gerdludwig gerdludwig

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Gerd Ludwig  National Geographic photographer, speaker, teacher, author of several photo books, most recently "minus 2/3" and "Sleeping Cars"

A weird arrangement in an abandoned kindergarten in Pripyat (inside the Chernobyl Nuclear Exclusion Zone). At 1:23 am on April 26, 1986 reactor #4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant blew up. The radioactive fallout spread over thousands of square kilometers, driving more than a quarter of a million people permanently from their homes. More than 100,000 people may have succumbed to Chernobyl-related illnesses. With more radiation released than in Fukushima, it caused the world’s worst nuclear disaster to date.

In 2011, the Ukrainian government legalized trips to the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Chernobyl has since become a disaster-tourism destination.

The most riveting attraction for visitors is the ghost town of Pripyat. Formerly home to almost 50,000 people, Pripyat is now in decay: dolls are scattered in abandoned kindergartens, floors are rotting, paint is peeling from the walls, and gas masks litter evacuated schools.

More than three decades later, tourists and guides are creating a bewildering disturbance, as they assemble tableaux to illustrate the flight from disaster. The most repeated motif: a doll neatly arranged next to a gas mask, or like here, a doll wearing a gas mask! The ever-falling chips of chalk from the ceilings have blanketed some of these “still-lifes,” furthering the illusion for the next visitor that this is how the evacuees hastily abandoned the scene. With so many rearranged scenes—many of the same themes repeated—the uncritical observer may believe these sights to be an authentic representation of the disaster’s aftermath.

You can learn more about Chernobyl from my book The Long Shadow of Chernobyl.
@thephotosociety @natgeo @natgeocreative #Chernobyl #Pripyat #abandoned  #radiation #doll #gasmask #LongShadowofChernobyl

After a brief period of decrease, homelessness in Russia is on the rise again. Yevgeniy, 29 (right) has lost his documents during an unsuccessful trip to seek employment in Moscow. Without his ID he is not allowed to buy a return ticket to his hometown of Kursk. Jobless and out of money, he is stranded in Moscow, temporarily seeking shelter with other poor souls, like his new friend K., in an abandoned train depot.

@thephotosociety @natgeocreative  #Russia #Moscow #homeless #poverty

Late night strollers on Red Square in Moscow, Russia during a cold, wet September night, with the illuminated GUM department store on the left, St. Basil’s Cathedral in the back and the Spasskaya Tower of the Kremlin on the far right.
@natgeo @natgeocreative @natgeotravel #Russia #Moscow #RedSquare

Home, sweet home. Homegrown tomatoes in the kitchen sink of Ivan and his wife Gapa, who have returned to their contaminated village inside the Chernobyl nuclear Exclusion Zone.
In 1986, roughly 350,000 people were forced to evacuate after the explosion in reactor #4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plan contaminated thousands of square miles. In 2005, at the time I took this photograph, disaster be damned, some 400 elderly people had returned. At first Ukrainian officials discouraged them. But when it became clear they meant to die on their contaminated soil - instead of a broken heart in anonymous city suburbs - medical care and other services were provided by the authorities. The couple has since passed, but an estimated 150 returnees still live out their lives inside the contaminated Exclusion Zone.
In her book ‘Voices from Chernobyl’ Nobel Prize laureate Svetlana Alexievich  quotes one of the returnees, “No one is going to fool us anymore, we’re not moving anywhere. There’s no store, no hospital. No electricity. We sit next to a kerosene lamp and under the moonlight. And we like it! Because we’re home.” @ thephotosociety @natgeo @natgeocreative #Chernobyl #ExclusionZone #returnees #nuclear

Portrait of Friedensreich Hundertwasser. As a young photographer I spent a couple of weeks with the world renowned Austrian artist at his huge, rugged and remote property in the native forest located in the Bay of Islands, an area on the northeast coast of New Zealand.

Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser (1928-2000), born Friedrich Stowasser, was a world renowned eccentric artist, architect and environmentalist. Concerned early on about the environment, he designed houses with grass roofs, undulating floors, and onion-shaped domes. In his art and architecture he used bright colors and organic forms, was fascinated by spirals, and considered straight lines as ‘immoral and godless’. See the image I posted last month of him taking a bath in his makeshift tub in the native forest of New Zealand

@thephotosociety #hundertwasser #artist #portrait

***FLASH SALE ENDS ON SEPTEMBER, 9th AT 11:59 PM PST*** CLICK THE LINK IN MY PROFILE TO PURCHASE THIS SIGNED PRINT FOR $100. “Hansel and Gretel … became totally lost in the great wilderness and could not find their way out of the woods…. Finally, the forest grew more familiar to them.” This image of two children walking down a narrow aisle in the dark German woods during a field trip was the opener in National Geographic Magazine in 1999 in my story about the Grimm Brothers’ Fairy Tales.

