We had a very moving and thought-provoking meeting on Monday April 29th when Graham Harries visited us from Llanelli with his talk "Visions of Silence - Chernobyl 32 Years Later"
Dorchester Camera Club, Wareham Club Club and many local people had a close relationship with Chernobyl through the annual visit of Children from Chernobyl to South Dorset. Many of those involved were in the audience and there was a small display of photos showing some of the children. It was a topic close to many hearts.
Graham began with a brief introduction to himself - he is a professional sport and music photographer, and covers other genres too. He is also one of West Wales' top wedding photographers. A very accomplished man! He gave us a tantalising glimpse of some of this wonderful work, much of which has appeared in the national press.
His Chernobyl film was an impressive production incorporating contemporary news clips, archive photographs and film, maps, sounds and narrative accompanied by sympathetic music and video effects. He took us with him on his journey around Chernobyl itself, the surrounding area and into Belarus.
He went in the winter when the ground was covered with snow. This kept the dust down but was slippery and you did not know what was under the surface or where was safe to walk. Summer visits, however, are impractical because of the heat. Everything becomes overgrown. Also although the site is now 'safe' there were lots of warnings - you couldn't sit down or put a bag down, for example, and you had to undergo checks for radioactive substances on your clothes before leaving the area. The site is also derelict, the buildings crumbling and metal rusting so there are risks beyond radio-activity. You cannot obtain travel insurance for visits to Chernobyl! Despite this, Chernobyl is now a surprisingly popular tourist destination and Graham had the freedom to wander round by himself once the necessary permits and visas had been received.
The room was silent throughout Graham's talk - everyone was absolutely engrossed but at the end there were a large number of questions at the end from the audience, all interested to learn more.
A very different evening but a fascinating one which really made us think - and if there had been a second explosion, very narrowly averted, Europe would be a very different place today as the fall-out would have covered half the continent.