Chernobyl August 2010 Part 2
The second night in Chernobyl was easier, the town seemed a bit more familiar and sleep came easier, probably helped by quite a full on day before.
Pripyat's sign is quite striking, especially against the blue sky which greeted us in the morning
The first stop of the day after going through the 2 checkpoints on the way to Pripyat was the cities main hotel, this was pretty trashed, the grand ballroom with wooden floor was a shadow of its former self although the muted colours made for a good start to the photographic day. There was an open lift shaft which I was able to get inside and down onto the base level, it was quite an odd feeling, I guess reverse vertigo looking up at an almost never ending tunnel.
The roof of the hotel with its rusted neon lights scatterd over the place were my favorite pictures here although the bright sunshine made it difficult to get the lighting right.
Next door to the hotel around the big parade square was the Music and arts hall, this was where the concerts and entertainment were held, the interior of the building was faded by time but would have been quite impressive in its time.
The building contained an auditorium with cinema and a stage, the projector room had lots of film cuttings covering the floor but the hall was very dark and damp.
There were a few sports halls in the city, the first one in our visit was the ball court, the first thing you notice here is the columns of concrete which would have seperated the huge panes of glass, which now litter the floor of the hall caused by lack of maintanence as the concrete expanded and contracted with the seasons.
If the walls could talk in this place, they would probably have tales of football matches, laughter and shouting, but there was none of that today, just the echo of the wind through the openings.
One of my favorite images i got from the trip was taken here, a tree in full bloom was growing out through the floorboards, bizarre when you think its the second story of the building, but this captured the sense for me at least that mother nature persists and adapts, even when we humans cant carry on.
One of the main places we wanted to see here was the abandoned swimming pool. I had been playing Call of Duty before coming out here - well i say "playing", that should probably read "dying" and one of the levels has a fully rendered copy of the building - it was quite strange going into the pool afterwards, like visiting a CGI filmset.
for the vertigo challenged like myself, looking over the board was quite harrowing, even with the pool full of water i wouldnt feel comfortable here so looking down on a white and hard tiled floor was quite nerve racking.
Lots of the photos that I had seen before the trip had images of hundreds of small gas masks laid out on the floor, I had thought that this was part of the evacuation of one of the drills before everyone left but I found out here that there is something valuable in the filter which had been taken by looters.
The school was in a very bad state, on some levels, the floors were covered with old text books. Some of the rooms had some quite interesting things which were left, after a while you start to see all the little still life arrangements that previous photographers have created.
The last but one stop was at the hospital, we didnt see much here but there were a few rooms on the wards, dingy remains of damp walls and rusting bedframes, medicine bottles with prescription scribbles on them.
The final stop was fittingly at the mortgue, this was a drive away from the hospital and a dark little building set into the overgrowth.
There had been a fire here although it wasnt clear when this happened, the slabs were big porceline like sinks set on bricks like an oversized barbeque, it was dark inside and hard to get a good angle on the autopsy tables, there was one room here where the medicine bottles were stored which had almost escaped the fire damage from the other room, some of the jars made some good photos
A very full day all in all, Pripyat was not what i expected at all, its amazing that even after a disaster of such magnitude, nature has reclaimed the land both in flora and fauna and is flurishing where humans are only now able to go back in short intervals. The workers here work 15 days within the zone and have to spend 15 days away, there are some people who have returned to live within the exclusion zone but these are a distinct minority.