In the 11 days following the Chernobyl catastrophe on April 26, 1986, more than 116,000 people were permanently evacuated from the area surrounding the nuclear power plant. Declared unfit for human habitation, the Zones of Exclusion includes the towns of Pripyat (established in the 1970s to house workers) and Chernobyl. In May 2001, Robert Polidori photographed what was left behind in the this dead zone. His richly detailed images move from the burned-out control room of Reactor 4, where technicians staged the experiment that caused the disaster, to the unfinished apartment complexes, ransacked schools and abandoned nurseries that remain as evidence of those who once called Pripyat home. Nearby, trucks and tanks used in the cleanup efforts rest in an auto graveyard, some covered in lead shrouds and others robbed of parts. Houseboats and barges rust in the contaminated waters of the Pripyat River. Foliage grows over the sidewalks and hides the modest homes of Chernobyl. In his large-scale photographs, Polidori captures the faded colors and desolate atmosphere of these two towns, producing haunting documents that present the reader with a rare view of not just a disastrous event, but a place and the people who lived there.
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