Images Club Night Tuesday 12.4.22. Attendees 28
Echoes of Silence – Chernobyl – 34 years on – Guest Speaker – Graham Harries.
Chris welcomed Graham a Welshman from Llanelli, whose photography covers events in the U.K. and overseas including Press and PR, Wedding Photography, Sport, and the Music industry. His particular interest is dereliction and getting off the beaten track, hence taking two visits to the exclusion zone at Chernobyl in March 2018 and October 2019, at two very different seasons for weather conditions.
At 1.23 am on 26th April 1986 at Chernobyl in the Ukraine, the Nuclear Reactor No. 4 in the VA Lenin Power Plant at Pripyat in the north of Ukraine exploded during a safety test. It is the world’s worst nuclear disaster. 49,000 people from the city of Pripyat and the surrounding area were evacuated within 3 hours. They were told that this would be a short term measure but they never returned due to very high levels of radiation. The exclusion zone measures approximately 1,000 square miles.
700,000 liquidators were conscripted into the area to clean up in 1987, and today 3,000 workers travel daily into the area to continue this work. A poignant reminder is a stone monument titled “To Those Who Saved The World” dedicated to the liquidators who lost their lives. Adjacent to this is an avenue of signs naming the 90 villages lost.
The Green Peace estimate for the death toll during and after the explosion due to cancer and unrelated illness is between 93,000 and 200,000, but continues to increase today. The exclusion zone is thought to be uninhabitable for 200,000 years due to the high radiation levels.
We saw a map of the four reactors within the exclusion zone, and a fifth reactor over the border in Belarus which was never completed.
Graham visited the large very top secret Military Establishment at Duga with its huge Radar Array. He gave us a lot of information and images about the building and the Array. Military personnel, Technicians and Scientists worked there. This Establishment was still in operation until the end of the Cold War in 1987. He also visited Chernobyl 2 which housed the families who worked there.
The narrative and images stressed how normal and full of colour life would have been before the explosion and the destruction of homes, shops, hospitals, parks and public buildings which are now silent and forgotten. Education, music and culture had played an important part in Russian daily life. However, a lot of things Graham had seen have not been documented.
Despite the dereliction, nature is now regenerating itself. Trees can be seen growing in the cities and villages, and wildlife is returning to the area.
Graham picked out his “Greatest Hits” of the two tours, showing us images of beautiful stained glass windows and mosaics that had survived the devastation, and a children’s Elephant slide which he eventually tracked down at night and photographed. Graham’s image is only one of four which has been published on the Internet. What he has seen and captured during his visits to Chernobyl have left a lasting impression on his life.
Chris gave a massive thank you to Graham for an excellent “ultimate urban exploration” with stunning images and so much information. Members echoed this appreciation.
Next Club Meeting – Tuesday 19th April – Zoom Meeting – Location Challenge.