Monday, May 09, 2005

Kid of Speed

elenaEver so often I run across a website that illustrates what a fascinating World Wide Web we weave. Allow me to introduce Elena Filatova, a Ukrainian woman with stories to tell, maybe more than she is letting on. To make a long story short, this is adapted from Wikipedia:
Elena (Lena) Filatova (Russian: Елена Филатова) (born 1974) is a Ukrainian motorcyclist who gained Internet fame, under the nickname KiddOfSpeed, after her web site was mentioned at Slashdot and other online news sources.

On her web site, she posted photographs of her alleged motorcycle trips in the area around the Chernobyl nuclear plant, 18 years after the nuclear accident there. She mainly visited the virtually abandoned city of Pripyat, Ukraine.

The photos are arranged in the form of a story presented as an account of a biker's trip who somehow got a permit to travel alone in the radiation zone. The accuracy of that story has since been questioned. It has been alleged that Filatova visited the Chernobyl exclusion zone only as part of an organized tour. The story itself showed a number of discrepancies and factual inaccuracies called for criticism of her initial account. Later versions of the story were corrected.

Nevertheless, the actual value of Elena's story is neither her degree of personal involvement nor her narrative, but the photos themselves. While some of them could have been staged to a degree (one of the points of criticism), she obviously could not have staged the whole ghost town. While there are numerous accounts of the consequences of the catastrophe, Elena presented it to the world in a way never done before.

Recently Elena's original homepage was replaced with a new photojournal about the Serpent's Wall near the city of Kiev, her home. The new journal contains photos of Elena's exploration of an ancient wall and more modern World War II fortifications built among its remains.
Indeed there does seem to be something not quite right about her Chernobyl trip story. At least one illustration seems to my eye "Photoshopped." It also appears she has made multiple rides in the vicinity of Chernobyl and has compressed them without actually saying so. Maybe she was just trying to make a good story better and expected neither the tremendous interest in her website nor the critical attention it received.

But all that aside, what is not discountable are the photographs showing the effects of the world's worst nuclear accident on the surrounding countryside. Her other photojournal that discusses the battlefields around Kiev are not under question and stand on their own. Her site is a testimony to the power of the internet and WWW to both tell a story, open a window into another part of the world, and invite critical assessment.

The link associated with the title is to her most commonly linked site. However here is her Anglefire hosted site that seems to have been update recently.

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