|'Visions of Silence: Chernobyl 32 years on'||17 September 2019|
|Welsh Photographer Graham Harries was welcomed to the club by Chairman Steve Hardman. Graham has a wide interest in photography including nature, landscape, portrait and wedding photography and he began the evening by showing some of his images.
Tonight Graham was giving a presentation on his 4 day trip to Chernobyl where tourists are now allowed into parts of the site where the Soviet nuclear reactor exploded in 1986. Residents of the city nearest to the explosion had only 3 hours to leave their homes never to return. Surprisingly only 32 people died directly from the blast but thousands have since died from ill health caused by the radiation.
The excellently presented evening started with a countdown and then the sound of a warning siren. Video, still images, news broadcasts of the time, archive images were all expertly combined with sound effects and appropriate music to make the rather grim topic very watchable.
Places visited on the tour were the abandoned top secret areas with the grim looking corridors and the radar jamming structures, the now derelict hospital and a school where pupils had to leave everything behind. Even a whole city with its rows of identical tower blocks of flats was left to decay.
The actual reactor is now entombed in concrete to help keep in the radiation and it is estimated that the area around will be unsafe for at least 300 years.
The total area affected was 1,000 square miles with all cities, towns and villages within the area all abandoned. It is now considered reasonably safe to visit areas over 20 kms from the reactor site but precautions still have to be taken – no touching anything and avoid getting any mud on you and checks to make sure you are not contaminated.
A notice scrawled on a wall as you enter the area ‘Welcome to Hell’ gives a good idea of what you are about to see. Many poignant images showing what the residents at the time had to leave behind, clothes, books and even pianos now covered in debris in the litter strewn rooms.
Little touches sometimes show that the area was not as grim as the Soviet Union is often conceived to be, some elegant sculptures and painted walls in places and surprisingly a fairground although that had not yet been used before the area was inhabitable.
At the time of Grahams visit there was a covering of snow on the ground which enhanced the outdoor images, the many derelict vehicles, trains and even boats in the docks with its towering cranes made interesting photographic subjects.
Graham had put together a remarkable presentation with excellent images so thanks for giving the club such an interesting insight into such a grim tragedy. PM
Images © Graham Harries. Top left Abandoned Bus, top right: Radar Jamming & Danger Zone.
Bottom left: Mural of a Cosmanaut, bottom right: Abandoned Fairground Ride.