Bleak-o Tourism… Welcome to Chernobyl

I have been waiting a long time for this day.

Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor, No.4

Ever since I picked up Zones of Exclusion: Pripyat and Chernobyl back in 2004, I wanted to go there myself.
Once I learned that you actually could visit, there was no stopping me.

Considered to be the worst nuclear power plant disaster in history, visiting Chernobyl might not be on everyone’s ‘must see’ list, but just like the bomb ravaged streets of Pakistan, thats kinda my thing.

Contaminated vehicles used in the clean up.

Still declared unfit for human habitation, the Zone of Exclusion is a 30km ring around the Nuclear Reactor No.4 which includes the towns of Pripyat, Chernobyl and others.

Traveling in the Zone is not something you can go off and do on your own, again, it is one of those times when you must take a tour.
One of the bleakest days out you’ve ever had will set you back a steep 129 Euros(!!!), but it includes lunch.

Chernobyl Corner Store – Still open for 4000 workers within the zone today.

During the tour there’s alot of information and video watching, which is great if your into that, but I really just wanted to get to Pripyat and start exploring the deserted buildings.

The one thing which I found interesting to learn though was, Moscow didn’t even understand the scope of the disaster until Sweden called them and said ‘hey! why are all our clouds contaminated, what the fucks going on!’.
HQ at Chernobyl thought the radioactivity would all pass in a few days!

Unfinished new radioactive waste facility – tied up in red tape.

Camera: Lomo LCA
Film: Agfa Visata 400 (Expired 2006)
Location: Chernobyl/Pripyat – Ukraine.
Photoshop: Minor density corrections


Can you imagine walking around a – completely – deserted – town?
Literally completely deserted, not another sole in sight for hours, and you have it all to yourself.
Buildings that have been left to decay and rot, plundered and stripped of anything worth anything, floorboards that your foot falls through and windows with trees growing through them.
It is honestly like the post-apocalyptic-ness of Cormac McCarthy’s the Road.

I have never wound and clicked my camera so fast, I wanted to shoot most of this on the ‘Blad but being on a tour did mean we were a little pushed for time, I got a couple of rolls off, but mainly stuck to the Lomo so I didn’t have to meter every shot.

Every now and then, you would see tracks in the snow, not human but animal. Apparently they have taken over and run wild, eating the radioactive foliage and creating new mutated species.
No joke.


53 Responses to “Bleak-o Tourism… Welcome to Chernobyl”

  1. 1 shoutabyss March 2, 2010 at 4:50 am

    Those are truly some amazing photos. Thanks for sharing them with us.

  2. 3 Laughing Hard Crying Harder March 2, 2010 at 4:52 am

    Damn. Ok now I am GENUINELY jealous of your travels. That looks out of this world. I’ve gotta do this one day. I hope you come back radioactive.

  3. 4 shoutabyss March 2, 2010 at 5:00 am

    I’m also curious. Did you have to wear protective suits of any kind? Or was there on time limit on exposure? Or is it “safe” there now? Thanks!

  4. 5 diamonds18 March 2, 2010 at 5:08 am

    that was an amazing journey, will wait for the next one 🙂 nice photography

  5. 6 zoomyummy March 2, 2010 at 5:18 am

    I wouldn’t like you to be my friend in person now, you can guess why. Though I might have gotten my fair share of radiation the day it happened – while I didn’t live so far. Which makes me and the people from the former Soviet Block freakishly pissed… I don’t suppose that the Russian governors thought the radiation would go away – what me and many other think/know is that they knew but the general politics was NOT TO INFORM – NO MATTER WHAT! They can be called nothing else but inhuman rotten murderers!!!

  6. 7 urbisaereperennius March 2, 2010 at 5:30 am

    Very beautiful photographs; very surprised they let people in there. After watching a documentary on the bikini atolls I thought you had to wait longer for things to dissipate, and even then your coconuts will have radioactive milk or whatever. Sad thing is that it doesn’t look all that different than many places in upstate New York. You could probably selectively lomograph some rust belts areas of the U.S. and call it Chyrnobyl and not tell the difference. Interesting contrast.

