BRITISH PHOTOGRAPHER DARREN NISBETT’S CHERNOBYL EXHIBITION: “ZONE OF ALIENATION”
- Darren Nisbett is one of the most genuine and talented photographers I’ve had the pleasure to learn of in quite a while. His ambitious series The Zone of Alienation is a documentary Tour de Force of contemporary images about the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Not only is he a gifted cameraman but, unlike many artists, he demonstrates a real genius for being able to modestly-but effectively-promote and market his important work..which has recently been featured and had full articles and magazine spreads by the likes of Practical Photography Magazine, Digital Camera Magazine and the Sunday Times in the UK. To seasoned photography professionals that all may seem par for the course-but in Darren’s case it’s quite phenomenal-because this is his “very first exhibition”. Therefore it is with great pleasure that I present this interview and images on ‘the last day-of Darren’s first exhibition’
~ “Zone of Alienation” ~
Auction & Exhibition: Thank you for granting this interview Darren. Where is your home in the UK?
Darren Nisbett: I live about an hour outside London. I’m ideally positioned to visit capital, coast and other areas of countryside. I think its important, not just to look to foreign places for inspiration but also to explore whats on your own doorstep.
A&E: One of the interesting facets of your exhibition is your spectacular use of Infra-Red photography..Please discuss your decision process and reasoning for using Infra-Red for this particular project.
DN: There are lots of images from Pripyat (Chernobyl area) on the internet and publications, a quick search will bring back a lot of great photos, all of them show the dereliction and effects of the elements on the buildings, the decaying interiors and broken posessions. Not many of these images (for me anyway) really captured the feelings that you get when you visit Chernobyl and the area within the exclusion zone, which in fact looks much the same as any city would if it was left for 25 years.
For me, its not about just the way the city looks, the worn concrete, faded metal and overgrown foliage, its about the underlying knowledge that there’s an invisible poison surrounding you, its quite hard to explain, its almost like feeling as though you are being watched by something unseen and ghostlike, at first you are not sure how to breathe or what to touch, then eventually you get used it, and to the constant beeping of the geiger counter which follows you round like the ticking of a old grandfather clock in a haunted house.
Infra-red photography basically cuts out the part of the colour spectrum that we see with our eyes and captures the heat thats reflected by the objects, this is especially visible from the Chlorophyll in plants which give off alot of heat and can appear blue or pale green in the camera. By processing the images into black and white and adding noise and light leakage, also termed halation, I’m able to recreate the look of more traditional Infra-red films which look both ethereal and other worldly but also gritty and raw. The foliage takes on a wierd glow which makes me imagine the toxic radiation and the buildings and concrete is reduced to a sinister imposing greyness.
- Television In Chernobyl Hotel
A&E: What first inspired you to devote yourself to travel & execute this project?
DN: It all started out as just another (slightly unusual) photography trip, I have had the idea of an exhibition in my mind for a while but it wasnt until a few things started to come together at the same time and my portfolio and ideas started to take shape, that this really started to become a real project.
A&E: What are your thoughts and revelations about the actual exhibition itself now that it is reaching closure?
DN: Its been really interesting for me to hear other people talk about the photographs and what they see and feel about them, alot of people can remember where they were when the accident happened or stories surrounding it and I have really enjoyed the fact that its been my images that have started the conversations.
I tried to create an atmosphere in the gallery, its situated in quite an upmarket part of Royal Windsor and for the duration of the exhibition, it was covered in hazzard tape and a big radiation sign, part of it was to draw attention, which i think it certainly did, and part was to add a bit of lightness to the subject. My opening night had a few unique touches as well including cupcakes with radiation symbols on them and test tubes of bubbling liqueur which were both great conversation starters.
Ive enjoyed the fact that this is all going towards helping the charity as well, something that I am hoping that I can continue to support, alot of people have made donations as well as buying the photobooks that I have created as well as the prints, all of which Im pleased about.
A&E: Offer rather in-depth information about the kids charity you have chosen to support and how/why others should contribute to this very worthy cause.
DN: Belarus can be found on the map to the north of Ukraine, when the accident happened in April of 1986, the direction of the wind meant that a lot of the toxic plume went north and Belarus was one of the countries worst affected. For the last 25 years there has been an increase among the population there in cases of Thyroid cancer, Leukemia and other diseases.
