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Raising Funds and Awareness through Photobooks: Homage, Remembering Chernobyl by Jim Krantz

Cover of Homage: Remembering Chernobyl

 Jim Krantz has dedicated the profits from his newest book Homage: Remembering Chernobyl to supporting the mission of Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), the leading nongovernmental authority on world nuclear forces and an advocate for clean energy and the environment. Krantz's book is indeed a reverent look at a place that was a beloved homeland for many who have suffered so much. His journey into the book project was prompted by an anonymous “love letter” found in a drawer of an abandoned home near the epicenter of the contamination. He was moved by the passion displayed in the verses lamenting the tragic, forced and abrupt loss of the author’s homeland. This former inhabitant took the time to write what translates to a 110 line poem before abandoning his or her home, and leaving, as Krantz describes, so quickly that the dishes remained on the table. One of the sections of this ode reads:

Oh, our dear Chernobyl
The echo blast touched you 

Deserted stand your houses and buildings
We just had to leave you behind

Many did leave, but a few returned. The current inhabitants of Chernobyl are still battling the disastrous changes to their homeland. The population is sick from the nuclear poisoning and suffering from the lack of social structure that they had before the incident. As Scott Clearwater states in the accompanying essay Chernobyl: A Scientific Perspective, the amount of radiation that was received by over 200,000 people following the initial contamination can increase the chance of cancer by 5 new cases per 100 people. Radiation exposure is spread by wind, forest fires and even plants that are grown in the region and exported. The area will not be non-radioactive for generations. Clearwater describes in layman's terms what happened at reactor in 1986 and briefly goes into the consequences to the environment and health issues of those who did live and now reside near Chernobyl.

 Homage: Remembering Chernobyl by Jim Krantz
Homage: Remembering Chernobyl by Jim Krantz
In contrast to the inclusion of Clearwater’s factual account, Krantz selects other writers to convey the challenges of quotidian life and illustrate the contemporary culture of this Ukrainian city. In a brief phone conversation with Krantz, he noted that alcohol consumption in Russia is rampant and essayist and blogger John King’s personal struggles with the drug are used to illustrate this problem. King colorfully describes his journey through alcoholism – starting with imbibing the remains of mixed drinks at his parents 1950s cocktail parties to his later use of harder drugs and years of struggling to get control of his addictions. His story is personal, but highlights the struggles that many Russians currently or will imminently face.

Homage: Remembering Chernobyl by Jim Krantz
American born writer Askold Melnyczuk had taken inspiration for his three novels from his parents’ relocation from their Ukrainian birthplace, a dislocation they thought would be temporary. In Homage, he tells of the experience of accompanying his father to the grave of Melnyczuk junior’s paternal grandfather, a site the senior Melnyczuk had yet to visit because of his forced emigration many years earlier. His father was estranged from his family and home, seemingly not by choice but by distance. Melnyczuk’s brief bit of prose about his uncomfortable search to reconnect with the final resting place of his grandfather reflects what Krantz accomplishes with his photos, though Krantz works on a much wider scale: the residents of Chernobyl attempting to reconnect to the land that was lost. Krantz is able to capture the resilience and longing in their portraits.

The essays in Homage are informational, as in the case of Scott Clearwater and Henry L. Henderson of the NRDC, or personal, as with the essays of Melnyczuk and King. In contrast Krantz seems to only shoot what appears before his lens. His images are displayed in vibrant colors of peeling paint, an abandoned shoe, television, overcoats, or amusement park. The despair seen in some portraits is contrasted by smiles of children, adolescents and adults. Krantz’s images are not judgmental, but do not mistake the project as apolitical as he allows the texts to illustrate his message: The damage from the reactor is ongoing and by illuminating the legacy of this man-made pollution he hopes to help to prevent another “Chernobyl.”

All proceeds from the sale of this book and limited edition go to Natural Resource Defense Council. The book is available as softbound signed and a limited edition for $125 which comes with a choice of one of two prints which are shown below.
Split Melons, print choice for limited edition of Homage: Remembering Chernobyl
Overcoats, print choice for limited edition of Homage: Remembering Chernobyl
Purchase a copy of Homage here.

Read the other posts in this series here.