On the Ukrainian side of the Ukrainian-Belarusian border lies the radioactively contaminated city of Pripyat, pop. 0, whose 50,000-or-so inhabitants were evacuated in the days following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. While some defied the order to leave the region entirely, Pripyat itself remains abandoned. The city’s infrastructure was, at the time, impressive and less than 20 years old—but no humans have made use of it in a generation. The few photographic expeditions to the city in recent years have given us a strange sort of monument to our absence, a clue that tells us what the great cities of the world might look like if we were all to disappear tomorrow. But we’ve had no real sense of what it would be like to actually move around in Pripyat.
Freelance filmmaker Danny Cooke has given us three minutes of amazing aerial drone footage showing most of the city’s major buildings, abandoned toys and cradles, patriotic art that nobody has looked at, floors full of papers and gas masks—everything you would expect to see, and some things that you would not. While some have suggested that Pripyat is haunted by ghosts, Cooke’s footage makes it clear that the city is itself a ghost; it is a piece of a community’s spirit, forever frozen in place and lost in time.