Photographic Seeing — Homage: Remembering Chernobyl by Jim Krantz

Homage: Remembering Chernobyl

Homage: Remembering Chernobyl
BY Jim Krantz
(Jim Krantz Studio, 2011)


From the Author:

“In 2009 I found a letter in an abandoned home in the ‘Forbidden Zone’ in Chernobyl. This last elegy from an unknown author was the catalyst for my book project Homage: Remembering Chernobyl. I was overwhelmed by the profound sense of loss and humanity it expressed.”

This new photo essay examines Chernobyl, the 1986 nuclear plant explosion and fire that caused human, animal and environmental destruction and spread a deadly cloud of radioactive materials across Russia and Europe. According to various sources, 31 deaths are “directly attributed to the accident, all among the reactor staff and emergency workers.” A UNSCEAR report places the total confirmed deaths from radiation at 64 as of 2008. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests it could reach 4,000. A 2006 report predicted 30,000 to 60,000 cancer deaths as a result of Chernobyl fallout. A Greenpeace report puts this figure at 200,000 or more. A Russian publication, Chernobyl, concludes that 985,000 excess cancer deaths occurred between 1986 and 2004 as a result of radioactive contamination.

The entire book focuses on ‘place,’ as the author attempts to sear into the reader’s consciousness the impact of what was once the worst environmental nuclear disaster of them all.

Krantz has dedicated the proceeds from the sale of Homage to an organization that promotes greater awareness of the dangers of unsafe use of nuclear energy. His book is 132 pages, with 99 color plates, and includes a foreword by Krantz, an essay by Askold Mcincyczuk, and a scientific exposé on nuclear energy and the Chernobyl disaster by Henry L. Henderson, the Midwest program director of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The book opens with a haunting ballad, author unknown, a hymn, so to speak, to the region, a love poem to a place long ago, like a paean referring to ancient Rome or Athens. The entire book focuses on “place,” as the author attempts to sear into the reader’s consciousness the impact of what was once the worst environmental nuclear disaster of them all. (The March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster is now considered the worst nuclear tragedy.)

Krantz writes in his foreword: “I witnessed the loss of land, identity, family and structure… The overwhelming amount of emotional distress displaced into violence and self-abuse.” One of the essays is by John King, who, because of the impact of the disaster, became an alcoholic. In view of this and other similar experiences of those living in Chernobyl, Krantz continues, “This loss of epic proportions is numbed by alcohol for many; a replacement for demolished options, the forged connection to one’s own anger.”

Krantz also depicts the status of the local society through his images: “It is hard to comprehend the magnitude of the disaster that the inhabitants must have felt, but among the ruins I feel hope endures. Still, by a thread, a society continues to exist.”


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