tak… Chernobyl Photo Log

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In the winter of 2018, Hyun Kyu Seo made an extraordinary trip into the heart of the infamous Chernobyl disaster, thirty-two years after the fact. This horrific disaster is one of the “Where were you?” defining global incidents of my early childhood. Following a love for Eastern European culture, Seo visited the Ukraine and was able to visit Pripyat and Chernobyl. Today, both places are still uninhabitable, though it is possible to visit with proper precaution, foremost among them a Geiger counter and radiation monitors. tak… Chernobyl Photo Log is his visual record if the trip.

Many of the pictures show a slice of life, frozen in time. These people, they left thinking they’d be able to return soon. Books lay on school desks, hospital tools and records lay on counters. The eeriest pictures in this book, to me at least, are of the abandoned amusement park. No matter where I see these images, they give me a shiver up the spine. New at the time of the disaster, now skeletal frames are all that remain of many, with the looming Ferris wheel the most haunting of all. Another is the picture he took of a snow-lined street that really looks like it could be a cozy street anywhere. Seo compares it to a Pennsylvania suburban street in winter, lacking only plumes of smoke from the chimneys. In addition to the photos, some picture panels are actually paintings done by his mum.

Being familiar with the language, Seo offers translations of several of the Cyrillic signs and ancient packaging or papers he came across. Those were interesting to read, as they reflect a very different culture and way of thinking to me. This was during Soviet rule. Children of an age with me at the time of the incident had propaganda lining their elementary school hallways. And as Seo points out, those banners were among the few still retaining a measure of vibrancy.

An archaeologist’s soul hides in Hyun Kyu Seo, that’s for sure. It wasn’t the disaster that called to him so much as the chance to glimpse the past. It’s the commonplace, everyday artifacts that truly define a culture’s values, hopes, and dreams. Potsherds, not king’s jewels, as it were. I love that he chose not to remove anything from the zone. Safety aside, he was concerned with respect. The only thing I didn’t care much for was the cover. I thought it was a placer ARC cover at first. I could easily envision the half page Ferris wheel photo on the cover, even if the title isn’t included. I highly recommend this book!

Star Count 5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 236 pages
Publisher Self-Published
Publish Date 2019-04-26
ISBN 9780578466705
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue June 2019
Category Travel


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