Photographer Nadav Kander’s latest series of photographs ‘Dust’ exhibited at Flowers, London, explore the vestiges of the Cold War era through the radioactive ruins of secret cities on the border between Kazakhstan and Russia. The works are rooted in the artist’s interest in the ‘aesthetics of destruction’ with a series of desolate and haunting landscapes.
Kander is probably best known for the series of works ‘Yangtze – The Long River’, for which he earned the Prix Pictet award in 2009. Other series include ‘Obama’s People’, a portrait series of 52 works commissioned by New York Times Magazine. The photographer showed his recent portraits for the National Portrait Gallery exhibition ‘Road to 2012’. Kander’s work is included in several public collections including National Portrait Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum and the Frank Suss Collection The artist has exhibited at galleries such as the Palais de Tokyo, the Herzilya Museum of Contemporary Art, Israel and the Musée De L’Elysee, Lausanne. Kander was named International Photographer of the Year at the 7th Annual Lucie Awards in 2009.
The title of the works references the T.S. Elliot quote “I will show you fear in a handful of dust” – and is evocative or an era that left oppenheimer as ‘the destroyer of worlds’. The images reflect on an area of desolate and restricted military zones where hundreds of atomic bombs were detonated near to populated areas right up until 1989. This was so that covert studies by the could be made into the effects of radiation on its unsuspecting inhabitants.
The photographer shared how the ticking of the Geiger counter on his belt while he photographed the desolation reminded him that he should not become too enthralled with the aesthetic allure of the collapsing ruins.
Nadav’s images are haunting and vivid works, capturing the details of lost landscapes with a deafening silence. The romanticism of the ancient ruins of some lost city gives way to something far more sinister. The artist’s works reflect ‘the debris of fear’ location lost through evacuation, left to rot in the hollow landscape – the photographs capture an eerie quality; the death of a society and the slow death of its detritus as it collapses back into the radioactive earth. Thus might go all cities if left unchecked.
This image ‘The Aral Sea’ is of the half-destroyed officers’ housing and was taken in the Aral Sea area. The location was a launch site for the long-distance missiles tracked in Priozersk. It is Kander’s favourite from this series of works. The front of the building appears intact yet the side slumps away into the earth. As with many of Nadav’s works; the image is silent, dieing, and very beautiful.
The oeuvre speaks to the very human contradiction of finding beauty in the horrific; an attraction born from a strange aesthetic which finds a romanticism, if not in the images themselves; but in the nature of the loss that they represent.
Nadav Kander – Dust – Flowers – until 11 October
Words: Paul Black © Artlyst 2014 Photos Courtesy of Artlyst all rights reserved