Gerd Ludwig@gerdludwig

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Gerd Ludwig

The nuclear accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Chernobyl on April 26, 1986, contaminated thousands of square miles, forcing 150 thousand inhabitants to hastily abandon their homes. Posters of disgraced Politburo members, most likely preparations for upcoming May Day celebrations, litter the floor of an abandoned storage facility in Pripyat, once the largest town in the area with 49 thousand inhabitants. Decades later, the Politburo posters remain a haunting reminder of a tragedy worsened by the initial denial of the Soviet political class.
My exhibit, “The Long Shadow of Chernobyl,” at the ROSPHOTO State Photo Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, will be closing September 22.
The amazing HBO miniseries, “Chernobyl” has been widely viewed in Russia. Due to its success, some in the Russian media announced they would follow up with their own version of the story, in which the CIA is portrayed as one of the culprits of the disaster. Even Russians, however, were making fun of this take. The trailer, which had already premiered on YouTube, has now disappeared.
@natgeo @thephotosociety @rosphoto.museum #Chernobyl #ukraine


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Gerd Ludwig

Scientists monitor the radiation along the remnants of the Red Forest, one of the most contaminated areas after the explosion of the Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor No.4. The forest’s name comes from the ginger color of the trees after they died, having absorbed high levels of radiation after the accident. Much of the Red Forest burnt and was buried in “waste graveyards.” The photograph, which was taken in 1993, is part of my current exhibit “The Long Shadow of Chernobyl” at the ROSPHOTO State Photo Museum in St. Petersburg, where 100 of my images chronicling the aftermath of the disaster are on display until September 27. I just returned from the opening and was overwhelmed by the magnitude of coverage it received from the Russian media—from online articles to many television, radio and newspaper interviews.
@thephotosociety @rosphoto.museum @natgeo #Chernobyl #RedForest #Ukraine


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Gerd Ludwig

Inside the belly of the beast. In my time documenting the aftermath of Chernobyl, I have gone further into the destroyed Reactor No. 4 than any other Western still photographer, each time for only 15-30 minutes. This spot, however, was so contaminated that, despite wearing protective gear, I only had about one minute to shoot.
This weekend, I am heading off to the opening of my exhibit, “The Long Shadow of Chernobyl” at the ROSPHOTO state photo museum in Saint Petersburg, which will show over 100 of my photographs from the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster. The opening coincides with much renewed interest in the accident after the Chernobyl miniseries on HBO, which was noticed in Russia as well.
The opening of the exhibit will be on Tuesday, August 6 at 6pm at the ROSPHOTO state photo museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
@thephotosociety @natgeo #Chernobyl #ReactorNumber4 #nuclear #Ukraine #thelongshadowofchernobyl


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Gerd Ludwig

In the 15th and 16th centuries, the silver mines of Schwaz in Tirol, Austria were considered to be the largest in the world. Today, visitors to the mines can watch how strenuous the process used to be. The miner in the foreground of the image is real and pictured next to a statue of a miner in the background.
This image, shot a few years ago, was part of a story on the Fuggers—the German equivalent of the Medici in Italy, a prosperous merchant family situated in Augsburg, a town in Southern Germany and a commercial center of its time. The silver mines were one of the main sources of the Fugger’s wealth. Their name stands not only for wealth and clever business management, but also for a far-reaching influence on the political events of that time which shaped the fates of both Germany and Europe.
@thephotosociety #silvermines #Fuggers #Austria #Tirol


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Gerd Ludwig

Happy Independence Day! July 4 marks the 243rd anniversary of the United States’ independence from Britain. I captured this image years ago, but I believe the feeling of it still resonates today—hope, questioning, longing—especially in the current political climate.
@thephotosociety #IndependenceDay #July4th #USA


