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photo-eye Book Reviews: Homage

Homage, Photographs by Jim Krantz.
Published by Jim Krantz Studio, 2011.
Reviewed by George Slade
Jim Krantz Homage
Photographs by Jim Krantz
Jim Krantz Studio, 2011. Softcover. 132 pp., 99 color illustrations, 8-3/4x11-1/2".

1986. Twenty-five years ago. Almost a generation has passed since the catastrophic explosion of reactor number 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, just outside the city of Pripyat in Ukraine. The stories of this damaged region have been leaking out ever since. Even if you were alive then, news was scarce because the Soviet government kept it tightly wrapped up; glasnost was several years down the pike.

Jim Krantz's use of "homage" as the title for his book is peculiar. Given the potency of his subject -- the destruction of the social/cultural/physical landscape around the plant -- it demands consideration. The writings in this self-published book amplify the sense of loss and intro-/retrospection present in Krantz's gently probing photographs. But does the entire package radiate homage? That is, honor, respect, tribute, salute (to list a few synonyms)? How about eulogy? That fits. And allows the other meanings to settle in as well.

Homage, by Jim Krantz. Published by Jim Krantz Studio, 2011.
Homage, by Jim Krantz. Published by Jim Krantz Studio, 2011.
 Homage is a collective act of recalling and honoring Chernobyl's vitality. The first writing in the book is an anonymous letter found in an abandoned house within the exclusion zone. The letter was written as a prose poem, a minor paean to life vitiated by the explosion. Left behind after the evacuation, it is a powerful flashback and a passionate introduction; in its wake, the book becomes urgent, pushing a sense of a culture lost or, at best, permanently handicapped; we see residents addressing mundane tasks, like everyday before the meltdown, but post-traumatic stress reverberates among them.—George Slade

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George Slade, a longtime contributor to photo-eye, is a photography writer, curator, historian and consultant based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He can be found on-line at