Exposure by Kazuma Obara
This series of pictures represent the last 30 years of the life of invisible girl who has been affected by Chernobyl disaster. The project had done from January 2015 to January 2016.
The world's worst nuclear accident happened on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl nuclear site. Just 5 months after the disaster, Mariya was born in Kiev which is located 100 km south from Chernobyl. The wind included a great amount of radioactive elements blown from the north to the south-west. Finally, it spread widely, to areas including Europe and she became one of the victims of the tragedy. She was a very sickly child and not growing like a normal child. When she was born, she was quickly admitted into the intensive care unit. She spent many years in hospital without receiving a diagnosis. When she was 19 years old, She began to notice the other symptoms which she had never experienced such as severe fatigue and insomnia. She started to have panic attacks, her hair began to fall out, and her nails flaked. And finally one of the doctors suggested that perhaps her problems were not in her mind(all doctors thought the disease were caused by mental problem), and perhaps they were caused by a problem with her thyroid gland. Then when she was 24 years old, She did operation and removed thyroid gland. Currently she has taken around 10 to 20 pills every day to maintain her hormone balance. She has to continue to take pills until she will die. She also received disable certificate for getting small support from the government. However, her disease and disability are invisible and nobody cannot understand her harsh life without explanation.
In my research in Ukraine, main problems of surviving victims are not visible; not obvious to other people. I wanted to capture the current situation and, moreover, I wanted people to imagine the invisible problems of the current situation.
After 2011, Ukrainian government opened restricted zone which is surround Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant to all people and currently more than 10,000 tourists a year who have permission to enter the zone visit this area. Moreover, affecting the world well-known game " S.T.A.L.K.E.R" and cinema "Chernobyl Diaries" which depicted the place of Chernobyl as horror, people can see so many horror and zombi images through the various medium. There is one aspect of young generation that chernobyl is not the tragedy but part of entertainment. I thought telling the story of Mariya by direct way doesn't work anymore for young generation. I felt more abstract image does work for those who only know Chernobyl through the game and movie.
All pictures were taken by old Ukrainian colour negative films(expired day of films are 1991 and 1992) which were found in the abandon city named Pripyat, located 5 km from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. All films were exposed from 2 minutes to 4 minutes and processed by B/W liquid. It is because colour processing liquid C-41 didn't work for this old Ukrainian colour film. After scanning over exposed negatives, those abstract images were appeared.
Where exposure commonly denotes visibility and revelation, my images and the process by which they were made challenge that view. While my film was only recently 'exposed' in the conventional sense, it seems to be receiving exposure to radiation from the nuclear accident for the past years. Just like Mariya, who had been exposed before birth, before visibility, and before volition, my use of this film, with its unruly and visually confusing character refuses the apparent instantaneity of the photographic image, instead calling the viewer to consider that our present lives bear the traces of a life-long and prenatal exposure to the world.
"My mother said that it was a typically quiet day, warm and windy. She and my father opened the window and they felt completely safe on the day of the explosion, the 26th of April, 1986."
"I was born just 5 months after the day of the explosion. I was a very sickly child and I remember feeling like something was wrong, not growing like a normal child. When I was born, I was quickly admitted into the intensive care unit. I had cramps and I was very weak. I spent half of my childhood in the hospital without receiving a diagnosis. I was treated for bronchitis, then pneumonia, and then neuroses. There was no reason to check my thyroid."
"You might think there should be nothing from Chernobyl in my identity because I was not born at the time of the explosion. I was in my mother's belly and I did not yet exist in the outside world."
"I did not have the opportunity to be active. Children who were born in the year of Chernobyl were the most adversely affected. I was lying in the hospital, without my mother all the time. That is, perhaps, reflected in my character today."
"My biggest fear was always that I might not be able to meet the expectations of my family. They hope that I will have my own family and children, that I will have a good job, be a socially active person, and that I will be able to help people...But I just couldn't be like that. Yet, I had no right to let them down. I would bring shame to my family. This was my biggest fear. There are so many beautiful things in the world. I wanted to paint, I wanted to be an artist who would present and show the world's beauty. And at this point in my life, I did not think I could be. It frightened me terribly."
"The symptoms became strong when I was 19 years old. I had a very strong heartbeat and it accelerated. A normal rhythm is 60-70 beats per minute. Mine was beating at 120-130 and this caused a very strong tremor in my hands. I was studying to be an architect at the Architectural Department and I realized that the tremors were preventing me from working, preventing me from completing my course of studies. I could not understand the reason. It was very scary because architecture requires special attention, special care, and I could not understand why I was producing bad work. That was something very frightening for me. It was terrible."
"I had the operation when I was 24 years. Yes, 24 years old, and my family and my partner, Sasha did everything to help me. We even tried alternative medicine to try to preserve what had already been destroyed, what had already been killed. When I was offered the surgery, I was so scared inside. I had to choose some special day, to try to be less afraid. So, I was operated on my birthday, September the 24th. I came up with a story to calm myself down: I could not die during the operation if it was my birthday. I could not die on the day of my birth. I would just go to sleep and then wake up and be around my family and guests, and they'd all be there with balloons, and flowers, and they would be there to support me. The physicians were very surprised and instead said, "Yes, peacefully enjoy your birthday and then we'll operate later."
"I go to a therapist because it turned out that I have a lot of significant issues with my parents. Because when all this happened, I blamed myself very much. I thought it was my fault--that I had made myself sick and that I could never meet the expectations of my family. It was all my fault. I could understand that something was wrong in my body and I kept blaming myself. And the fact that I spent almost half of my childhood in the hospital meant that I was very much alienated from my parents. That was why I rarely saw them and I had very little contact. The only time we connected was on the subject of the disease. There was no regular childhood, like when parents with children go on picnics. I blamed only myself, and I hated myself. Recently, I just realized that I was not guilty. This is nobody's fault. I'm working on it, and everything is much better. I understand that all the worst is over, and now I'm trying to reestablish contact with my parents."
"I became a painter. I now understand that this is my path, and it is my calling, so to speak. And I now know exactly why I didn't fall outside of the canvas. I know exactly what I have to do. I have managed to begin something and I'm not overwhelmed by life itself. It's a completely different quality of work, when you can start something controlled and it doesn't crumble into dust. This is amazing."