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Gerd Ludwig

A view of the control room of Reactor No. 3 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1993.
This control room was identical to that of ill-fated Reactor No. 4, separated by a concrete wall only a few feet thick. In the early hours of April 26, 1986, Reactor No. 4 exploded when engineers botched a safety test, causing the largest nuclear disaster in history. Though universally condemned as unsafe, 15 such reactors still operated in Ukraine, Russia and Lithuania after the accident, including this Chernobyl Reactor No. 3, which remained online until December 2000—more than 14 years after the accident.
With renewed interest in Chernobyl caused by the recent HBO miniseries and Adam Higginbotham’s book, Midnight in Chernobyl, I have revisited this image, which reminds me of one of HBO’s scenes. In a memorable scene in the “Chernobyl” miniseries, an engineer in the control room goes into the hallway to smoke a cigarette. As you can see in this image, however, one of the engineers is smoking a cigarette inside the control room, which many did while I photographed.
@thephotosociety #Chernobyl #HBOChernobyl #nuclear #MidnightInChernobyl


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Gerd Ludwig

Technicians inspect fuel channels above the core of Reactor No. 3 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, which is separated from the radioactive wreckage of its twin by 200 feet and a concrete wall. Seconds before the 1986 explosion, an engineer noticed the lids of No. 4’s fuel channels dancing up and down. Moments later, the reactor exploded, causing multiple tons of nuclear fuel to escape into the atmosphere over the course of the disaster.
Knowing what happened only years prior and mere yards away, the feeling of walking over these fuel rods and seeing the pale blue glow emitting between the gaps when I shot this was incredibly eerie. Despite the horrific accident of 1986, this reactor was only taken offline in December of 2000.
Impressed with what Craig Mazin and the crew have created, I watched the HBO miniseries “Chernobyl” repeatedly, but I’m not sure what to think about the resulting increase in tourism to the Exclusion Zone.
@thephotosociety #Chernobyl #nuclear #Ukraine #fuelrods


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Gerd Ludwig

A Shalom rose from the rosarium in Baden’s Doblhoff Park. It is the largest rose garden in Austria, containing over 600 types of roses and 30,000 rose bushes and trees, and is truly enchanting in bloom.
I just returned from participating in the Festival La Gacilly-Baden in Austria, a cooperation of Jacques Rocher and my friend Lois Lammerhuber. Nearly 2,000 photographs dedicated to planet Earth—its beauty, splendor, as well as its threats—are on display (mostly outdoors), including work by my National Geographic colleagues @williamalbertallard, @brentstirton, @michaelnicknichols, and @maitre.pascal. Each of the many present photographers whose work was on display was tasked with photographing Baden’s famous roses. We had two hours to photograph a rose of our choice, and each photographer’s final image was printed and displayed at large scale in the center of town. This was my final creation—the first time I’ve ever photographed a single flower.

@natgeotravel #Baden #Austria #FestivalLaGacilly #DoblhoffPark


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Gerd Ludwig

A classic Slavic beauty, lost in thought.

Sometimes, the quiet moments are unexpectedly captivating. In Norilsk, Russia, the pattern of this woman’s scarf—framed so elegantly by the floral curtain above her—caught my attention. It shows there is so much beauty in everyday stillness.

@thephotosociety @natgeo #Russia #Norilsk


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Gerd Ludwig

Beneath the buttressed western wall of the sarcophagus—one of the shakiest parts of the enclosure containing the destroyed Reactor No. 4 in Chernobyl—a worker ducks into a small lead enclosure, provided to shield construction personnel from the radiation still leaking through the propped-up containment wall. These enclosures are provided to protect workers when they are resting and their presence is not required in the open space. I shot this years ago on one of my many trips to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.
I’m looking forward to watching the continuation of the Chernobyl mini-series on HBO every Monday. It is an amazingly accurate and honest, in-depth account of what happened during the world’s worst nuclear disaster to date (yes, including Fukushima). @natgeo @thephotosociety #Chernobyl #Ukraine


