Buildings, hardware, monuments that were the symbols of an utopia and today are the debris of a world power who wanted to conquer the whole world, from the subsoil to the space. Danila Tkachenko (Moscow, 1989) – a very young and extraordinary talent of Russian photography – traveled for three years across his Country, from Kazakistan to Bulgaria or to the Arctic Polar Circle, looking for those Restricted Areas which remained secret from the end of the World War to the fall of the Soviet Union, undetected even on geographic maps.
A biographic fact steers Tkachenko towards this impressive documentary research. His grand mother lives in Čeljabinsk, a few kilometers from another city, identical by name, but closed and invisible until 1994: Čeljabinsk-40. Here the first Soviet nuclear bomb was created and in this area in 1964 happened to be one of the most dreadful nuclear disasters of all times, comparable to the one in Chernobyl.
The fact was completely put down.
The same silence, the same layer of mystery and dread, in Danila’s photos becomes a white mantle of untouched snow. What is left of an empire, which sacrificed every richness and millions of lives in the name of technocracy?
The answer of a boy born at the time of the Wall’s fall and a few months before the end of the Soviet Union is in these magnificent images, which in 2015 encountered enthusiastic judgments by the boards of the European Publishers Award for Photography, 30 under 30 Magnum Photos, Emerging Photographer Fund Grant, Foam Talent, CENTER Choice Awards, and Lacritique.org Award.
Framed by an extremely long ideological winter, there appear the relics of the laboratories of a small scientific town close to the North Pole, specialized in biological research, the skeleton of an airplane, the famous VVA14 with vertical take-off, existing in only two samples, and furthermore a parabolic antenna for interplanetary communications; and again the empty buildings of a city where the rockets were built, definitely abandoned in 1992, and besides, at the minimum scale, a simple iron pole (beam) in the frozen tundra to show where extremely powerful bombs exploded, thousand meters deep underground. Last, as if the chill of the cold war and of the atomic threat had blocked any form of life, there appears in the snow the monument dedicated to the workmen of a nuclear plant. Everything is abandoned. Only debris on the white background are left in the place of progress and of the blind faith in its achievements. “And all of this is true for any ideology and at any latitude”, explains the photographer.
Danila Tkachenko was born in Moscow in 1989. After a long trip to India he develops a passion for photography and attend a course at the Rodchenko Moscow School of Photography and Multimedia. His first work, Escape, dedicated to hermits in the wild areas of Russia, receives remarkable appreciation from the international committees and is published in 2014 by Peperoni Books. In February 2016 the volume Restricted Areas will be published in Italy by Peliti Associati, promoter of the European Publishers Book Award.
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