In Nadav Kander’s latest series of photographs, entitled ‘Dust’, he unearths a barely breathing dystopia of unknown cities lining Kazakhstan’s border. Purposefully concealed and then destroyed in the wake of the cold war, the cities’ sculptural remnants of debris and rubble gasp amongst traces of radiation and toxicity. Despite claims of the cities’ desolation while nuclear testing was carried out, its civilians were left poisoned and their landscapes bereft. Though the war was named ‘cold’ due to the stand off of its super-powers never climaxing to full-blown nuclear warfare, here the scars of secret detonations can still be seen.

Echoing these half-states of destruction, are Kander’s earlier photographs of the Yangtze River. Shot between 2006-2008, they capture a time when China’s late seize of capitalism saw buildings callously constructed without regard to what went before. Like those in ‘Dust’, the images of vast landscapes in dream-state stillness with muted tones and spectral light, hint at the pollution that is causing havoc on the land and its people. With 1 out of 18 people on earth living along the Yangtze River, it absorbs half of China’s waste water, and the ferocious stride of progress is rendering it dead.

What both series of photographs allude to is the susceptibility of the citizen and their landscape to the potency of governmental power. This is seen by the epic scale of man-made remnants in decay and at times the diminutive humans next to them. These lonely figures still standing whether human or structure are silent, but speak of a blasting noise of eradication that once was or is about to be. 

And yet there is beauty in their vulnerability. In Polygon Nuclear Test Site I, an obsidian oblong veined with white, mimics a monument of prehistory like “a child left out in the cold on their own”. In Qinghai Province II, a bridge falls forlornly into the red mud of the river’s blood, naked of people. Over time these structures and their landscapes have grown into each other despite the septic chaos surrounding them. It is these photographs that Kander says, are a “palm print of man”, “human traces which can tell us more about ourselves than ourselves.”

Nadav Kander ''Dust'' is currently showing at the Flowers Gallery in New York until May 7th 2016

Text by Shana Chandra | S/TUDIO