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Zones of Exclusion: Pripyat and Chernobyl [Hardcover]

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Item description for Zones of Exclusion: Pripyat and Chernobyl by Robert Polidori & Elizabeth Culbert...

In the 11 days following the Chernobyl catastrophe on April 26, 1986, more than 116,000 people were permanently evacuated from the area surrounding the nuclear power plant. Declared unfit for human habitation, the Zones of Exclusion includes the towns of Pripyat (established in the 1970s to house workers) and Chernobyl. In May 2001, Robert Polidori photographed what was left behind in the this dead zone. His richly detailed images move from the burned-out control room of Reactor 4, where technicians staged the experiment that caused the disaster, to the unfinished apartment complexes, ransacked schools and abandoned nurseries that remain as evidence of those who once called Pripyat home. Nearby, trucks and tanks used in the cleanup efforts rest in an auto graveyard, some covered in lead shrouds and others robbed of parts. Houseboats and barges rust in the contaminated waters of the Pripyat River. Foliage grows over the sidewalks and hides the modest homes of Chernobyl. In his large-scale photographs, Polidori captures the faded colors and desolate atmosphere of these two towns, producing haunting documents that present the reader with a rare view of not just a disastrous event, but a place and the people who lived there.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   112
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1" Width: 12" Height: 15.75"
Weight:   4.22 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Publisher   Steidl/Pace/MacGill Gallery
ISBN  3882439211  
ISBN13  9783882439212  

Availability  0 units.

More About Robert Polidori & Elizabeth Culbert

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Robert Polidori, born in Montreal in 1951, lives in New York. Polidori is an aesthete of built space; his photographs totally redefine the photography of architecture. Exceptional city portraits capture places almost lost from view and lend them a captivating, melancholy magic that makes Polidori's pictures utterly original. His works has been exhibited in Paris, Brasilia, New York, Los Angeles and Minneapolis. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker-and has been featured in Geo and Architectural Digest Germany. Mr. Polidori has received numerous honours, including a World Press Award and two Alfred Eisenstaedt Awards-one of them for the work in Havana.

Robert Polidori currently resides in New York.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Arts & Photography > Photography > General
2Books > Subjects > Arts & Photography > Photography > Photographers, A-Z > General
3Books > Subjects > Arts & Photography > Photography > Photojournalism
4Books > Subjects > Professional & Technical > Engineering > Environmental > Hazardous Waste

Reviews - What do customers think about Zones of Exclusion: Pripyat and Chernobyl?

Zones of Exclusion: Pripyat and Chernobyl  Jan 9, 2007
Found this book on a movie set and was amazed at the images. Photographed in 2001, this book brings the horrors of Chernobyl to life. Another event in our life that should not be forgotton. An amazing pictorial.
An admirable photo book  May 18, 2006
The photos are poetic, well composed and beautifully printed. Those interested in images of Chernobyl, or in architectural photography, will find this worthwhile.

However, the book contains almost no text, and this weakens it. There is no discussion of the places shown in the photographs, or what happened in each setting. There is no pairing of before and after photographs. There is no discussion of how, technically, Polidori took the photographs. I would have preferred to see all three of these things.

There are other sources, of course. A recent issue of National Geographic used the 20th anniversary of the disaster as its cue to cover this ground (and with some very similar photos too). However, this was a missed chance by Polidori.

Also, I found the array of photographs of little houses being reclaimed by the forest to be less interesting than Polidori probably expected. The urban photos were much more compelling.
An amazing documentation of places abandoned (not by choice).  Oct 31, 2005
Robert Polidori has captured in large format, cities which have now become ghost towns, due to the most devastating of nuclear accidents. The colors are muted in the photographs as they are in real life, with everything that's left covered in dirt, debris, and rubble. There may never be a full clean-up because of the radiation still present, which would put people at risk, and the fact that it will never be rebuilt anyway. It appears most of the shots were taken during cloudy days, and I am wondering if the mood would have been emphasized a tad further had some warmer light shined into the interiors.

