Norfolk photographer recalls 'deafening silence' of visit to Chernobyl site
PUBLISHED: 10:04 17 June 2019
Lucy Shires, 2012
Mushrooms the size of footballs, horses roaming freely, and a classroom floor littered with children's gas masks.
These are just some of Norfolk photographer Lucy Shires' memories of her 2012 trip to the site of the world's most severe nuclear explosion - Chernobyl.
And as the disaster site sees a rise in popularity as a tourist destination, following the success of the HBO drama exploring the causes and consequences of the Pripyat tragedy, Miss Shires, 37, has shared her experiences and urged others to remember the real victims of the 1986 catastrophe.
"As a photographer I document abandoned places or architecture that's been lost and forgotten.
"That's my passion.
"It's not just grand places. It feels sad that lives are forgotten as well as the buildings."
"Chernobyl was a big one for me - when it happened I was the same age as my son at the time of my visit. He was four and I was four.
"It was unlike any place I'd ever been before. I was immediately just deafened by the silence."
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"I started in the kindergarten - the children there were the same age as my son was at the time [of my visit] and as I would have been at the time [of the disaster].
"The floor was just littered with tiny gas masks. They didn't put them on because they didn't want to cause a panic.
"I was sobbing. It was a cry that I've never felt before."
Signs of life
"It's such a beautiful place, full of wildlife and fruit - all the apples that don't carry any radiation.
"The mushrooms are as big as footballs and the wild horses.
"It's not open and you can't just walk in. There are still people who live there in shifts. They do two weeks on and then two weeks off.
"It's been a clean up project for over 33 years now."
"There are some beautiful memorials but its not enough of an offering to bring remembrance to the lives that were lost there.
"There should have been more of an conscience - globally we should have learned more."
- Miss Shires, now a district councillor for Happisburgh, is hoping to find a way to use her photographs from the trip to benefit the victims of the disaster and asked for people to contact Lucy.Shires@north-norfolk.gov.uk with their suggestions.