Chernobyl’s Zone of Alienation

Matilda Battersby
Wednesday 13 July 2011 10:49 BST

Darren Nisbett’s breathtaking photographs taken within Chernobyl’s 30 kilometre zone of alienation 25 years after the nuclear accident, present the haunting spectre of a once vibrant community left to fester.

Rotting leaves, flaking paint and encroaching moss are the only signs of change.

Empty cribs in desolate children’s wards, stationary fairground bumper cars, a high diving board poised over the cracked hole of a once impressive swimming pool are just some of the poignant settings captured by his lens which show the ghostlike state of the nuclear evacuation zone.

An exhibition of Nisbett’s photographs is currently being held at the Rhubarb and Custard gallery in Berkshire, timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the tragedy, an event more terrifyingly prescient given its recent echo at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant.

The spectral quality of Nisbett’s photographic reportage is exaggerated by his use of a Canon 450D which has been converted to take infrared images using a 10-22mm wide-angle lens and Heliopan IR filters, which produces silvery sepia tones.

“The infrared filters transform what is seen by the human eye into a dreamlike image,” he said. “The processing gives the images a distinct traditional feel similar to high speed infrared film with its characteristic grain, contrast and halation [light leakage].”

The surreal environment, which is enhanced by being printed on Silver Gelatine, are reminiscent of a post-apocalypse setting in science fiction. Trees and plants are taking over the Communist architecture, winding and binding their way over the once clean lines.

The exhibition is a thought provoking portrait of what happens when nuclear power spills out of human control, and a devastating prediction of what lies in store for Fukushima’s alienation zone.

‘Chernobyl’s Zone of Alienation’ is at Rhubarb and Custard until the end of July. All profits will be donated to the Chernobyl Children’s Project (UK).

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