XPOSURE shines light on Chernobyl disaster’s lost generations


SHARJAH, 20th September, 2019 (WAM) -- "Chernobyl is not a moment in time. People think of Chernobyl as an event that took place in 1986. It happened. Now it is over. But Chernobyl is a place and there is still, work that needs to be done there," asserted Toronto-based travel and documentary cinematographer and photographer, Jeffrey Garriock, and New York City and Miami photographer, Ron B. Wilson, during a seminar held on Thursday evening at the International Photography Festival, XPOSURE 2019, in Sharjah.

Focusing on narrating stories and bringing new perspectives through their work, Garriock and Wilson debuted clips from their upcoming documentary and still images from their ongoing project shot over a period of three weeks documenting contemporary life in Chernobyl, Ukraine, then part of the erstwhile Soviet Union, at a seminar titled "Generations of Chernobyl".

Showing pictures of an abandoned swimming pool and a Ferris wheel at an amusement park, Garriock said these were the most photographed images in Pripyat – the city built to serve the people at the power plant – in the years following the mass evacuation of more than 300,000 people within a 30-kilometre radius.

"This swimming pool has become a global symbol for Chernobyl, appearing in music videos, video games and books," he said. "Such images are emblematic of the consequences of an accident that must be avoided at all costs. Many believe this place to be entirely abandoned, but to this day, people work there from a town 40 minutes away, and very little is being done to help people who need it now."

"It was a city looking to the future, now locked in the past," Wilson added.

A video clipping follows Ivan who formerly lived in the village of Lilev, a Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, as he returns to his home after 30 years, only to find things left as they were all those years ago, including a photograph of him as a young boy.

"One of the stories that impacted me the most was how the evacuation was meant to be temporary," Garriock said. "Everybody thought they were to return to their homes. People packed up whole lives and left, and this place became frozen in time."

As members of Photographers Without Borders, Garriock and Wilson’s visit to Chernobyl came about to highlight the efforts of Clean Futures Fund (CFF), an NGO that is working to improve the health and wellbeing of all generations still feeling the effects of the iconic radioactive explosion.

In a video, Adel recites a poem she penned for Pripyat, a city she could now no longer be part of, and she mourns its loss and expresses a wish to return one day.

Chernobyl is a city of memorials but none more striking than the image of a collection of town signs placed one after the other on either side of a long, winding road – each sign a symbol of every village or town abandoned during the evacuation.

"If we are to learn anything about the consequences of nuclear power, we are most likely to learn it here in Chernobyl where experts now come to work on decontamination projects, environmental research, nuclear storage and nuclear waste," Garriock said.

"Chernobyl is not just a moment in time," he reiterated. "It exists in our now and it must exist in our future. The stories of the people here must convince us to keep Chernobyl in our thoughts rather in our memories."

Organised by Sharjah Government Media Bureau, SGMB, the four-day International Photography Festival began on 19th September and concludes on 22nd September, with the participation of 53 of the world’s most celebrated photographers and leading international brands.

WAM/Tariq alfaham