The story of what happened is barely touched upon, but this book is a photo representation of what is left behind, and not a story about what happened. I have no problem looking elsewhere to find the history of the accident, and think the book stands alone as a stunning pictorial depiction of what can go wrong in the nuclear age. One of my favorite photo books in any genre.
I enjoyed seeing this, but it doesn't answer many questions  Jul 2, 2004
There is only one page of text in this book. Page 7, written by Elizabeth Culbert in New York City in April 2003, explains how Pripyat, a community of homes for workers from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, was evacuated 36 hours after tons of radioactive material had been released, hauling 50,000 people away in a fleet of buses. "Mandatory evacuation continued over the next 10 days, forcing 116,000 people to depart from towns and villages within 30 kilometers of the plant--this area would be named the exclusion zone. . . . Today the elderly are allowed to stay; children are not. No one is permitted to live within a 10-kilometer radius of Chernobyl. Pripyat remains abandoned."

"Nearly 350,000 people were moved from contaminated regions of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, though hundreds of thousands still live in areas unsuitable for habitation--unsuitable not only because of radioactivity, but also because of severe socio-economic and psychological pressures. . . . With limited local capacity to deal with health, economic and environmental challenges, living conditions spiral downward." Thousands of Ukrainians would like the Chernobyl plant to reopen to provide jobs and power to the region. But the danger of the collapse of the existing structure over the "200 tons of uranium and a ton of radioactive plutonium" at Chernobyl make it a bad place to risk having more explosions so close.

The pictures are monumental, as only pictures of a catastrophe can come close to capturing the essence of the slow deterioration of nuclear decay. The picture on the cover, repeated on page 41, shows a farewell written on a red rectangle mounted on a light green wall. Very institutional colors and furnishings, but the paint on the walls is peeling, and plaster around the window fell over everything in the picture. The title of the book is written at the far edge of the ceiling:


The book is printed in Germany, and the photographer, Robert Polidori, was given the necessary visas and authorizations to enter the area around Chernobyl in Ukraine to take these pictures on June 6-9, 2001. Nearly at the end of the book, there is a picture, "Robert Polidori in the Unit 4 control room. Photograph by Konstantin Leifer, June 6, 2001." The page before that has captions for the other pictures in the book, starting with:

3-4 Sarcophagus over the Unit 4 reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Pages 1 and 2 are blank, and the picture of the sarcophagus on page 3 only has text on a sign just below the barbed wire at the top of a gray block wall, but the text is too small and faint to read. There is a crane between the camera and the sarcophagus which looks like a combination of toothpicks. I assume the cranes in these pictures are now too contaminated to be used elsewhere, though this book does not have any pictures of them glowing in the dark. Page 4 shows the crane from another angle, closer to the side of a structure that is almost as large as the sarcophagus.

Page 5 has the title. Page 6 shows an entryway with a sign "Contamination Control Post" in English. Page 9 shows a mall with buildings that used letters of the Russian alphabet for their signs. Trees are growing, even in the cracks in the pavement. The pictures on pages 10-11 show buildings with the nuclear power plant in the background. A lightpost on page 11 has trees close enough to hide some of the power lines in the bottom corner of the picture, but there would not be power in the line, so the trees don't need to be trimmed. Pages 12-15 show electrical transfer stations with high-voltage wires, with the nuclear power plant in the background. There are still a few guards and a STOP sign at the nuclear power plant on page 17. Page 26 is blank except for the page number because the picture on page 27 is huge, showing the Unit 4 control room in the damaged condition that fate left it in. Page 28 is blank because it marks a transition to pictures of a kindergarten classroom that has been neglected for years. There were a lot of beds in the nursery on page 33, but the mattresses are falling apart. I think the doll on page 36 might have been posed, like the chair sitting on the top of a desk near a picture of Lenin and some kids on page 37. The dangling light fixture on page 39 looks as likely to crash down as the other metal channels lying about, and they don't look they were part of the ceiling. The library on page 49 is really messed up. A lot of people left their gas masks in the cafeteria on page 53.

Then there are pictures of an abandoned hospital, vacant residential buildings, vehicles that ought to be buried, old boats in the harbor, and small pictures of little places. Trees that used to grow around the nuclear power plant are now lying in rows of piles in fields of radioactive logs. This book makes the catastrophe seem pretty recent, compared to how long people ought to wait before these areas are populated again.

Extraordinary Work  Oct 11, 2003
I won't endeavor to describe this book any more than this site's editors. But, I will say that I've collected photography books for close to twenty years and this is one of the most beautiful I've seen. The work is extraordinary, both disquieting and alluring at the same time. Polidori's composition, use of color and eye for detail is indicative of not only classic artistic stylisation, but a sensitive soul as well. This is truly brilliant work!

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