Jun Nakasuji, a Tokyo based photographer, visited the former Chernobyl nuclear plant in 2009 with the permission of the Ukrainian government, to document the current state of the landscape and surrounding abandoned cities.
His 2009 visit yielded a series of images which acted as a natural extension of his trademark images in which abandoned towns and structures are quietly documented as they stand in ghostly isolation, or occasionally, as they offer up the last of any resistance to the regeneration of nature around them. In the past these images have played not only with the beauty of desolation, but toyed with concepts surrounding production, construction and waste, differing from images of mere ruins from epochs of the past.
His most recent visit, the second to the area in two years, seems more poignant after the environmental and potential medical devastation unleashed with the partial destruction of the Fukushima nuclear plant, which quite callously became the focus of people’s attention in the wake of the annihilation and lives lost in the fall out of the Sendai earthquake and tsunami.
Loaded with an irrefutable symbolism of the unfolding catastrophe which has Japan and much of the world on edge, the choice to publish and exhibit images of a renewed visit to Chernobyl is an incredibly powerful one, especially in light of the jostling and increasingly political debate in progress which seeks to clarify at which level the current disaster at Fukushima should be classified.
Images from Pripyat, once a half million strong town, within the thirty mile radius of the Chernobyl plant display the hallmarks of Nakasuji’s documentary style; cast in his favoured natural light, the spring time images take on Autumn like leanings, perhaps due to both environmental and photographic reasons, but there is no mistaking that the photographer is making it abundantly clear that here, in this unknown, anonymous town in the former Soviet Union, is the blueprint of what is to come for the area spanning the radius of the crippled Fukushima plant. That the accompanying text and interviews, which appear in his second book on Chernobyl, the about to be published ‘Cherunobuiri Haru‘ (Chernobyl in Spring), reinforce the perhaps not so widely known fact that the area of Chernobyl, remains, some 25 years on, still contaminated, and that the quest to contain the radiation and hazardous substances continues even today, delivers with such subtle force the kind of sledgehammer effect that organisations such as PETA or the various auspices of the United Nations can only dream of.
The article at the Japan Times is a finely nuanced article which packs a hefty punch, all of course without histrionics and exaggeration. Nakasuji’s work and approach hold their own in a political minefield.
Dave Di Vito
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Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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