As the world’s attention has turned to the unfolding nuclear drama in Japan Ludwig was concerned that the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster should not be forgotten.
On April 26 1986 a botched safety test caused an explosion which created radioactive fallout over tens of thousands of square miles. The accident resulted in thousands of deaths.
Ludwig told me before he left: “When I first went to Chernobyl on assignment I could not believe the tragedy that I saw. There is a difference between reading about it and experiencing it yourself.”
Children born in the region are said to have a higher rate of birth defects and retardation because of Chernobyl, a belief supported by many, but not all in the scientific community.
The latest trip was Ludwig’s third visit to the exclusion zone.
On his blog he wrote: “Today, the Exclusion Zone sits very much the same as it did six years ago during my last visit. The most obvious change is the Ukrainian government’s official opening of tourism into the zone.
“The spectacle of tourists with cameras and Geiger counters unloading from tour buses adds a whole new surrealism to the landscape. A small food market even sells Chernobyl merchandise!”
Workers must wear plastic suits and respirators for protection inside Reactor #4, where radiation levels remain so high shifts are limited to only 15 minutes per day.
On this trip Ludwig, who has worked for the National Geographic, managed again to get inside reactor number four.
He wrote on his blog: “Dimly lit, empty tunnels lead to haunting rooms strewn with wires, pieces of shredded metal and other debris. Walls have collapsed, and the rubble is covered with deadly radioactive dust, all waiting to be dismantled.”
Some of the photos he took on this trip can be viewed on the website longshadowofchernobyl.com.
Wind blows through the desolate town of Pripyat. On April 26, 1986, this amusement park was being readied for the annual May Day celebrations when the Chernobyl nuclear accident occurred.
He is now busy editing photos in time for an exhibition in May at the Horizonte Photo Festival in Zingst, Germany. The chairman of the German Green Party Jürgen Trittin has agreed to be the patron of the exhibition, which is called The Long Shadow of Chernobyl.