Toys Illustrate the Devastation of Chernobyl

Considered the worst nuclear power plant accident in history, and one of only two classified as a level 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale (the other being the recent Fukushima nuclear accident), the Chernobyl disaster is one of the greatest catastrophes we’ve experienced in modern times. While most of us could never fully understand its impact, one photographer made it his mission to show us how it changed and even destroyed lives. Jan Smith sent us this powerful set, asking us to share it with our viewers.

“For the last few months I've been working in Ukraine on my latest project: Igrushka,” Smith says. “This is an intimate exploration of the Chernobyl accident, twenty-five years later.

“Igrushka means ‘toy’ in Russian. It retells the Chernobyl accident through the portraits of forsaken toys from a very particular nursery in the abandoned city of Pripyat. These toys illustrate a way of playing that changed after the accident and fall of the USSR. They are also a conduit to memories about Chernobyl. The images are paired with stories and fables found on open pages in the nursery, as well as with excerpts from interviews with persons who were children at the time. The project is ongoing, and will culminate in a book later this year.

“I consider this my most intimate work to date.”

To read the stories that accompany each photo, check out the online slideshow. Also, if you’d like to see an intimate photographic tour of Pripyat 25 years after the meltdown at the Chernobyl, visit Smith’s blog.

Jan Smith’s website

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