In early 1800s brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published a book of tales, largely gathered from storytellers in central Germany. It remains unrivaled to this day, containing such indelible tales as Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, and Cinderella. Echoes of the world-famous tales still resound in my native, rural Germany, from brooding castles to deep, dark forests.

For this flash sale the photograph is printed on a super-archival 8.5x11 inch Legacy Platine cotton fibre paper with an actual image size of 6x9 inch, which is larger than what you usually get in flash sales. It is titled and signed with archival ink on the front border. Large edition prints of this photograph are in private collections and sell for several thousand dollars. So this is a real bargain.

All prints in the US are shipped via USPS priority mail. For deliveries outside of the US, prints will be shipped from Germany, and may take up to two weeks after the flash sale ends to reach destinations outside of Europe.

@thephotosociety @natgeo @natgeotravel @natgeocreative #Germany #hanselandgretel #forest #grimmbrothers #fairytales

Before the ‘Day of the Village’ celebrations in Nikolskoye, northeast of Moscow, young people do what young people do everywhere when entertainment is sparse: hang out and flirt. Like the United States, Russia is mostly an urban country. Its rural population is about 25% and declining, as Russia’s young flock to its cities to seek higher paying jobs.  @thephotosociety @natgeo @natgeocreative @ Russia @Nikolskoye @youth @flirting

Andrey, now 26 years old, is a young gay activist for the LGBT movement in St. Petersburg. In April of 2014, during the Day of Silence, an annual international day of protest against discrimination against the LGBT community,  he was arrested and kept for 5 hours of interrogation - and subsequently fined 10.000 Roubles for taping his mouth with red tape. Shown here in his apartment, he is holding a photo as a mask on a stick. The image on the mask was taken on the day of silence, showing what he was fined for - simply covering  his mouth with red tape in public. Russian authorities continue to enforce discriminatory policies and laws against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

@thephotosociety @natgeo @natgeocreative #LGBT #SaintPetersburg #Russia

In Starocherkassk on the banks of the Don river, Cossack picnickers engage in lighthearted folk dancing and refuel with a robust meal – and lots of vodka. Starocherkassk, once the capital of the Don Cossacks and their cultural center, today is a small farming village.

@thephotosociety @natgeocreative #Russia #Starocherkassk #Cossacks #Donriver #picnic #accordion

Sifting through my archive, I  rediscovered this photograph of artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser taking a bath in his makeshift tub in the native forest of New Zealand.

On assignment for a joint book project in 1978, I had spent a couple of weeks with Hundertwasser at his huge, rugged and remote property in the Bay of Islands, an area on the northeast coast of the North Island of New Zealand.

Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser (1928-2000), born Friedrich Stowasser, was a world renowned eccentric artist, architect and environmentalist. Concerned early on about the environment, he designed houses with grass roofs, undulating floors, and onion-shaped domes. In his art and architecture he used bright colors and organic forms, was fascinated by spirals, and considered straight lines as ‘immoral and godless’. @thephotosociety #hundertwasser #newzealand #artist #bathing

In 1987, just one year after the Chernobyl accident, Anna Avramenko, returned to Opachichi, the village of her birth inside the Exclusion Zone. When I visited her in 2011, she had accidently spilled boiling hot milk onto her left leg and was waiting for the doctors to visit. Her neighbors who had come for a visit could only wait helplessly with her for an ambulance to make its way through overgrown roads from the Chernobyl hospital some 15 miles away.

It’s 40 roughly years ago that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant went first online, but it’s reactor #4 blew up in 1986 after operators botched a safety test. Of all manmade environmental catastrophes in human history, Chernobyl is considered to have caused the most lasting impact. Approximately 350,000 people were forced to evacuate after the explosion.
But, disaster be damned, a couple of hundred elderly people have retuned and live surrounded by devestation. At first Ukrainian officials discouraged them, but they soon turned a blind eye, allowing them  to stay, realizing that  they prefer to die on their own soil rather than of a broken heart in anonymous city suburbs.

@thephotosociety @natgeocreative @natgeo #Chernobyl #Ukraine #returnee #radiation #contamination #disaster #nuclear #Exclusionzone

After a sunset bath, a Cossack horse and rider rear from the waters of the fabled Don River; the River’s namesake, the Don Cossacks, settled the fertile river valley in the 16th and 17th Centuries.

In his great novel, And quiet flows the Don, Mikhail Sholokhov depicts the lives, struggles and fate of Don Cossacks during the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and Russian Civil War. Three decades later Sholokhov was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for this novel.  @thephotosociety @natgeo #Russia #donriver #Cossacks #horse #bathing #rider

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