Gerd Ludwig

National Geographic photographer, speaker, teacher, author of several photo books, most recently "minus 2/3" and "Sleeping Cars"

433 posts 358,820 followers 282 following

The outcome of the Russian Presidential elections on March 18 is not in doubt: President Vladimir Putin is widely expected to win another term in office. He called the church as vital to Russia’s security as its nuclear shield. I last photographed Putin at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow at the enthronement of Patriarch Kirill several years ago. Here Putin congratulates the Patriarch and receives his blessings. Symbolic of the Russian Orthodox Church’s claim that it has authority over the state, the cross on the miter of Patriarch Kirill casts a shadow onto Putin’s forehead. Initially, a puzzle to political pundits Putin was raised Orthodox, but rose through the ranks of the KGB. Joining with reformers he was handpicked by his predecessor Yeltsin and first elected to highest office in 1999, and led the country either as Prime Minister of as President ever since.

@natgeocreative @natgeo @thephotosociety #Putin #RussianOrthodox #Cathedral #Moscow


Seven years ago, the Tohoku Earthquake and the subsequent tsunami lead to the Fukushima catastrophe.  In the following weeks, while television audiences around the globe watched the nightly news of the tragedy unfold in Japan, others were experiencing the aftermath of a nuclear disaster firsthand. They were traveling to Chernobyl – as tourists.

While one can view and label this kind of tourism as morbid, Chernobyl registers an increasing number of Japanese visitors interested to learn what the region around Fukushima may have to endure in future years.
@natgrapcreative @natgeo @thephotosociety #Fukushima #Chernobyl #tourism


Here is a first gallery of photographs that workshop participants took during my previous workshops at the Salton Sea.

After a one-year break I am resuming to teach the 6-day documentary photography workshop titled ‘The Art of Storytelling’. An official event of MOPLA (Month of Photography LA), it will take place in Los Angeles and on location along the Salton Sea from April 15 to April 21. To learn more about the workshop, follow the link in my bio.  The Salton Sea is an all-American Story about an ecosystem gone haywire. A victim of geography and hard-ball politics, the Salton Sea is California’s largest, most troubled lake. It lies 227 feet below sea level.

With low levels of rainfall and only few inlets, it depends on the Imperial Valley’s agricultural run-offs for its survival. The run-offs, however, are filled with nutrients from the fields, creating algae blooms that deplete the Sea’s oxygen and kill much of its fish population. In the 1990’s this oxygen depletion created a massive tilapia die-off. Now another concern is looming. Already 25% saltier than the Pacific Ocean, the salinity in the Salton Sea is expected to constantly increase, potentially killing all of its life and turning it into a biologically dead sea.

Abandoned, salt-encrusted structures on the Salton Sea shore; bubbling mud pots and small mud volcanoes; dying palm tree assembles; America’s lowest community Bombay Beach (223 feet under sea level and  one of California’s poorest); the visionary Salvation Mountain, an artwork hill painted by the late artist Leonard Knight;  Slab City, a ‘snowbird’ community of hundreds of retirees and squatters; the experimental art installation East Jesus; and the communities of Salton City, Salton Sea Beach and Niland have inspired participants to produce great work during previous workshops. (Keep an eye out for more galleries by my workshop students during the next couple of weeks). @taylorjohnturner Karen Schuenemann @mpmartin_photography @davidmorganphoto @saracheeks @hellorozette @juncam @kristenzephyrus #SaltonSea #California #photoworkshop



A setting sun casts a fiery glow over a crop duster spreading pesticides in an Imperial Valley, California, field near the Salton Sea. In addition to controlling insects, bacterial diseases, and weeds, crop dusting can be used to apply fertilizers, delay fruit ripening, increase or decrease the number of fruit a plant produces, and defoliate plants to facilitate harvest. Biologists and farmers continue to weigh its costs and benefits.

After a one-year break I am again teaching my 6-day documentary photography workshop titled ‘Salton Sea - The Art of Storytelling’. An official event of the Month of Photography LA, it will take place in Los Angeles and on location at California’s Salton Sea from April 15 to April 21, 2018. To learn more about the workshop, follow the link in bio.

Abandoned, salt-encrusted structures on the sea shore; bubbling mud volcanoes; Bombay Beach, America’s lowest community and one of California’s poorest; visionary Salvation Mountain, an artwork hill painted by a naïve artist;  Slab City, a ‘snowbird’ community of retirees and squatters; the experimental art installation East Jesus; and the sad communities of Salton City, Salton Sea Beach and Niland have all inspired my workshop participants to create amazing photographs in the past.

