Frankie McAllister

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This is the last bus stop, from better times, right beside the checkpoint into the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

These are the old gates to the fenced off estate within the exclusion Zone, which houses the Duga Radar installation, part of the ex-soviet early warning anti-ballistic system.

This structure is around 90 metres high and 750 metres long - despite the huge size, the whole installation was a secret. The radar was so powerful that it interfered with regular radio frequencies across an enormous distance, becoming nicknamed the Russian Woodpecker (and ending up not being so secret!).

There was a secret village built, hidden away in the forest, to house the 1000 or so operatives needed to operate the Duga - all this was abandoned hurriedly when the Chernobyl area was evacuated following the accident. The ruined operational buildings now lie gently crumbling, the concrete eroding and ceilings, walls and floors disintegrating.

When the buildings were evacuated, all sorts of stuff from technical equipment to routine office equipment and the fixtures of everyday life, were left behind. Although much of this was looted over time, there is a strange assortment of items left behind.

Amongst all the other things left behind, there are documents and letters everywhere. Probably all these papers were important once, and now they're just lying loose where they fell, surviving but meaningless now.

The years of damp and decay have caused all the finishes to peel from the walls, so comprehensively they form their own abstract pattern.

Some child's doll left behind in the Kindergarten before the child was rushed away somewhere. A lot of children were evacuated completely away from the area, to other countries in some cases.

You can see the forest closing in through the cloudy and broken window.

Away from the Duga and away from Pripyat, you can see the area was once good farming land and some of the farming families returned in the years after the disaster (illegally at first but in the end, they were left alone). You can still see the remains of some of the old houses and villages - this one is near Paryshev which is, in every 'normal' way, a beautiful and peaceful place.

Ivan is in his 80s; he and his wife (who sadly died last year) returned to their land, and the house they built themselves, a few years after the disaster. They had no living or purpose away from their land and so were prepared for the risk. Ivan is now only one of two left in the village and has made a bit of a name for himself by talking to visitors, NGOs, inspectors, tour groups etc. He is happy to talk and the people are brief company for him, plus everyone knows to bring him something useful when they come; candles, tinned food, clothes, hardware, kerosene or whatever - things he can no longer get as there are no services to the village any more.

This was once a proper town road in Pripyat, which was pretty much a 'model' town for the Plant workers before the accident. Now, like everywhere else in Pripyat, the vegetation is slowly reclaiming the town, breaking up the tarmac and clawing through the concrete.

Frankie McAllister

I started hiking and travelling a few years ago through some incredible scenery and landscapes, and I developed a fascination with how, in the wildest remotest and seemingly most hostile environments, you still find people managing to scratch some kind of a living. This has developed into an interest in landscapes, urban landscapes and documentary photography, in particular the interfaces between wild and urban; where the hand of man disturbs the rural and where nature tries to reclaim her territory from the urban. The images in this short selection are a very brief extract from my collection from the Chernobyl exclusion Zone which is a one example of a (very unusual) place where nature is fighting back.  As a subject, Chernobyl has been pretty much done to death by journalists and artists so I have not attempted a full cohesive project. However, it is still an endlessly fascinating place which raises so many questions about everything, from whether things could realistically have been done differently, the hand of politics in ‘disasters’ to, most significantly, what happens next – what is the future for this strange contaminated place and others like it (Fukushima)?


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