  7. 8 gigi March 2, 2010 at 5:34 am

    For a very good book based on this topic see “The Sky Unwashed” by Irene Zabytko.

    Utterly, utterly heartbreaking novel and yet so poignant as well.

  8. 9 edenlite March 2, 2010 at 6:16 am

    This is truly awesome. I honestly didn’t know about this place, so kind of creepy for me. Nice photography, though, and I’ll like to know more about the disaster, and Chernobyl after it. Thanks

  9. 10 Torithy March 2, 2010 at 6:49 am

    Post-apocalyptic is an apt description – it’s very … bleak, not surprisingly. And I do share the curiosity of others about the safety of visits.

  10. 11 wiredthroughwords March 2, 2010 at 7:32 am

    Whoa. Um.I am really stunned by these images. They’re beautiful yet really disturbing at the same time. I think maybe surreal or sublime would describe my reaction to them.

  11. 12 helenagoznikar March 2, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Can’t believe I just stumbled onto your blog…
    I watched ‘Life in the Dead Zone’ just a couple of nights ago, awaking this unstoppable urge in me to go there myself.
    And here I find you tonight, one who has been there, when I wasn’t even searching for what I found.
    Excellent photos. Lomo is awsome.

  12. 13 oliverpothecary March 2, 2010 at 9:25 am

    REally good photos, did you see any of the mutated animals?/what kind of mutations did they have?

  13. 14 Lauren March 2, 2010 at 10:31 am

    I’ve always found the story of Chernobyl both fascinating and terrifying. I even wrote a paper about it for my environmental studies class. You might have already seen it, but I really love this website: which has lots of pictures from the area. It’s so eerie and haunting; your photos definitely capture what I imagine is a strange silence. I like to think it’s the kind of silence rarely heard on our planet anymore.

    I also watched a documentary called “The True Battle of Chernobyl,” which you can find on Google videos if you haven’t already seen it. It’s so sad and yet fascinating to see how communication failed and how ignorant they were of the radiation. Especially the poor soldiers who were called in to clean it all up. It’s definitely a monumental disaster.

    • 15 leavemehere March 2, 2010 at 10:55 am

      Yeah the “The True Battle of Chernobyl” is great! It’s an excellent video to watch if you don’t have a very good understanding of the events that took place.

  14. 16 HK March 2, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Fascinating post and photos. Thanks for sharing with us. I’d like to know:
    1. How long you were allowed to stay?
    2. Were you given protective clothing?
    3. What’s the scoop on those “mutated” animals?!?
    4. What did you eat for lunch? Did you patron the “Corner Store” shown?!
    Looking forward to Part 2.

  15. 17 Zalak Modi March 2, 2010 at 10:43 am

    wow, great shots of Chernobyl, I had only read about it as a student in school, but to see snap shots of the place is taking the story to a whole new level.
    great work!

  16. 18 lauriejune March 2, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Thank you for your photo essay. Really haunting.

  17. 19 Lakia March 2, 2010 at 11:53 am

    These are really intense photographs, thanks for sharing.

  18. 20 pt4themind March 2, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Wow, talk about a Ghost Town. These pics rock. Thanks for sharing.

  19. 21 johnryanrecabar March 2, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    the only picture of chernobyl i remember is that of a desolate building from my elementary school textbook in the philippines.

  20. 22 TZ March 2, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Great photos! Do you mind if I refer/link your blog in my coming posts on my blog?

  21. 25 Richard March 2, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Well written and very informative. 💡

  22. 27 Thomas Paine March 2, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Thanks for the article. I can’t wait to visit.

  23. 28 Wanderer March 2, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Very interesting post. I also would like to know the answers to the questions asked by HK in an above comment,

  24. 29 WTD March 2, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Great job, great photos! Could you feel anything in the air?

  25. 30 goldnsilver March 2, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    Very very interesting travel photos. I’m very jealous of you.

