Chernobyl. It has been more than three decades, yet the name of this once-obscure Soviet Ukraine city is now synonymous with nuclear disaster. In recent years, it has also become a must-visit outside of Kiev for fans of disaster tourism—its abandoned homes, classrooms, and fields a source of eye-catching photography. Left to rot, it has also become a symbol of mother nature slowly reclaiming the ruins of 20th century progress. Its iconic status makes it a no-brainer, therefor, that this week's selection for Just Booked, our twice-a-month series on gorgeous travel-related coffee table books, is David Baillargeon's David McMillan: Growth and Decay: Pripyat and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone from Steidl.
Since 1994, McMillan has visited Chernobyl 22 times, making him uniquely positioned to document the forces of nature slowly taking the land back. The images are arresting. On one page, white Soviet apartment blocks cross-cross the landscape with trees merely lining the streets and parks. On the facing page, a photograph from the same spot 20 years later shows only a couple buildings peeking through a dense forest. There are classrooms with crumbling walls and disintegrating Soviet paraphernalia and in another a group of mason jars entombed in cobwebs along a windowsill. The photographs are stunning reminders of so many things from the failures of the 20th century to our morbid fascination with decay. All of which make this book a worthy addition to any coffee table collection.
David McMillan: Growth and Decay: Pripyat and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone by David Baillargeon. Published by Steidl (On Amazon for $53.44)