A new photo book offers a glimpse into the forgotten history of Chernobyl

Writer and photographer Darmon Richter has travelled to the site of Ukraine’s infamous Chernobyl Exclusion Zone roughly 20 times over the last few years. Chernobyl: A Stalker’s Guide delves into what he’s discovered

Formerly part of the USSR, the Ukrainian city of Chernobyl will forever be known as the site of the one of the world’s worst man-made disasters, after an explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986 resulted in mass evacuations and long-term health consequences for thousands of people.

Today, thanks in part to the huge popularity of HBO’s recent drama series recreating the disaster, thousands of visitors congregate to a handful of curated tourist hotspots in the abandoned city every year.

A tame fox poses in front of the sign pointing the way to Pripyat from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. All images: © Darmon Richter/Fuel Publishing
Pripyat Café

Beyond these, however, lie an untouched landmass of forests, historic village settlements and Soviet-era architectural mega-structures that equate to the size of a small country.

Having travelled everywhere from Eastern Europe to North Korea, British writer and photographer Darmon Richter has always been fascinated by the visual contradictions inherent in communist-era buildings – utopian designs that have subsequently been left ruined and forgotten.

The back of the hammer-and-sickle emblem from the tower block roof, central Pripyat
Post Office, Pripyat

He has spent much of his career documenting places that aren’t mentioned in your average travel guide, from China’s ‘Ghost Cities’ to an unfinished Soviet nuclear power plant in Cuba.

In his latest book, Richter is turning attention to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, where he has been given unprecedented access to document its forgotten towns and monuments while working as a local tour guide.

Polissya Hotel, Pripyat
Control Room 3, Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant

The book combines photographs of discoveries made during Richter’s numerous visits to the exclusion zone, accompanied by the voices of the engineers, scientists and members of the public who were there to witness the disaster itself.

Images included range from snapshots of the most secure areas of the power plant itself to photos of the stray dogs which call Chernobyl home, the descendents of pets left by evacuees who are kept fed by its continual stream of disaster tourists.

Chernobyl: A Stalker’s Guide is published by Fuel; darmonrichter.com