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By Jim Heid | Thursday, June 30, 2011

Douglas Kirkland and Gerd Ludwig discuss photography, business, and Chernobyl

Photojournalist Gerd Ludwig at his home in Los Angeles (Jim Heid photo).

Photojournalist Gerd Ludwig at his home in Los Angeles (Jim Heid photo).

Successful photographers must combine their creative passion with the ability to evolve along with the industry—and the economy. That’s just one of the messages in our new course, Douglas Kirkland on Photography: A Conversation with Gerd Ludwig.

In this latest installment of his series, Douglas visits his friend Gerd Ludwig, a photojournalist best known for his work in National Geographic magazine. Ludwig has taken a special interest in Russia and the former Soviet Union—in particular, the people and stories surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Ludwig has photographed Chernobyl several times over the years. He wanted to return to document the conditions there today, but support from the traditional publishing industry wasn’t there. So he turned to the crowd—specifically, to Kickstarter.com, the crowdfunding website. He created a project proposal containing text and video descriptions of his project. He raised more than $23,000 from 435 backers and in March, he departed for Chernobyl.

Douglas visited with Ludwig in his home on the day before he left, and the course includes a tour of his gear and a look at how he packs for an expedition. When he returned, he and Douglas met in our studio to look at Ludwig’s photos and talk about Chernobyl today.

Capturing the conversation between Douglas Kirkland and Gerd Ludwig (Jim Heid photo).

Capturing the conversation between Douglas Kirkland and Gerd Ludwig (Jim Heid photo).

On his latest trip, Ludwig also shot video in the depths of the poisoned reactor using a tiny video camera strapped to his protective helmet. As he says after he and Douglas watch the footage, video is “the new work of a photojournalist or documentary photographer.”

And Ludwig’s photos? They’re powerful and moving visual essays on the nightmare of Chernobyl and on how the area is being changed by residents who have moved back, and, incredibly, by tourists who visit to take photos.

Douglas Kirkland on Photography: A Conversation with Gerd Ludwig is a bit of a departure for us, a combination of instruction and inspiration. We hope you’ll watch and let us know what you think.

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