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Photographer captures Chernobyl aftermath
by Caroline Young
February 20, 2013 03:46 PM | 5286 views | 1 1 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Special Photo <br>
Photographer Philip Grossman on the roof of Reactor No. 5 in Chernobyl.
Special Photo
Photographer Philip Grossman on the roof of Reactor No. 5 in Chernobyl.
Imagine walking through the catacombs of an abandoned hospital in Ukraine, and an ops-core helmet and respirator are helping to protect you from the highly radioactive atmosphere.

Photographer Phillip Grossman, of Norcross, twice visted Chernobyl, the site of the 1986 nuclear power plant disaster, and known to be the worst of its kind.In fact, one room in the hospital, where all the first responder firemen came and disrobed, has a radiation count of 1,100 microsieverts, which is not lethal but getting close to it.

There are 1 million microsieverts in 1 sievert, he said.

“Typical background radiation is .2 sieverts,” he said. “A lethal dose is 4 to 7 sieverts.”

Grossman displays some of his work in exhibits at The Atlanta Photography Group Gallery in the Tula Art Center in Buckhead, which is hosting the “Push Pin show” Friday.

Grossman, who grew up in a suburb of Harrisburg, Pa., lived 11 miles away from Three Mile Island, site of the 1979 nuclear meltdown.

In Atlanta, his photography work started with weddings, portraits and landscapes, before venturing to Chernobyl 25 years after the accident, with a Polish business partner, Arkadiusz Podniesinski, who had worked for years to gain access to the site.

“I was lucky enough to join him,” he said. “There is a 30-kilometer radius around the accident site that no one is allowed into.”

He plans to return in May.

“It is completely vacant and overgrown,” he said. “You sort of feel lost with no GPS, no maps. It’s just kind of an overwhelming feeling.”

He said he came home with 5,000 photos his first trip and named his collection “500,000 voices” because more than 500,000 people were involved in the cleanup. He wanted to make sure not to be “the poster boy for anti-nuclear,” Grossman said, and decided to present his work in a “fine art manner,” as opposed to a photo-journalistic manner.

“It was human error. It could have been prevented, but even in devastation, there is beauty to some extent,” he said. “The story is really about people. … It makes people think about what we do before we do it. Thought can’t be an afterthought.”

Grossman plans to continue his Chernobyl photography work and to eventually travel to Fukushima, Japan, site of a 2011 nuclear meltdown, to compare and contrast man-made disaster with natural disaster, and then throughout the world to document power generation in coal plants, gas plants and wind farms.

“There are pros and cons to all of it. Wind farms are great but kill birds. Solar plants are great but take up massive amounts of resources and land.”

Polly Barr, executive director of the gallery, said his work is compositionally and technically interesting.

“Not only is he a good photographer, but he is also very knowledgeable about Chernobyl history and the effects that are taking place. He continues to branch out in his message about the project and ongoing effects of the disaster,” she said. “It keeps the story alive about Chernobyl and how it really wasn’t all that long ago.”

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