Inside the nuclear wasteland of Chernobyl: David McMillan's haunting photographs

Portrait of Lenin, Kindergarten, October 1997. From the book, David McMillan: Growth and Decay - Pripyat and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, published by Steidl Books © David McMillan, 2018

The Chernobyl disaster in 1986 was a haunting moment in human history when we contemplated our own extinction. It forced the evacuation of nearby Pripyat, home to 45,000 people at the time.

Since 1994, photographer David McMillan has journeyed 21 times to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Inspired by his teenage memories of Nevil Shute’s On the Beach (1957), a disturbing vision of the world following a nuclear war, David found in Pripyat the embodiment of an irradiated city still standing but void of human life.

As one of the first artists to gain access to "The Zone", David initially explored the evacuated areas with few constraints and in solitude, save for an occasional scientist monitoring the effects of radioactivity.

Returning year after year enabled him to revisit the sites of earlier photographs – sometimes fortuitously, sometimes by design—thereby bearing witness to the inexorable forces of nature as they reclaimed the abandoned communities.

At times his unhurried approach to picture-making led David to look at unassuming subjects, which gave rise to engrossing compositions. Above all, his commitment has been to probe the relentless dichotomy between growth and decay in The Zone.

You can now view his work in a new book, David McMillan: Growth and Decay - Pripyat and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, published by Steidl Books.

Sinking boat on the Pripyat river, Chernobyl, October 1998. From the book, David McMillan: Growth and Decay - Pripyat and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, published by [Steidl Books](https://steidl.de/Books/Growth-and-Decay-Pripyat-and-the-Chernobyl-Exclusion-Zone-2326353746.html?SID=wNv9pBXee1bc) © David McMillan, 2018

Sinking boat on the Pripyat river, Chernobyl, October 1998. From the book, David McMillan: Growth and Decay - Pripyat and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, published by Steidl Books © David McMillan, 2018

Schoolroom in the village of Shipelicki, April 1995. From the book, David McMillan: Growth and Decay - Pripyat and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, published by [Steidl Books](https://steidl.de/Books/Growth-and-Decay-Pripyat-and-the-Chernobyl-Exclusion-Zone-2326353746.html?SID=wNv9pBXee1bc) © David McMillan, 2018

Schoolroom in the village of Shipelicki, April 1995. From the book, David McMillan: Growth and Decay - Pripyat and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, published by Steidl Books © David McMillan, 2018

Lobby, Children’s Hospital, October 2012. From the book, David McMillan: Growth and Decay - Pripyat and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, published by [Steidl Books](https://steidl.de/Books/Growth-and-Decay-Pripyat-and-the-Chernobyl-Exclusion-Zone-2326353746.html?SID=wNv9pBXee1bc) © David McMillan, 2018

Lobby, Children’s Hospital, October 2012. From the book, David McMillan: Growth and Decay - Pripyat and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, published by Steidl Books © David McMillan, 2018

Kindergarten floor with slippers, October 2006. From the book, David McMillan: Growth and Decay - Pripyat and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, published by [Steidl Books](https://steidl.de/Books/Growth-and-Decay-Pripyat-and-the-Chernobyl-Exclusion-Zone-2326353746.html?SID=wNv9pBXee1bc) © David McMillan, 2018

Kindergarten floor with slippers, October 2006. From the book, David McMillan: Growth and Decay - Pripyat and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, published by Steidl Books © David McMillan, 2018