If it were possible to take a picture of the entire earth’s surface, the mosaic of human co-existence would be a sight to behold. Some areas are military grounds, mining cities or tourist destinations while others are education hubs just to mention a few. It is hard to appreciate that in the midst of all that are secrets as deep as the mystery of death. In the Dust series, as created by Nadav Kander’s, images of crows illuminated against the light of the moon in the darkness symbolizes how difficult it is to hide the truth. These images appear in the first three spreads, perhaps to prepare one’s mind to the secrets about to be uncovered.
When Kander traveled to the area that borders Russia and Kazakhstan, his intention had been to take pictures that would artistically portray destruction in the ruins. It was while there that he realized that besides the totality of destruction, there lie elements of darkness in the human soul. The ruins are but a tool to illustrate the secrets of humanity that leave so many questions unanswered.
Where is Kurchatov (Курчатов)?
The meaning of the photos
Through his photos, Kander does not mean to find words to tell the story of what the picture captures, neither does he desire to create a documentary of how the ruins came to be; he opens up the human soul for all to see. Many people might not be aware of the existence of secret Soviet towns, once used to test nuclear missiles. All that remains now is a massive deserted landscape of radioactivity. Kurchatov is such a city that, although closed up until recently, has never appeared on any official maps; until Google Earth jumped into action.
Surprisingly, Kander takes hauntingly beautiful pictures of the aftermath of the Cold War which are a result of the relentless effort to develop nuclear armaments. The artist is particular that his pictures bear subjects that cause people to think about the tensions of everyday life. They are in a way a mirror that reflects death upon life and imperfection upon beauty.
Unlike other artworks that speak in form of words, Kander’s photographs depict nothing intellectualizing. While it is true that pictures move us when they have a story to tell, it is equally true that the weight, feeling, and composition of a setup can stir up certain emotions. What happens to a secret with time? They wilt and wither and this is the same thing we expect of these pictures 1,000 years from now; Dust!
The Aral Sea
The Polygon Nuclear Test Site
All images by Nadav Kander/nadavkander.com unless otherwise noted.
Video: Nadav Kander about ‘Dust’
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