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Gerd Ludwig

The Baiterek monument and observation tower has become the symbol of Kazakhstan’s capital and was supposedly sketched out by the president himself. It is a modernistic representation of an old Kazakh myth, depicting the tree of life and a golden ball that symbolizes a golden egg laid by legendary bird Samruk.
Kazakhstan’s capital, formerly known as Astana, was renamed “Nursultan” on March 20. Interim president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev chose the name to honor outgoing president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who unexpectedly resigned March 19 after serving as the first and only president of modern Kazakhstan for almost 30 years. Nazarbayev will still keep authority, holding the title “Leader of the Nation.” His eldest daughter Dariga was promoted to the second most powerful position in the country shortly after his resignation, raising suspicion that she could be her father’s successor after the current presidential term ends in April 2020. This is the fourth time in less than 60 years that the city has been renamed, from Akmolinsk to Tselinograd to Akmola to Astana, and now Nursultan.

@thephotosociety @natgeo #Kazakhstan #Astana #Nursultan #Baiterek


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Gerd Ludwig

Southern Belarus was severely affected by the nuclear fallout after the Chernobyl accident. Physically and mentally handicapped, 5 year-old Igor was given up by his parents to be cared for at a home for orphaned and abandoned children with disabilities. The home is one of several in Belarus receiving support from Chernobyl aid programs funded by humanitarian organizations around the world. One of those organizations, Chernobyl Children International, was founded by Irish activist Adi Roche, who made the care of Chernobyl victims her life. She also produced the 2004 Academy Award-winning documentary on Chernobyl victims called "Chernobyl Heart.” Since this photograph was taken (in 2005), the quality of care for these children has greatly improved, thanks to organizations like Adi’s.
33 years ago today, April 26, 1986, Reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant blew up. The radioactive fallout spread over thousands of square kilometers, driving more than a quarter of a million people permanently from their homes. Even after Fukushima, scientists consider it the worst nuclear accident to date.
@thephotosociety #Chernobyl #theLongShadowofChernobyl #Ukraine #Belarus #ChernobylChildren


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Gerd Ludwig

25 years after the Chernobyl disaster, the small settlement of Teremtsy—evacuated after the accident—was home to about 30 returnees who lived amongst the many abandoned homes. One of the returnees was Kharytina D., then 92 years old. With difficulties walking and hearing and the other returnees living far from her home, she lived in isolation, having hardly any communication with anyone, but was quite content.

After the catastrophe, more than a quarter of a million people living inside the 30km Zone were evacuated, including those living in small villages. Ignoring radiation levels, a small (and now diminishing) number of elderly people returned to their homes. Although surrounded by devastation and isolation, they prefer to die on their own soil than of a broken heart in anonymous city suburbs. At first Ukrainian officials discouraged them, but soon they turned a blind eye and even provided them with infrequent medical visits.

@thephotosociety #Chernobyl #theLongShadowofChernobyl #ExclusionZone #Ukraine


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Gerd Ludwig

The Children’s Home in Vesnova cares for children with mental and physical disabilities, with many of them suspectedly caused by the Chernobyl disaster. While the dispute within the scientific community over the cause of physical and mental malformations since the Chernobyl disaster continues, many homes like this one depend on support from international Chernobyl aid programs, such as Chernobyl Children International.

At 1:23 am on April 26, 1986 reactor #4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant blew up. The radioactive fallout spread over thousands of square kilometers, driving more than a quarter of a million people permanently from their homes. More than 100,000 people may have succumbed to Chernobyl-related illnesses.
As we’re approaching the 33rd anniversary of the world’s largest nuclear accident to date, I will be posting photographs of the aftermath of the Chernobyl catastrophe and my journeys into the Zone throughout the past three decades.

A recent book by Adam Higginbotham, “Midnight in Chernobyl,” gives an amazingly detailed account of the disaster, as well as “a powerful investigation into how propaganda, secrecy, and myth have obscured the true story of one of the twentieth century’s greatest disasters.” Also, look out for a new HBO mini-series on Chernobyl, coming May 6.

