Child-sized gas masks in an elementary school, Pripyat, Chernobyl zone of exclusion (all photographs by Oleg Mastruko)
Journalist Oleg Mastruko has spent eight years searching for the eerie edges of civilization, those areas that seem “dehumanized” and left to abandonment. Now he’s compiling those photographs into a book called Without People to show a world where humanity has vanished. The book is currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo.
While many photographers are interested in abandoned spaces, Mastruko also focuses on the history of why a place has turned to ruin, pairing the story with the striking image. ”We’ve all seen empty hospital rooms or abandoned garages, but if it’s an abandoned garage in Pripyat or underground air force base, then it’s something special,” Mastruko explained to Atlas Obscura. “Many times I’ve heard from the friends who don’t get this magic — ‘Why did you travel halfway around the globe to photograph this? I have something similar to that on my father’s farm.’ Yeah, but, you know, you didn’t have the Chernobyl catastrophe or Korean demilitarized zone or former submarine base or Soviet satellite communication outpost built on your father’s farm — at least not that I know of.”
The photographs include piles of children’s gas masks at Chernobyl, ghost towns in Nevada, Cairo’s City of the Dead, and the old Teufelsberg listening station in Berlin. Yet even without their histories immediately attached to the images, there’s a haunting solitude to them, and something suggestive about the people who once were there. ”Some places in this series are not even abandoned in strict sense — just empty, devoid of humans, dehumanized enough for a moment to suit my taste,” he stated. “Also, despite the name of the series, there are actually people in some photographs. However, they look as if they don’t belong.”
Following the crowdfunding campaign, he aims to release the book later this year. It’s planned to be part of a trilogy that also focuses on photographs of religious temples and the sea. Below are some selections from the Without People series.
City of the Dead, Cairo, Egypt
Spring in full swing in one of the depopulated villages in the Chernobyl zone of exclusion
Detail from the abandoned silver mine, Nevada, USA
Ghost town, Nevada, USA
Former NSA listening post, Teufelsberg, Germany
Naissaar island, Estonia, former Soviet naval mine factory
Yanov Station, Pripyat, Chernobyl zone of exclusion
Without People is funding through March 13 on Indiegogo.