When Nikon approached photographer David de Rueda with the opportunity to help make his ultimate dream project come true, de Rueda knew he wanted to create something “post-apocalyptic and sci-fi.”
De Rueda pitched the idea of a six-week road trip through nine European countries to document Cold War-era abandoned towns and spaces for his Nikon Project Spotlight work.
“The goal was simple and challenging at the same time: explore the most amazing places in order to create a unique set of photographs,” he told Business Insider. “This experience pushed my work beyond my wildest expectations.”
Restricted areas and difficult-to-find spaces were no match for de Rueda and his camera. Through Ukraine, Estonia, Russia, and more, de Rueda trekked, mostly during the night, to capture powerful images of abandoned radar stations, power plants, factories, and even two rarely seen relics of the Soviet space race.
For de Rueda, “to be able to take photographs of [the relics] was the ultimate reward.”
He shared the results of his explorations deep into these creepy, apocalyptic-like areas.
Linnahall is a former concert hall that was completed in Tallinn, Estonia, in 1980. With a two-minute exposure on the camera, de Rueda was able to reveal its architectural structure, which otherwise sat in darkness.
This picture was taken in an unused experimental power facility near Moscow, which was closely guarded by half a dozen dogs. After a little persuasive discussion, the caretaker let de Rueda and his crew in. As the sun was setting, he had a few minutes to find the perfect point of view.
During his travels, de Rueda spent four days in the abandoned Ukrainian city of Pripyat. Founded in 1970, Pripyat was meant to serve as a home base to the scientists and workers at the nearby Soviet nuclear power plant at Chernobyl.
However, on April 26, 1986, an explosion inside the Chernobyl nuclear power plant caused flames and radioactive debris to soar through the air, right over Pripyat. The town's 49,000 residents were evacuated.
Even with brief exposure, the town's inhibitors later experienced health issues due to the blast. Soviet authorities restricted the area around Chernobyl, and Pripyat remained a ghost town. Here's an unknown room in what was once a Pripyat hospital.
'Spending four days in a completely empty and overgrown city is a powerful experience. There was so much to see, I could have spent a whole month there,' de Rueda told Business Insider. Seen here is a waiting room in the remains of the Pripyat hospital.
He even dared to go into the Chernobyl territory. Here's the inside of a cooling tower of a Chernobyl nuclear power plant that was never completed.
De Rueda discovered this strange structure near Sofia, Bulgaria. This mind-twisting image was inspired by 20th-century optical illusion artist M.C. Escher.
Here, two rarely photographed relics of the Soviet space race, found inside a huge abandoned warehouse. To find these subjects, de Rueda had to travel more than 100 miles off the road and walk through a highly restricted area. 'As an explorer, discovering (these) deep in the Kazakhstan desert was the most epic experience I've ever had,' he said.
This is inside the abandoned Buzludzha monument in the mountains of Bulgaria. Built in 1974, the massive statue commemorated socialist communism -- however, the site has been untouched and uncared-for since 1989.
In Budapest, de Rueda explored this derelict train graveyard. Together, his images form a series titled 'The Line.' 'The Line refers to the limit I'm crossing in order to see these places from the other side. Sometimes the line is visible, sometimes not,' de Rueda said.
De Rueda's series includes photos of several places unrelated to the former Soviet Union, like this abandoned radar station in the mountains of Italy. After almost three hours of walking through snow 20 inches deep, de Rueda and his crew reached their subject. A full moon, clear sky, and snow everywhere: the scene was unreal.
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