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Danila Tkachenko’s high-key pho­to­graphs use aban­doned mil­i­tary and space hard­ware from the Soviet era to ex­am­ine hu­man­ity’s quest for tech­no­log­i­cal progress. He re­veals why and how he pho­to­graphs ‘se­cret’ cities

Far from pop­u­la­tion cen­tres and still shrouded in se­crecy, relics of Rus­sia’s Soviet-era past lie aban­doned and all but for­got­ten. They range from de­funct space hard­ware to de­serted mil­i­tary build­ings, ob­ser­va­to­ries and once state-of-the-art aero­planes and sub­marines. Pub­lic ac­cess is re­stricted. Moscow-based pho­tog­ra­pher Danila Tkachenko has made it his mis­sion to lo­cate and record th­ese fas­ci­nat­ing relics in his new book, Re­stricted Ar­eas.

Tkachenko, an­swer­ing ques­tions via email while trav­el­ling in a re­mote re­gion of north­ern Rus­sia, is keen to point out that the project is not specif­i­cally about his coun­try’s past; he in­tends it to have a wider so­cial and cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance. “I don’t speak in this se­ries about the Soviet era,” he says. “What is more in­ter­est­ing to me is the fate of tech­nol­o­gy­ori­ented so­ci­ety, and utopian think­ing. I used the relics of the Soviet era as dec­o­ra­tions for ex­press­ing my idea.”

The 26-year-old Rus­sian pho­tog­ra­pher grad­u­ated from the Rod­chenko Moscow School of Pho­tog­ra­phy and Mul­ti­me­dia last year, where he spe­cialised in doc­u­men­tary pho­tog­ra­phy. He has al­ready won a num­ber of awards for his work, in­clud­ing a World Press Photo award in 2013. Last year he was short­listed for Mag­num’s ‘30 Un­der 30’ and the Le­ica Oskar Bar­nack Award.

Tkachenko’s projects ex­plore sub­jects in depth, and over a long pe­riod. In

Tran­si­tion Age he shot per­cep­tive por­traits of teenagers and the ur­ban land­scapes in which they lived, fo­cus­ing on “loss of child­hood and tran­si­tion to adult­hood”. Then in Es­cape, which last year be­came his first book, he doc­u­mented the lives of peo­ple who have with­drawn from so­ci­ety and live re­motely as her­mits in the forests of Rus­sia and Ukraine.

This year, Re­stricted Ar­eas was the win­ner of the both the Euro­pean Pub­lish­ers Award for Pho­tog­ra­phy and the Len­scul­ture Ex­po­sure award. It will be si­mul­ta­ne­ously pub­lished by five dif­fer­ent pub­lish­ers in five lan­guages.

The project be­gan af­ter Tkachenko vis­ited his grand­mother in a pre­vi­ously ‘se­cret’ city in Rus­sia’s Chelyabinsk re­gion. “The city is still re­stricted for vis­its and I could get in­side only be­cause of my grand­mother,” he ex­plains.

[Above, left] Ex­ca­va­tor on a closed quarry [Above] The world’s largest diesel sub­ma­rine [Left] Iso­lated stages of space rock­ets

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