- Catastrophe at Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine in 1986 sent clouds of radiation into the atmosphere
- Worst nuclear power plant accident in history occurred when a systems test went disastrously wrong
- Kiev-based photographer Arthur Bondar has captured eerie shots of exclusion zone surrounding abandoned plant
- Exclusion zone is largely uninhabited but for a few residents who refused to leave their homes
- Mr Bondar said he wanted to capture ‘mystical’ aspects of a land where ‘every inch is full of suffering and sorrow’
Haunting images of the exclusion zone around the abandoned Chernobyl nuclear plant reveal a land ‘full of suffering and sorrow’.
A Ukrainian photographer has spent five years documenting the exclusion zone that still surrounds the scene of the worst nuclear disaster in history – and the defiant residents who refused to leave.
Arthur Bondar, who was just three-years-old when a catastrophic explosion at the power plant sent clouds of radiation into the atmosphere over Europe in April 1986, says he has been witnessing the consequences of the tragedy his entire life.
Shadows of Wormwood: Photographer Arthur Bondar, who was three-years-old at the time of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in 1986, has spent five years photographing the areas around the exclusion zone and the people that live there
‘I want to show the mystical aspects of this land, where every inch is full of suffering and sorrow,’ said the photographer, who has said he embarked upon the series out of ‘sympathy and respect’ for the people who worked and lived in and around the exclusion zone.
Soviet authorities evacuated 350,000 residents from the area around the plant amid the enormous battle to contain the contamination. But a small minority of people refused to leave, and recent years have seen older residents drawn back to the exclusion zone to live closer to family graves.
The official Soviet death toll of 31 victims has been disputed, and the long-term impact of the radioactive fallout – from cancers to deformities – has still not fully come to light.
They choose to remain in and around the zone despite the warnings of scientists who estimate the area – much of which has reverted to forest in the decades since the disaster – will not be safe to inhabit for another 20,000 years.
Mr Bondar named his projectShadows of Wormwood, a reference to the Wormwood star mentioned in the Bible. A passage in the Book of Revelation describes a burning star that fell upon rivers, and reads: ‘The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many died from the water, because it was made bitter.’
See more of Arthur Bondar’s work at www.arthurbondar.com.
Consequences: The photographer, who is based in Kiev, Ukraine, has said that while he does not remember the night of the disaster 27 years ago, he has witnessed the consequences of the tragedy throughout his life
Tragedy: Radioactive particles released into the atmosphere after the explosion and fire at the nuclear power plant spread over much of Europe and what was then the western USSR
Tragedy: The fallout from the nuclear disaster was so dangerous Soviet authorities evacuated 350,000 residents, establishing an exclusion zone extending 19 miles out from the plant in all directions
Fenced-off: The area within the exclusion zone, which is still in place 27 years on from the disaster, is largely uninhabited but for a few residents who refused to leave, and it has reverted to forest in places
Abandoned: The rusted remains of a boat are seen among the bare branches of the trees within the exclusion zone that surrounds the abandoned Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine
Suffering: The photographer said he wanted to reflect the ‘mystical aspects’ of the land within the exclusion zone, where ‘every inch is full of suffering and sorrow’
Bleak outlook: Mr Bondar has criticised the decision to open the area around the Chernobyl exclusion zone to tourists, and claims those who continue to suffer as a result of the disaster are being forgotten
Living in no man’s land: The area is sparsely populated by residents who refused to leave in the wake of the tragedy 27 years ago, and older people who have returned to the zone in recent years to be close to family graves
Surviving: The long-term effects of the catastrophe, which occurred when a systems test at the power plant near the city of Pripyat went disastrously wrong, are still being seen today
Desolate: The photographer said he was fascinated by the people living in and around the exclusion zone, and asked them whether they were afraid of radiation
Wormwood: The photographer named his project Shadows of Wormwood – a reference to the burning star in the Bible that fell upon rivers and made the water ‘bitter’
Contamination: Mr Bondar made several visits to the zone over a period of five years to capture the lasting effects of the disaster almost 30 years ago
Monochrome: Mr Bondar’s photograph of the desolate area of Ukraine are all devoid of colour, but he has said the zone is ‘more alive than people think’
Accident: A systems test at the power plant went disastrously wrong in 1986, triggering the worst nuclear disaster in history
Sense of normality: A small minority of residents decided to continue living in the shadow of the abandoned nuclear power plant
Fallout: The exclusion zone extends 19 miles in all directions from the abandoned plant