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Camera Work in Berlin Exhibits the Photographs of Nadav Kander and Robert Polidori
Robert Polidori, Unit 4 Control Room, Chernobyl, 2001. © Robert Polidori. Photo: Courtesy Camera Work.

BERLIN.- Camera Work exhibits “Yangtze - The Long River” by Nadav Kander and “Pripyat and Chernobyl“ by Robert Polidori, certainly two of the most impressive series of recent photographic history. The photographs of both artists are striking reminders of the impact of mankind's intervention in its environment.

Nadav Kander’s Photo Series, awarded with the prestigious Prix Pictet in 2009, uniquely documents the rapid structural change along the Chinese Yangtze River. A current catalogue, published by HATJE CANTZ, with a foreword by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, accompanies the exhibition. Robert Polidori, on the other hand, belongs to the first photographers who in 2001 had access to the restricted zone of the Ukrainian industrial city of Pripyat and the nearby nuclear power station Chernobyl, with the nuclear accident having its 25th anniversary on April 26th, 2011. Polidori’s photographs impressively document the effects of the unquestionably biggest industrial disaster of the post-war period.

Nadav Kander’s photographs, lacking sunlight and bathed in white haze and fog, reflect the epochal change of China. The Yangtze River, the lifeline of China and the third longest river in the world, has become a symbol of the constant and inexorable change of the nation. The photographer, born in Israel in 1962, has been revisiting the river over the course of three years, from 2005 to 2007, in order to document the life in over 186 cities and countless villages, all situated along the mouth of the river and all the way up to its spring in the Himalayas. Here, the photographer focuses on the drastic consequences of the economic boom on mankind. Gigantic bridges, underneath which people are having a leisurely picnic, colossal buildings of concrete accommodating thousands of people, or enormous hills of rubble and mud, where a woman is doing the dishes, are in stark contrast with the last traces of the original nature, which in most places has remained only barely visible. The result is a detailed picture of a country where tradition and modernity are in enormous conflict.

Fifteen years after the disastrous meltdown in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Robert Polidori approached the place of horror with his large format camera in a quite objective and detached way in 2001. Polidori was one of the few chosen people who were even granted access to the control room of the exploded block IV. The photographer was allowed to enter the life-threatening room with a safety-suit and a gas mask on for only five minutes. Polidori offers the observer a dreadful view at a place, which today even seems extraterrestrial and where a fatal chain of human mistakes led to an incomparable catastrophe. Polidori’s photographs which were taken in the industrial city of Pripjat, impressively document that the inhabitants had to leave their lives behind immediately. Various lootings in the hazardous restricted area have now destroyed the original image, but the photographer was nonetheless able to find traces of social life. The crimson blackboard in a classroom, still bearing writing on it, gas masks ominously scattered on the ground, or the remains of an operating room are all ubiquitous evidence that gives the viewer an impression of the panic-stricken scenes which must have occurred at the time.

Nadav Kander won the highly distinguished Pictet Prix with his series “Yangtze - The Long River” in 2009. In the same year he attracted great attention with the series “Obama's People”. The New York Time Magazine printed the complete and repeatedly award-winning 52-page series in the course of a special edition for the swearing-in of the American president. The impressive series is on view until spring 2011 in the museum THE KENNEDYS, located near the Brandenburg Gate. Nadav Kander works for various magazines, such as Another Man, Dazed & Confused, The Rolling Stone, The Sunday Times Magazine, The New York Times. For many years, Kander's photographs have been an integral part of distinguished collections such as those of the VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM (London), the NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY (London) and are furthermore exhibited in the ROYAL PHOTOGRAPHIC SOCIETY (Bath), the TATE MUSEUM (London) and the PALAIS DE TOKYO (Paris). Nadav Kander was born in Israel, raised in South Africa and now lives in London.

Robert Polidori who was born in Montreal in 1951, Canada, currently lives in New York and Paris. Extensive photo articles published in such magazines as The New Yorker – for which he works as editorial photographer alongside Martin Schoeller - Architectural Digest, Geo, or Vanity Fair marked the foundation of Polidori’s international success, which has officially been recognized by his receiving awards such as the Deutsche Photbuchpreis or the Albert-Eisenstaedt-Award. International Museum exhibitions like the METROPOLITAN MUSEUM (New York), the MARTIN-GROPIUS-BAU (Berlin) or the MUSÉE D’ART CONTEMPORAIN DE MONTRÉAL (Montreal), further add to his numerous gallery exhibitions. Apart from the splendid photographs of the palaces of the world, Polidori also documents the often devastating impact of human encroachment upon his environment, as exemplified by his haunting series on the Chernobyl disaster and his documentation of the impact of hurricane "Katrina" in 2005. Numerous publications elaborate on the extensive work of Polidori and have been published in recent years, including our edition “Exclusion zones: Pripyat and Chernobyl”, which accompanies our exhibition and was published by the STEIDL Verlag.

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