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Photo essay documenting people, who, like me, were evacuated from Pripyat, Ukraine in April 1986 after Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster.
Photo essay documenting people, who, like me, were evacuated from Pripyat, Ukraine in April 1986 after Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster.
182 backers pledged €11,515 to help bring this project to life.

About

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I am a 30-year old photographer, originally from Ukraine, residing in Berlin, Germany. In 1986 I was evacuated from Pripyat, Ukraine, following the nuclear power plant catastrophe in Chernobyl.

I would like to invite you on a journey to re-discover what was lost between the now abandoned walls. I'll take you on a photographic trip through the forbidden zone and share notes, stories and photos from my travels back to my origins.

I believe it’s important to show and tell the stories that changed the lives of so many people; something that could happen anytime anywhere else; even today. This project is a continuation of the original exhibition dedicated to my home town Pripyat. The final work will be published in a book format in spring 2016, marking the 30th anniversary of the disaster.

Little me and my father Constantine in October 1985 in Pripyat
Little me and my father Constantine in October 1985 in Pripyat

My background story

We were evacuated from Pripyat when I was only one-year-old. My father, an engineer, was working in the plant on the night of the accident. He was then 28-years- old and my mother only 23-years-old.

Me and my mother Marina, Lenin street, Pripyat, 1985
Me and my mother Marina, Lenin street, Pripyat, 1985
Me at the same spot as previous image, 2011
Me at the same spot as previous image, 2011

At the time, the average age of residents in Pripyat - a small town three-kilometers away from Chernobyl, built for the families of those working at the nuclear power plant - was 26-years-old. All of them (almost 50 000) had to leave the town less than two days after the disaster of the 26th of April 1986. The fourth reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant exploded during the systems test, releasing a cloud of highly radioactive emissions into the atmosphere and over an extensive area – still the biggest nuclear disaster in the modern history.

4th reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear power Plant after the disaster. Archival photo
4th reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear power Plant after the disaster. Archival photo

In 2011, at the age of 26, I revisited my hometown for the first time - a town I never knew and never will. The accident at the plant drastically and radically altered my parents’ lives and also my own. In many respects, all of my desires and passions sprung from the ruins of Chernobyl. And many people who I miss are gone because of it. I returned again in 2012, to finish the self-portrait part of the project.

The city sign of Pripyat is now almost hidden in a forrest which grew around it
The city sign of Pripyat is now almost hidden in a forrest which grew around it

Prypyat Mon Amour: Part I documented my re-immersion into what is now a ghost town, the little town that marked my life’s genesis and also (through my absence from it) became my greatest influence. It was successfully exhibited in Berlin in November 2012. You can check it on my website http://alinarudya.com/Prypyat-mon-Amour

Selfportrait from the series "Prypyat mon Amour"
Selfportrait from the series "Prypyat mon Amour"
Selfportrait from the series "Prypyat mon Amour"
Selfportrait from the series "Prypyat mon Amour"
"Prypyat mon Amour" featured on the website of renown German newspaper Spiegel
"Prypyat mon Amour" featured on the website of renown German newspaper Spiegel

Current project

Now, that the 30th anniversary of Chernobyl approaches, I want to go back to Pripyat to concentrate not on my life, but on lives of other people. Those who were, too, evacuated from the Zone back in 1986.

Picture from Pripyat from my father's archive
Picture from Pripyat from my father's archive
Family in Pripyat, 1985. From my father's photo archive
Family in Pripyat, 1985. From my father's photo archive

Some of them are my age, some are older - others have children themselves - but all of them somehow influenced by the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster. I want to make contact with some of these people and see how Chernobyl changed their lives - and I want to return to Pripyat together with them, to mark the starting point - Ground Zero- of their current life.

The crucial part of my work will be photographing these people back in Pripyat, in their abandoned apartments and the familiar surroundings from their past.

Importance of the campaign

The Chernobyl disaster changed my life as well as lives of hundreds of thousands of other people. 30 years after, the negative influence of the radioactive pollution is still prominent and with further disasters, like Fukushima, it is obvious that there is a huge question over the safety of nuclear power.

Nothing can influence us more though, than real stories of real people.

Photo of me and my mother on the floor of our abandoned apartment number 24, on Lenin street 17
Photo of me and my mother on the floor of our abandoned apartment number 24, on Lenin street 17

Through the photography and telling the stories of the people from the Zone, I would like to add another, personal touch to a disaster, which should have never happened and which should never happen again. As an artist, who lived and was evacuated from Pripyat, and whose life was directly influenced by the disaster, I believe I can offer a unique approach to the topic. One that was debated for years.

Collage of pictures from 1985 and 2012 from the same place - our apartment in Lenin street 17, Pripyat. My father is holding me in 1985 vs empty walls of 2012
Collage of pictures from 1985 and 2012 from the same place - our apartment in Lenin street 17, Pripyat. My father is holding me in 1985 vs empty walls of 2012

Goals of this campaign

The goal of my campaign is to raise costs for several photo trips back into the Zone, the restricted are near Chernobyl Power Plant in Ukraine - together with people, whom I will photograph in the town they were evacuated from back in 1986. The final results will be published and turned into a book, which will be presented in an exhibition. The event planned for the April 2016, marking the 30th anniversary of the accident.

The Photobook

Currently I plan to print around 150 high quality medium format photobooks with approximately 80 pictures in them. I am in an active search of a publisher.

Me at the exhibition opening of the self-portrait part of the "Prypyat mon Amour"
Me at the exhibition opening of the self-portrait part of the "Prypyat mon Amour"

                                               ***Thank you!***

Risks and challenges

The main risk, despite the still present radioactive pollution in the zone, is the bureaucracy I may face back in Ukraine. Since I’ve already photographed in the restricted zone on several occasions and went inside as a journalist, I hope to minimize the obstacles I might face in order to get special permission to photograph people inside the restricted zone.

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Funding period

- (40 days)