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 Then in Escape, which last year became his first book, he documented the lives of people who have withdrawn from society and live remotely as hermits in the forests of Russia and Ukraine.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