‘Chernobyl Childrens Project’ supports hospices, provides medicines and give recuperative holidays, which have a really positive effect on the children as well as raising awareness. Its all too often in the world we live in that disasters become front page news and touch our hearts and minds, only to be forgotten shortly afterwards when something else happens to steal the headlines. I was inspired by the people that I spoke to in Chernobyl, their enthusiasm and passion for educating people about what happened and when I started to think about the exhibition, I wanted to give something back to those that are still suffering as well as raising the awareness through my photography.
- Baby Cribs in Chernobyl
A&E: Do you have your next photography project or series visualized?..If so what is it about?
DN: I do have another project in mind but it’s in the early stages. For now though, I am looking for other ways to get my Chernobyl project to a wider audience, I would like to try and take it to other galleries here or abroad, maybe in collaboration with other photographers or artists, the feedback that I have got from the exhibition has made me realise that the images, not only get people talking about Chernobyl, but the fragility of life in general, now i want to show the world!
YOU CAN SEE MUCH MORE ABOUT DARREN’S PROJECT, AND HOW TO DONATE TO THE CHILDREN’S CHARITY, ON HIS WEBSITE http://www.darkoptics.net/
(SUCH AS HIS IMAGINATIVE DECORATION OF THE GALLERY IN ETON, UK AS SEEN HERE WITH THE EMERGING MAESTRO HIMSELF!)
* Auction Outcomes: “Collectors from China, Switzerland & Middle East set spring market”
A critical reason for the newsletter is to highlight Auction Sales of 19th, 20th & 21st century photographs that I’ve negotiated or sold in recent years. These sales are primarily gelatin silver prints by prominent photographers of the last 200 years which still arguably comprise the largest share of auction market sales for fine photographs. The acquisition of handmade darkroom prints remains strong with photography collectors-despite the current fascination with near billboard size color & digital prints. Some examples of auction venues that these published sales relate to include Christie’s, Guernsey’s, Bloomsbury’s, Swan Auction Galleries, BeHold, eBay & other New York city and national concerns.
This press photo by André Kertész sold to a collector in Beijing, China & was documented by the Ministry of Culture of France for articles of exhibition. On verso is the documentation of usage c/o the Ministry of culture citing the Kertész copyright. The complete French text is: “Mention obligatoire: (c) Photo André Kertész, Ministére de la Culture-France. Reproduction autorisée pour la seule illustration d’un article consacré a l’exposition. “LE SQUARE DU VERT-GALANT, PARIS, 1923”. A Retourno A Association Francaise pour la diffusion du Patrimoine Photographique, 19 Rue Réaumur – 75003 Paris, Tél. 188.8.131.52 – Fax 184.108.40.206
An American collector in Los Angeles quickly snapped up this antique albumen print as soon as I placed it on the auction market. It’s provenance is from Guernsey’s auction house on Manhattan’s upper east side. This historic artwork was part of an enormous collection originally owned by Thurman Naylor and auctioned off at Guernsey’s.
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War (19 July 1870 – 10 May 1871) was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and Bavaria. The complete Prussian and German victory brought about the final unification of Germany under King Wilhelm I of Prussia. It also marked the downfall of Napoleon III and the end of the Second French Empire, which was replaced by the French Third Republic. As part of the settlement, the territory of Alsace and part of Lorraine was taken by Prussia to become a part of Germany, which it would retain until the end of World War I when it was returned to France in the Treaty of Versailles.
This Spring an eager collector from Zurich, Switzerland acquired my original work of art “Melange”. The picture is a 20×16″ handmade gelatin silver print on double weight matte fiber paper, #1 in an edition of 25 (@ this dimension). It’s signed, titled, and dated on verso in black, archival, lightfast ink. This large collectible, award winning print illustrates a rapidly changing downtown New York cityscape in which architecture of this sort is becoming extinct. Many awards were garnered for the series this photograph is from including public funds from the Manhattan Community Arts Fund, is supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, as well as the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. I also received an award for this work made possible by the Andy Warhol Foundation-via the Abron’s Arts Center, Henry Street Settlement, which selected me as the 2007-2008 darkroom Black & White photography resident.
The USS Pennsylvania leads the USS Colorado, USS Louisville, USS Portland and USS Columbia in a battle line entering the Lingayen Gulf preceding the landing of Luzon in the Philippines in January 1945 (as printed on verso of photograph). Press agency un-identified..Also sold at auction this Spring.