Over 20 years, Gerd Ludwig has been reporting on the aftermath of the nuclear catastrophe in Chernobyl. He first photographed in the exclusion zone in 1993 for National Geographic Magazine and returned in 2005 for a cover story, bringing him deeper into the contaminated Reactor No. 4 than any western still photographer.

In 2011‒2014, thanks to successful crowdfunding campaigns, Ludwig returned to Chernobyl to continue his coverage as a personal project. Soon after, he began work on his retrospective book, published by Edition Lammerhuber. The introductory essay for this book was written by Mikhail Gorbachev.

Ludwig’s project is not mere documentation but rather a deep analysis of the aftermath of the nuclear catastrophe, still affecting the social, ecological, and physical well-being of people. The exhibition will present several series by Ludwig, dedicated to the nuclear power station, the town of Pripyat and its surroundings, local inhabitants and their children, who have suffered radiation exposure. The long shadow of Chernobyl is still being cast over human lives.

An excerpt from the book The Long Shadow of Chernobyl by Gerd Ludwig:

“An easing of the bureaucratic barriers helped me to venture deeper into the reactor than any western still photographer. After donning my protective gear, state-of-the-art Geiger counter, dosimeters and an extra layer of 3-4 mm thick plastic overalls, I followed a group of six workers into the belly of the beast. The workers, assigned to drill holes in the concrete to stabilize the roof, additionally wore gas masks and oxygen tanks. We had to move fast. The radiation levels in this area are so high that, despite our protective gear, access was limited to a maximum of 15 minutes per day.

It was the most challenging photographic situation I’ve ever encountered. The space was dark, loud, and claustrophobic; we rushed through dimly lit tunnels strewn with wires, pieces of shredded metal and other debris, and I struggled not to trip; while photographing I needed to dodge the spray of sparks from the drillers in highly contaminated concrete dust; and I knew that I had less than 15 minutes to capture arresting images of an environment that few have ever seen, and that I might never access again. The adrenaline surge was extraordinary. To exacerbate the situation, after little more than halfway through the allotted shift, our Geiger counters and dosimeters began beeping – an eerie concert reminding us that our time was up. Torn between my natural instincts to survive and my desire as a photographer to stay longer, it was challenging to stay focused and work efficiently and fast, but without haste.”


7 August — 22 September 2019