Maxim Dondyuk (b. 1983) is a Ukrainian visual artist working in the field of documentary photography. His practice integrates multiple mediums including photography, video, sound, text, and archival material. Maxim’s works often explore issues relating to history, memory, conflict and their consequences.
In his ongoing project “untitled Project from Chernobyl” Maxim works with vernacular photography, exploring the life of the so-called exclusion zone before the accident of 1986. The author speaks about memory, territory, atomic energy, and nature. Started as contemplation of emptiness and silence of abandoned territory, it turned into an exploration of the past. Old films, family and travel photos, amateur portraits, postcards, letters – all these years the memories had been exposed to nature and radiation. “Sometimes, when I was in the Chernobyl all alone, I had the feeling that I was in the future, and only from these little bits of history do I know that terrible truth that destroyed an entire civilization”, says Maxim.
Maxim has been widely awarded numerous recognitions including Lucie Awards, Prix Pictet Photography Prize, W.Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic photography. His works have been exhibited internationally, at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris, Somerset house in London, MAXXI National Museum of XXI century Arts in Rome, the Biennal of Photography in Bogota, Colombia, among others.
“Attention! Attention! Today, on April 27, in connection with the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in the city of Pripyat is emerging a vulnerable radiation situation. It becomes necessary to conduct a temporary evacuation of the city’s inhabitants. It is recommended to take documents with you, highly necessary things, and food for the short term. We ask you to remain calm, to maintain organization and order during the temporary evacuation!”
An announcement that was broadcast on radio in Pripyat on April 27, 1986. Voice belongs to the announcer of the Pripyat city radio – Nina Melnik.
On that day the story of flourishing cities and villages in Chernobyl area ended. Most people never came back to their homes. Family photos, memorable letters were coved with a thick layer of trash and mud. The more time went on, the less memories of people, who inhabited that lands, remained.
“Like a living organism, a photograph is born directly on particles of silver, which ripen, flourish at some point, and then grows old”.* The photo negatives that were lost and forgotten several decades ago in the cities and villages of Chernobyl, have been subjected over the last 30 years to very slow degradation under the influence of radiation and the elements of nature.
Passing through stages of disappearance, erasure and decay, they retained the traces of evidence of bodies or things that left their mark on the photosensitive film emulsion.