RW Hawkins Photography | Chernobyl-When I Light A Torch
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Chernobyl-When I Light A Torch

Chernobyl-When I Light A Torch

Hospitals are the sanctuary of a city, life and death are confronted here on a daily basis. After the Chernobyl explosion, the main hospital of Pripyat was inundated with the injured. Surprisingly, it seems the power plant and the hospital did not have a set emergency response system, so the scene must have been extremely chaotic.

During my visit to the exclusion zone I was able to visit the hospital twice for a number of hours. Because the hospital is so well photographed I had a list in my mind of photos I wanted to take. Some of those turned out well, but this one came as a surprise. After photographing the surgery room I wandered several floors exploring various areas. When I walked into this large room I immediately noticed the piano and knew I wanted to make a composition. Then I started exploring the relief sculpture to the left. It was amazing, and I had not seen a picture of this wall before. It was heavily decayed, almost completely disintegrated. I could still make out a little bit of the inscription on the relief sculpture “lucendo aliis …” A little sleuthing on the internet led me to the phrase “Lucendo aliis ego ipse ardeo” which literally means “While I burn, I give light to others.” A different translation says “When I light a torch for others I myself catch fire” This creed has been attributed to some medical practitioners. What a depressing but inspirational quote for the courageous work that the doctors and nurses of the hospital did after an accident where they were working with minimal information to try and save lives.


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