  26. 31 Galina Sanderson March 2, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Perhaps it would be even more haunting to look into the eyes of those who keep living in the contaminated zone nearby -little children, old women(not too many men left), as well as young people. Majority of them are destined to die from cancers or other immune-related diseases. The fascination with mutated animals hasn’t finished after 24 something years? Visit the villages of Belarus, once deserted, now full with people who were forced to come back again, where you can be terrified by despair and indifference to life in general.

  27. 32 happysole March 2, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    amazing! i wonder what the mutitated animals look like. i hope they do not wander too far from Chernobyl… 🙂

  28. 33 utherdoul March 2, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    Chernobyl is also number one on my list of places to visit. I loved ‘Zones of Exclusion’ and the film ‘Heavy Water’ and plan to make a short documentary of my own when I get there. Thanks for sharing your experiences and wonderful pictures.

  29. 34 Justine March 2, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Fascinating post and beautiful images, thanks for sharing.

  30. 35 No Onion Please March 2, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    I was there last summer and I must say that I’m pretty shocked – I’ve seen same places you have in Prypec, but it seems that now after a half a year only they are much more destroyed! Eg in the basket ball hall the floor was still intact when I was there! The building it seems are really not able to withstand the pressure of time and are falling apart really really fast!

  31. 36 Yaannnnnn March 3, 2010 at 12:03 am

    very nice work mate, i hope your second part come fast. Thanks for sharing the photos. peace ;P

  32. 37 bluesky March 3, 2010 at 12:47 am

    This Place is the actual site from Call of Duty Modern Warfare
    Play it if u dont believe it

    thanks to whoever take a photo of this place

  33. 38 steve March 3, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    A stark reminder that man doesn’t control the world but can destroy.

  34. 39 curator by day March 7, 2010 at 1:03 am

    A Heavy Dose-a for the Zone-a. The atom can be used for irenic rather than pernicious pursuits.

  35. 40 Ms. Nerd March 8, 2010 at 5:01 am

    Just a comment; we’re all mutants, but most mutations don’t show.

    For Chernobyl wildlife, the most visible mutation in animals are albinism. Also lowered survival rates for young, unsymmetric feathers for birds. Trees that resemble palms. So – no 5-legged does or wolves with glowing eyes. Yeah – and earthworms dissapeared for some time, but now they’re back and thriving – as well as the rodent populations.

    Nice pictures. When were they taken?

  36. 41 Quintin Lake March 19, 2010 at 10:39 am

    It has a wonderful atmosphere in the snow, congratulations. I went in 2007 and had an exhibition of my photographs from the trip entitled “Pripyat : 21 Years after Chernobyl” feel free to check them out

  37. 42 helana July 7, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    amazing photos, you truly take photography to a different level, and make a diaster into a masterpiece. Keep the photos coming!

  38. 43 domenick September 27, 2010 at 3:28 am

    you’d think by now they would have had plenty of time to sweep up all of that fallout from the nuclear winter.

    [yes, i’m kidding]

  39. 44 Costi December 9, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    Cernobil? A big disaster!

  40. 45 Cazare Sulina August 18, 2011 at 7:00 am

    Nice place without radiation after 1000 years:))

  41. 46 elliebelly November 19, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    With the protection suits, did u know they dont really protect you from the radiation? Apparently they just slowdown the effects…..kinda like sunscreen.

  42. 47 Patsy November 29, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Impressive shots! I’m tempted to go check it out myself when I make my way over that way..

  43. 48 transplantednorth March 30, 2012 at 9:51 am

    mutated species? Are you serious? did you photograph any wildlife. This is all so so creepy.

  44. 49 Fergus Cunningham March 31, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Exellent post- hope to get here one day myself…

  45. 50 storiesbywilliams March 31, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Oh my God! I’ve seen some 3D game environments of Pripyat awhile back. Judging by these photos, they were bang on! And of course, your photo share’s here are extremely good!

  1. 1 Chernobyl « No onion please Trackback on March 3, 2010 at 6:32 am
  2. 2 Reise in die DEADZONE Tschernobyl (CHERNOBYL) Trackback on July 27, 2010 at 1:11 am
  3. 3 Agdam, Nagorno Karabakh. « Leave Me Here.. Trackback on March 27, 2012 at 10:08 am

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