@thephotosociety @natgeo #Chernobyl #TheLongShadowofChernobyl #Vesnova #Belarus #Chernobylchildren


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Gerd Ludwig

In honor of Earth Day, here are two more photographs of Southern California’s super bloom. Today and every day, let’s choose the path to an environmentally conscious and sustainable future.
@thephotosociety #AntelopeValley #poppies #EarthDay

Antelope Valley
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Gerd Ludwig

Another set of images from California’s “super bloom.” The bloom, a feat of nature spurred by unusually high amounts of rainfall, has resulted in a blanket of spectacular colors covering many natural areas in Southern California. This is the second year in a row that the flowers have blossomed to an extraordinary extent, but this year it is in such massive amounts that have not been seen for decades.

The first two photographs were taken outside the limits of Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, the third near Palm Springs and the fourth in a remote area near Lake Elsinore.
@natgeo @natgeotravel @thephotosociety #superbloom #LakeElsinore #AntelopeValley


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Gerd Ludwig

Visitors take full advantage of photo opportunities from this year’s “super bloom” outside the limits of Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, even posing beneath power lines.

This year’s wildflower bloom has drawn thousands to natural parks and preserves throughout Southern California—many just to take in the stunning sights and others who use the phenomenon as a subject in photographs. Inside the parks, however, people are being urged to stay on the pre-made paths when visiting, as poppies and other wildflowers can be easily destroyed by human activity.

@natgeo @natgeotravel @thephotosociety #California #superbloom #AntelopeValley #poppies

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
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Gerd Ludwig

Tourists flock to Southern California’s Antelope Valley poppy preserve to explore and enjoy this year’s “super bloom.” The rare natural phenomenon is caused by heavier-than-usual rainfall activating many long-dormant wildflower seeds and prompting them to bloom in massive amounts. The flowers, including California poppies, Desert Dandelion, Sand Verbena and Evening Primrose, carpet many areas in Southern California, some of which reportedly haven’t seen as many blooming flowers in the past 100 years. They draw many people eager to witness the super bloom and take advantage of photo opportunities. On windy days, the poppies close earlier than usual, finicky to changes in light and weather conditions.

@thephotosociety #California #AntelopeValley #superbloom #poppies

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
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Gerd Ludwig

Southern California is experiencing a wildflower “super bloom” for the second year in a row, a result of heavy rainfall in February and early March. Since the town of Lake Elsinore was overrun with approximately 100,000 visitors this past Sunday, I retreated to a quiet hillside near Perris and found this lovely scene with blooming California poppies.
@thephotosociety @natgeoimagecollection #California #superbloom #poppies

Lake Elsinore, California
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Gerd Ludwig

A shopper scythes through bitter cold to reach a boutique on Red Square. These days, Marx and Lenin can’t compete with Dior and Armani for the hearts of the consuming class.

When people see a tripod, they often try to be respectful and avoid walking in front of the camera. However, as a documentary photographer, I generally want people to pass through the image. So I often shoot with a cable release, turning slightly away from the scene I want to capture. I vividly remember this woman rushing through my frame, when I shot it a few years ago, turning to me after the strobe popped and apologizing for ruining the shot. Will she ever know that she had actually just made my night?

You can find a more in-depth explanation of my use of flash in street photography, as well as other techniques, in my book, minus 2/3 (also published in German, French, Italian and soon, Chinese). @thephotosociety @rocky_nook @natgeoimagecollection @natgeotravel #Russia #Moscow #RedSquare


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Gerd Ludwig

A view of the eastern ridges of the Smoky Mountains.

In 1930, Great Smoky Mountains National Park became one of the largest protected areas of the eastern United States. It encompasses roughly 525,000 acres of lush landscapes (more tree species than in all of northern Europe), abundant wildlife (65 mammal and 230 bird species), and spectacular scenic beauty.

