Concrete entrance sign to Pripyat. Now a memorial, it is surrounded by plastic flowers.

Lobby of Hotel Polissia. Marble wall cladding has been removed by looters.

Light switches in a bedroom of Hotel Polissia.

Palace of Culture, central square and apartment blocks viewed from the terrace of hotel Polissia.

A silver birch tree grows through the floor on the terrace of Hotel Polissia. The hammer and sickle is visible atop the distant apartments.

Palace of Culture foyer with Soviet mural.

Abandoned dodgems from the fun fair due to open 4 days after the explosion.

Supermarket interior with abandoned shopping trolleys.

The looted seating area in the Palace of Culture theatre.

Palace of Culture Theatre prop room with paintings of Lenin and dignitaries.

Looted department store next to central square. The floor is covered with decayed ceiling tiles.

Single shoe, glazing gaskets, book and broom on floor of Department Store.

Abandoned Swimming Pool, Pripyat.

Light shines across climbing bars and broken basketball hoop in a gymnasium.

Abandoned and never used Ferris wheel, Pripyat. Due to open four days after the explosion.

Children’s exercise books and broken glass on a classroom floor.

Children’s gas masks, the silver filter elements removed by looters. They had ben issued according to soviet policy in case of nuclear attack from the West.

Hospital reception with doctor’s appointment boards.

Concert hall with water damaged soviet relief sculpture and piano.

Hospital waiting room, Pripyat.

Drawing of Lenin with dead house plant in the hospital.

When reactor number four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded in 1986 the result was the worst nuclear accident in history. Large areas of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia were severely contaminated, requiring the evacuation and resettlement of over 336,000 people.

Pripyat, 1km from the reactor, was designed as an exemplar of Soviet planning for the 50,000 people who worked at the power plant. A funfair, with bumper cars and Ferris wheel, was due to open two days after the reactor exploded.

These photographs, inspired by Robert Polidori’s earlier images of Chernobyl, were shot in 2007 over 5 hours, apparently the safe period of exposure. Although a Geiger counter was carried in case of localised high emissions, certain areas of vegetation which attract a higher concentration of radiation were avoided.

The physical devastation stems from looting and gradual building collapse, not from the explosion. Over the last ten years people have intruded regularly into the military exclusion zone, stealing everything from irradiated toilet seats to the marble cladding from hotel walls. Photographs of the town capture a memory of three traumas: the invisible radiation, the visible looting and the gradual collapse of a ghost town.

Now with the nuclear disaster at Fukushima Reactor, Japan as a result of the 2011 Tōhoku earth quake and tsunami  these images of Chernobyl have a renewed poignancy.

Selected images from this series been exhibited at the Crane Kalman Gallery in Brighton, the Architectural Association in London, the Royal West of England Academy Autumn Show in Bristol  and the Host Gallery in London. Images from the series are also published in my book Drawing Parallels: Architecture Observed

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