The aim of this website is to go some way to documenting the buildings and landscape of the Exclusion Zone. I am not a professional photographer but I hope the photographs convey something of what it’s like to visit the area.
There are plenty more galleries to come including additional schools, kindergartens and scrapyards so please keep checking back.
Information regarding the use of photographs and my personal experience of the Zone can be found below. If you would like to ask a question about Chernobyl, provide feedback, or just say hi please do so via the contact form.
Take care out there, Paul
The photographs used on this website that feature the Chernobyl Gallery watermark can be used free of charge for non commercial work, however they must not be altered in any way (providing a link to the website will bring you good Karma). Further details of this agreement can be found on the Creative Commons website. I am happy to provide higher-res versions if required.
I first visited Chernobyl and Pripyat on a day trip from Kiev in 2007. Kiev is a great city and certainly worthy of your time. This initial tour of the Exclusion Zone itself was both frustrating and fascinating. So much to see, so little time and with a guide who watched over our every move.
That day trip only served to heighten my curiosity and by 2010 I could no longer resist the urge to return and was fortunate to secure a 4-day tour that exceeded all my expectations. Confident I’d got the place well and truly out of my system I returned home a happy man with many full memory cards only for the gravity of Pripyat to once again take hold leading to a second 4-day visit in 2011.
The distances between the checkpoints make the scale of what happened very apparent. Passing through the first we switched on our Geiger counters which beeped periodically (and rather worryingly not always in unison), as we passed through the first pockets of low-level radiation.
For an exclusion zone, there is a remarkable amount of activity and not just around the reactors.
Outside the reactor complex buses delivered workers decommissioning the reactors. The last functioning nuclear reactor, number 3, having been only been shutdown in 2000 following political pressure.
The new containment arch was in its very early stages when I last visited and standing, in what is essentially a car park, staring up at the vast rusting sarcophagus was a fascinating but ultimately depressing experience. It’s not a place you want to stay for long.
The Zone to me is many things including sad, peaceful and surprisingly beautiful. Central Pripyat is not huge and can be crossed by foot quickly. At the edge of the city thick undergrowth and trees frequently obscure the buildings and often the only reminder that you’re walking on what was once a busy road is a periodic streetlight.
When you are able to see the buildings, hundreds of empty windows stare back at you. Washing lines and the last remnants of curtains flutter in the breeze. It’s hard at times not to contain your imagination, best to keep moving.
Walking between buildings the occasional army truck would pass by. If close enough I would wave and they would wave back. Periodically a dog or cat would appear in the distance and give me a cursory glance before continuing its journey. There’s still a functioning laundry facility on the outskirts of Pripyat which came as a shock when I caught sight of lights through the trees one evening. They seemed very out of place in the darkness that envelops the decaying city each night.
A once young and prosperous city, the average age of its inhabitants was 26 years old, it must have been full of optimism for the future. Now the decades of neglect and the harsh Ukrainian seasons are beginning to take their toll on the buildings. A school, just one of the buildings to have partially collapsed.
Metal reclamation is prevalent and cranes, vehicles and boats are being sliced up at a rapid pace. The vast lines of vehicles and aircraft you once saw on the television all long gone.
In the outlying villages, the landscape was stunning in the autumn sun. Jet-black rivers flow through bright yellow grassland. There is no human noise, no planes overhead or car engines. These villages are so peaceful and slowly returning to nature as the timber buildings rot. Particularly in the villages it made me realise just how dependant we are on nature. Nature however would not miss us.
If you’re interested in going I recommend going soon.
I’m frequently asked if I’m against nuclear power. I believe it preferable to the use, and consequences, of fossil fuels. Chernobyl is now once again generating energy, this time from a solar power farm. Hopefully a sign of things to come.
In April 2017 I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Keri Phillips for Rear Vision ahead of the 31st anniversary of the disaster.