@thephotosociety #GreatSmokyMountains #landscape #NorthCarolina #Tennessee


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Gerd Ludwig

My photograph of mist surrounding the trees of the Reinhardswald Mountains, one of the oldest forests in Germany, was posted on @natgeo in 2016. With 669k likes it was my most liked photograph on their feed.

Congratulations to @natgeo for now hitting 100 million followers!

As a thanks, they are having a photo contest for the next 24 hours only. To submit, simply post your most Nat Geo inspired photo on your feed using the hashtag #NatGeo100Contest. The top 10 photos will be posted on @natgeo and the winner gets a photo trip to Tanzania. Good luck!

#NatGeo100Contest


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Gerd Ludwig

Every day before sunset, a mother and her child scoop water for their cattle from a hole in a frozen lake - the only source of water for their remote Yakutian village, where average January daily high temperatures are -37º F (-38ºC). Like most villages in the Russian permafrost far north, this one lacks running water.

@thephotosociety @natgeoimagecollection  #Russia #Yakutia #water


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Gerd Ludwig

Sifting through my archive, I recently came across this unpublished photograph of a villager in the Schwalm area of Germany kneading large heaps of sourdough. She will later take them to the local communal bake house, where they become huge, crusty loaves of delicious bread.
@thephotosociety @natgeoimagecollection #Germany #rurallife #Schwalm #sourdough


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Gerd Ludwig

A child takes a short joy ride on a Yakut pony in the center of Yakutsk, the capital of the Sakha Republic in the Russian Far East. The Yakut horse is a rare native breed known for its thick mane and heave hair coat in adaptation to the extreme cold climate. People  keep warm during the violent winters wearing fur hats and floor-length fur coats. The lowest temperatures ever recorded outside of Antarctica have been measured near the capital, at - 96ºF (-71.2ºC). In January, Yakutsk’s daily high averages - 35ºF/-37ºC). @thephotosociety @natgeoimagecollection #Russia #Yakutsk #winter #Yakutpony


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Gerd Ludwig

Hoping to rejuvenate body and soul, a devout Russian briefly submerges herself into the icy water in Yekaterinburg.
On the eve of Russian Orthodox Epiphany, January 19th (as the Russian Orthodox Church follows the Julian Calendar) thousands of Russians prepare to do what they do on Epiphany every year. They gather on frozen rivers and lakes to take a dip in the icy priest-blessed waters. This is believed to cleanse the soul of sins and protect the faithful from evil. According to Orthodox Christian tradition, this January feast day celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan.
@thephotosociety  #RussianOrthodox  #Epiphany #iceswimming


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Gerd Ludwig

Not far from the Italian city of Bolzano, Runkelstein Castle sits on a rocky spur high above the Talfer River. The medieval castle is home to one of the largest preserved medieval fresco cycles, dating back to the year 1400.

@thephotosociety @natgeocreative #Italy#Bolzano #RunkelsteinCastle #TalferRiver


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Gerd Ludwig

Winter Holiday Season 2008 in Moscow, Russia. Huge billboards cover the re-construction of the Moskva Hotel on Manezhnaya Square, a large, open, pedestrian space in the heart of the city near the entrance to Red Square. In earlier years, Russian women were often pictured in contrast to billboards. These two ladies, however, look like they could have just stepped out of a billboard.

@thephotosociety @natgeo @natgeocreative #Russia #Moscow #ManezhnayaSquare


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Gerd Ludwig

Wishing you peace, love, joy, hope, health and happiness during this Holiday Season and throughout the New Year.


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Gerd Ludwig

Judgment day at Novo-Tikhvinsky cloister in Yekaterinburg, Russia: Father Abraham sits down to critique an icon painted by a resident nun. It depicts St. Peter, keys to heaven in hand. If it is to pass his test, the father said, "anyone looking at it must want to pray." Reviving a tradition that almost died during Soviet times, sisters train for as long as a decade to excel at the art.

@thephotosociety @natgeocreative @natgeo #Russia #Yekaterinburg #NovoTikhvinsky #russianorthodox #iconpainting #nuns


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