RW Hawkins Photography | Chernobyl-Jupiter Factory
Exploring the Jupiter Factory in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
chernobyl, pripyat, jupiter factory, exclusion zone
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Chernobyl-Jupiter Factory

Chernobyl-Jupiter Factory

“Don’t go in the basement!” It sounded like the start of a horror movie, but it was the start of a great couple hours of abandoned photography. The Jupiter factory was high on my list of places to photograph during my trip to the exclusion zone. Officially this factory produced consumer electronic items, but the tall fence surrounding the factory belies it’s true role in producing critical military components during the cold war. My guide instructed me to avoid the basement as it was used as a dumping ground for radioactive clothes and other contaminated materials after the Chernobyl accident.

I spent the next couple hours wandering this abandoned factory imagining what it might have been like when it was manufacturing high tech products. It is times like this when I get “in the zone” surrounded by never ending possible compositions, I use my viewing filter to imagine black and white photographs that can capture a little bit of the mood, mystery, magic and metaphor of the experience. When I walked into this particular cavern I was immediately drawn to this wall of panels. I love the intricacy of panels in general, the sign on the left with the lightning bolt and words “onacho” (danger) was important to include so I went with a relatively wide shot including much of the wall. I considered for a bit how much of the floor to include, sometimes I crop the image tightly vertical and not include much floor, but there is an interesting piece of metal that makes a case for inclusion.

Printing this image is relatively straightforward. I like to use a strong unsharp mask to bring out the details of the panels. This tends to make darkish midtones somewhat gray so careful dodging of the ground to come up with a pleasing tone is important. A strong burn at the top keeps the eye focused on the panel. When successful the whole print glows and was definitely a favorite at my Industria show at Viewpoint Gallery.

A 20×24 silver gelatin print handmade in my darkroom is available in my shop

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