While there he discovered a long-forgotten eulogy to the village penned by a fleeing resident, celebrating the former glory of the village, the author’s home, and promising to return one day.
“The photographs in Homage touch on many subjects, but the foremost one in my mind is the idea of “home”. In the wake of the disaster the poem became this single voice amidst the emptiness of the deserted village. This memento in the form of the poem came to epitomize what a sense of “home” meant for me. It was left so discretely and yet I was the one to discover it.”
Jim Krantz, Photographer, speaking to Saddington Baynes.
This letter planted the seed for Homage: Remembering Chernobyl, a new series of photographs, an accompanying monograph, and video produced in collaboration with Emmy Award-winning editor Josh Bodnar / Whitehouse Post.
As you say in Homage, the elegy that you found gave you a vision of the author’s experience and emotions. Was it the author’s experience you were looking to illustrate through this series, or your own personal experience as a visitor today?
I almost felt responsible to be the voice for the author – who I believe to be a woman’s – sorrow. It was so compelling to me that everything in our lives seems to revolve around our homes. Caring for them, developing them, taking care of upkeep, eventually leaving one for another. This home – and the others abandoned after Chernobyl – will never be returned to. As simple as it was, it was the most precious place in this person’s world.
The catalogue of the Homage: Remembering Chernobyl is released April 26, 2011 to mark the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, and a substantial portion of all proceeds will benefit the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Included are 99 color photographs from the series and essays on topics ranging from alcoholism, to the effects of radiation and the nature of home by contributors Askold Melnyczuk, physicist Dr. Scott Clearwater Ph.D, Henry Henderson, Midwest Director of the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), and the pseudonymous “John King”.
As an additional aspect of this project, Los Angeles based jeweler Alan Friedman has designed his new “Homage Collection” which will also benefit the NRDC:
“A dear friend of mine from childhood, Alan Friedman, who is a renowned jewelry designer from Los Angeles has designed a collection of jewelry, the Homage Collection, which is an interpretive collection based on the radiation symbol,” says Jim. “Some are adorned with sapphires, onyx, silver, and the proceeds of the sale of his pieces will benefit the NRDC… it is his own a wonderful way of lending his creative abilities to this project to help the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“I also want to thank the writers who created essays for the Homage: Remembering Chernobyl book: ”John King”, Askold Melnyczuk, Dr. Scott Clearwater, and Henry Henderson – the midwest director of the NRDC (Natural Resource Defense Council) which will receive a substantial portion of the proceeds relating to Homage – for their personal essays.”
Were the effects planned before you got to Chernobyl – or were they something that developed as a response to the environment?
For me it is best not to approach a subject with an agenda. I want to keep an open mind to the location and see how things feel once my feet are on the ground. One day while shooting in an abandoned village I happened to find a broken window in a home. It had a beveled edge and I interrupted my lens with it. It was covered with dirt and grime, the effect was beautiful and smeared the light and resulting image. I was painting with my camera. It felt good and seemed true to the setting.
The lighting within the series is intensely, beautifully and sometimes unsettlingly striking and distorting. Jim explains the process as a surprisingly straight and natural process.
Your photos have a very distinctive style and some very conscious effects – what emotional reaction were you looking to provoke?
In short I hope to convey my own reaction to what I am seeing. I work very simply, with one fixed focal length lens and a body. An approach that is this basic allows for few technical variables, and these can often be distracting. All I really need to consider is where to place my camera, and the timing of when I depress the shutter. For example, when getting the feeling of a glow, I noticed that the condensation of the window of my car would enhance the highlights. I loved shooting this way to capture the effect of light passing through a diffused surface. Working like this is very freeing and visceral. I think very little when I work; it becomes reflexive and I just feel and respond accordingly.
“The most difficult portion of a project like this is how to select from so many images to convey the feelings I experienced to someone who wasn’t there…
“I reacted profoundly to the suffering, the many emotions and ultimately the human strength that existed throughout Chernobyl and that I believe exists within the images. I try respect the human dignity, and to be respectful and understanding of the circumstances of my subjects. It is my nature to find what is beautiful, and I guess I always have the need to look for the best in the worst situations.”
Jim Krantz, Photographer.
A preview of the images in Homage: Remembering Chernobyl was also included in SNAP! Orlando, May 4-8, 2011, in the festival’s GAI Building venue. The exhibition is set to tour around further venues throughout the United States, with dates and locations to be announced. For more information on SNAP! Orlando visit snaporlando.com
The release of Homage: Remembering Chernobyl and the wider project of which it is a part form a significant commemoration of a profound event in recent history. The project continues deeper into 2011: “This year is the 25th anniversary of the disaster, and the project continues to develop each day. We have plans to tour an exhibition of the photographs.” Please check in on Jim’s website at www.jimkrantz.com to stay informed.
The Homage: Remembering Chernobyl monograph is $45 plus applicable sales tax & shipping in a limited first print run of 1500 copies. To order please contact: Jim Krantz Studios at 312-733-9958 or visit: jimkrantz.com
Jim is represented by Greenhousereps NYC.
Read our recent interview with Jim following his naming as International Photographer of the Year 2010: