May 13 – June 18, 2022  at Photography Gallery (Vasario 16-osios st. 11, Panevėžys)

“Babochka” (Butterfly) is a photographic study of the remote and largely unknown Lithuanian town of Visaginas – an ex-Soviet town that is defined by its sole purpose to house the workers and builders of what was once the world’s most powerful nuclear power station. A mixture of the everyday and the monumental, J.Tacon and L.Griffith joint project seamlessly takes the viewer on a journey from the very core of power station to the town and its people. It reveals a story of purpose, place and identity and challenges the very notion of what it means to be European at a time when the very concept of Europe is under scrutiny.

Set near the border of Latvia and Belarus, the Ignalina twin-reactor plant had big ambitions which secured a lucrative future for the people of Visaginas. However, the idea of an ex-Soviet nuclear power plant in the heart of Europe that shared the same RBMK reactor technology as the ill-fated Chernobyl, proved unpalatable for Brussels, and its decommissioning became a central condition of Lithuania’s acceptance into the European Union.

The impact on the town of Visaginas, became the subject of J.Tacon and L.Griffith study. As they immersed themselves into the once closed community of largely Russian nationals that still live in the town and gained unprecedented access to the deeply-guarded inner sanctum of the power station itself, a picture of pride, survival, community and a fractured identity emerged.

At a time when the very concept of Europe is economically uncertain and central to heightened political debate, Lithuania reveals itself as a country whose people are in search of an enduring identity and a place at the European table. And with further questions raging around the nuclear energy debate, and the revelation of the actual costs associated with decommissioning the UK’s and Europe’s ageing nuclear power stations, “Babochka” is very much a story of our time.