I Sneak Into Abandoned Soviet Buildings To Photograph Them Frozen In Time
I recently took an epic six-week road trip through nine countries, to capture abandoned places that have rarely or never been photographed before. In particular, I focused on hidden relics from the Cold War era.
I traveled from Paris to Milan, Kyiv, Pripyat (Chernobyl), Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Tallinn, Budapest, Sofia, Reykjavik, Kyzylorda in Kazakhstan, and Larnaca on Cyprus. The project was a part of Nikon’s Spotlight, abandoned places.
The interesting photos I have shared below include the long-forgotten wreck of a Douglas DC-3 aircraft in Iceland, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site and its ghost town Pripyat, and two prototype Soviet spacecraft from the space race photographed together for the first time in an abandoned warehouse deep in the Kazakhstan desert.
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Lost in Space
This cool photo is the result of 180 kilometers of off-road driving in the Kazakhstan desert, followed by 45 kilometers of walking in a highly restricted area. We arrived and there they were; two relics of the Soviet space race in a huge abandoned warehouse. It may be the single most epic scene I’ve discovered since picking up a camera.
The Lost Era
This is the Buzludzha monument itself. I decided to explore the monument at night, defying the thick fog wrapping the mountain, to experience a close encounter of the third kind!
The waiting room in the remains of the Pripyat hospital. This room caught my eye with its colours and the decaying plant. You get the sense that time has really frozen here.
This is an abandoned radar station in the mountains of Italy. After almost three hours of walking through snow 50 cm deep, we reached these huge frozen antennas.
Linnahall is a former concert hall in Tallinn, Estonia. With a two minute exposure, I could reveal the architecture of the abandoned building, which otherwise sat in darkness. To me, it almost looks like a spaceship.
This picture was taken in a disused experimental power facility near Moscow, which was closely guarded by half a dozen dogs. After a little persuasive discussion, the caretaker let us in.
I wanted to capture the famous ferris wheel from a new and original point of view. Positioning myself on a rooftop next to the wheel, I finally captured the picture I was looking for.
This is the inside of the cooling tower of a nuclear power plant in Chernobyl that was never completed.
This is a former cafe in Pripyat. I wanted to highlight the beautiful glass work and create something unique with a long exposure and light painting. We constructed one main source of light inside the building, added a second light behind the Pripyat sign to create a sense of depth, and a third one illuminating the cafe’s original sign.
An old factory built during the 19th century in Saint Petersburg.
On the second day in Pripyat, I had the chance to witness a sunrise from the top of Pripyat’s highest building, Fujiyama. Sun rays passed through in the middle of the dead city, bringing the whole place back to life for a few short seconds.
An unknown room in a former Pripyat hospital and one of the first buildings I explored in Pripyat. The oven appears to have exploded in the center of the room and destroyed everything around it.
This is also inside the abandoned power plant in Budapest. It’s an impressive place, with a huge sense of scale, abandoned machinery everywhere, and a strong, a truly haunted place. I felt like I was in a science fiction movie, and wanted to create my own world.
Next to the Pripyat Cafe there is an old bus station. It has this fascinating glass room built on the roof. It is a self-portrait.
In Budapest, I also explored this derelict train graveyard. Located in the middle of an active train depot, I felt like a child escaping reality to walk for a few hours in an imagined world of steel monsters.
Scouting, crawling and climbing were part of the mission to access this abandoned power plant near Budapest, Hungary. We had to enter the plant through the coal shaft, a 100 metre-long rising corridor full of dust and sun rays: the ideal location to create this ‘apparition’.
This is a strange structure I found near Sofia, in Bulgaria. The building seemed to be pulling me in. With this image, I wanted to express something impossible, like the work of Escher.
Under the congress room of Buzludzha in Bulgaria, I discovered a place that seemed to be from another planet. I used my torch to light it up and discovered everything was covered with ice.
I spent some time exploring the rooftops of Pripyat because I could see the whole area from there. In this picture, I wanted to capture the utter feeling of loneliness that encapsulates the city.
Somewhere in a deserted area of Iceland’s south coast lies this long-forgotten wreck of a Douglas DC-3 aircraft. I arrived there at 4am and, as we waited, polar lights gradually appeared on the horizon. I admired this magic show until dawn and used a 90 second exposure, with some lighting added inside the plane, to capture this image.
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