Conceptual - NOMINEE: Zsofi Böhm
Support this photographer - share this work on Facebook.
In the Mecsek Hills in Hungary, uranium mining began in the 1950s, and lasted almost fifty years. The aim was to support the supply of the country's first atomic plant and to contribute to the Soviet Union’s ambition of becoming a nuclear superpower.
An entire modern district was built for those who worked in the mining industry, which today is still called Uranium City. The quality of life, regardless of the physically challenging work, was exceptional in comparison with that of the average citizen of the Eastern Bloc. The tallest building in Uranium City is a 17-storey block of flats. My grandparents live on the 9th floor and when I was 15, I moved there too. I always felt that something was strange about the place, but at that time, I could not understand what it was.
After the fall of communism in 1989, uranium mining was abruptly discontinued because of the high production costs. This created serious economic problems for the area and a rise in unemployment. In addition to the financial hardships there were also serious health problems for those that worked in the mine, due to radiation contamination; many died young from lung cancer. However, there is a common denial of radioactivity amongst the inhabitants, including my own grandparents. They and many of their fellows have always been grateful to the former USSR and its system. The nuclear industry not only pulled them out of financial insecurity, but also elevated their social status into a privileged and respected position. Being a uranium miner and living in Uranium City was prestigious and something to be proud of.
By a dialogue between digital and analogue infrared photographs, the series explores the boundaries of perception and challenges to capture things outside our visible spectrum; dangers not known, events unreported, dreams faded, people forgotten.
Zsofi Böhm is a Hungarian-born photographer, based in the UK, and a recent graduate from the Documentary Photography course at University of South Wales, formerly Newport.
Her practice is inspired by questions regarding social issues, communities on the margins, transition period in Central and Eastern Europe, collective memory, and esentially, new approaches towards documentary. She was recently awarded the Reginald Salisbury Fund 2017 and the Patricia Penn Bursary, and her work was shown in SeenFifteen Gallery, London.