I have been photographing abandoned villas in Italy and abroad for years. What I try to communicate with my photographs isn’t the decay but the magnificence of the past.

My goal is to revive these places and to communicate their beauty to the world before it disappears. No one remembers the existence of these places anymore and with my photographs, I try to revive them.

The purpose of my project in Chernobyl is actually the same, I want to remind the world of this disaster, to stir up in the hearts of those who look at my photos some of the suffering experienced by the inhabitants of Chernobyl and Pripyat. They had to leave everything they had: their personal belongings, their homes, their work...

I was in Chernobyl in March 2019, 33 years after the nuclear disaster. I stayed there for two consecutive days, I ate and slept just 8 km from the nuclear reactor. During these days, I was accompanied by an expert guide from the Gammatravel agency.

The area has been secured but some precautions must be taken. In particular, the soil is still radioactive and some objects too, so the main rule is to not touch anything. The area is very controlled. During the experience, I was equipped with a device that measures radiation. In addition, some detailed checks are made whenever you leave the area to find out if you have been contaminated or not. Also at the end of the visit, it is recommended to throw the shoes away.

The thing that struck me most was the size of the area. I’ve always imagined Pripyat as a small town but it isn’t. Is a city with big hotels, theaters, hospitals, many schools and so on. Now all these gray buildings are surrounded by silence and vegetation. Really impressive.

I decided to photograph the buildings that gave me the greatest sense of anguish. Inside you can see how everything was left out, suddenly. After the disaster inhabits were told that they could come back after a few days but instead, all their possessions remained there forever.

This experience was even more exciting and engaging than I expected. Strolling through the deserted streets, entering the buildings and seeing, so close, the sarcophagus with the reactor inside was incredible.

Currently, more than 2,000 people work in the area, however, they could work only for 6-month there to avoid exposure for too long.

Eleonora Costi

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