@thephotosociety @natgeocreative @natgeo #SaltonSea #California #sunset #cropduster #pesticides #agriculture #ImperialValley #photoworkshop


Flashback to 1970, a photograph shot during my first assignment abroad as a photography student. Rebel without a cause, a young boy in a poor Sicilian village is publicly smoking a cigarette. Predating anti-smoking campaigns, public childhood smoking occasionally occurred in plain view in poor neighborhoods in parts of Europe and Asia.

@thephotosociety @natgeo @natgeocreative  #Italy #Sicily #cigarette #childhoodsmoking


A reindeer herder on his sled at daybreak near Saranpaul’. Traditional life for indigenous clans is being threatened by booming oil development in the Khanty-Mansiysk region, where the natural resources that support their cultural heritage are in peril. The expansive modernization and economic growth generated by Russia’s oil and gas industry have been a blessing for most of the Khanty-Mansiysk region’s 1.5 million inhabitants, but not all. Roughly 30,000 indigenous people hailing from the area’s Khanty and Mansi tribes still populate the region, but their traditional way of life is quickly disappearing.

@thephotosociety @natgeocreative @natgeo #reindeer #Siberia #Russia #Saranpaul#indigenous #Khanty #Mansi #KhantyMansiysk #winter



In the living room of their small apartment in Zelenograd in the outskirts of Moscow, a dedicated young cosplay couple - he a banker and she an interior designer - act out a cosplay performance. Some people call them “Furries”, however, since they own a variety of costumes Alexandr and Victorya consider themselves cosplayers.

Cosplay, a shortening of the words costume and play, is a performance art during which participants wear costumes, masks, and accessories to depict specific characters. Cosplayers are a subculture who convene at festivals or perform on or apart from stages. The characters stem from comic books and cartoons, live-action films, or video games. Cosplaying initially became a popular culture phenomenon in Japan but has since spread worldwide.

You can view an earlier gallery and see them in a different costume and more cosplayers in Moscow in my feed.

@natgeocreative @natgeo @thephotosociety #Russia #Moscow #cosplay  #costume #apartment #portrait


Sometimes the Goddess of Photography has mercy on you and throws you a bone unexpectedly. Following the route of the explorer Vitus Bering, one morning in Tobolsk, Siberia the sun lifted the fog as a lone man crossed the street in the far distance. In 1725, Danish-born navigator, Vitus Jonassen Bering, led two far-reaching naval expeditions devised by Peter The Great to explore the eastern most limits of the Russian Empire, and to establish whether or not America and Asia were separate continents. During his second expedition, known as The Great Northern Expedition, his vessel reached the Alaskan shore but during his return the ship got stranded on one of the Commander Islands. Several of his men perished of malnutrition or scurvy, and Bering himself died on 19 December 1741 on the island that now bears his name, Bering Island – as do many of his other landmark discoveries: Bering Strait, Bering Sea, Bering Glacier, and Bering Land Bridge.

In 1585-1586 during the first Russian advance into Siberia, Tobolsk was founded by Yermak's Cossacks, a famous (and sometimes infamous), resilient and self-reliant culture from which Bering was quick to seek recruits for his arduous expeditions. When Bering landed in Tobolsk in the 1700s, its population was around 10,000 - today its inhabitants near 100,000 - one of whom is here crossing the street on a foggy morning.

@thephotosociety @natgeo @natgeocreative #Tobolsk #Russia #Siberia


International Holocaust Remembrance day. The Holocaust Memorial located near the Brandenburg Gate in the center of Berlin is a city-block-filling maze of solid gray sarcophagi, where visitors can find themselves sunken into lifeless canyons of grief. Designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold,the enormous sculpture is officially known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and represents a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.  @thephotosociety @natgeocreative  @natgeo #Germany #Berlin #Holocaust #memorial #sculpture #PeterEisenman #Jews #tourism



Forty years ago, I went on a journey to the Lower Rhine with Joseph Beuys, one of the world’s most renowned artists of the second half of the 20th century, just before his solo exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC. It led us back to Beuys’ origins, back to his roots, into the city of Kleve and its surroundings where his life began. I captured Beuys as he was reconnecting with his past. To him, it was a gaze back into the landscape of the Lower Rhine with its deep horizons and soaring skies - very simple and with depth. Sparse, like his works. Joseph Beuys died 32 years ago, on January 23, 1986. Some of the photos were published in the German weekly “Zeit-Magazin”. However, a corpus of this work remained unpublished and long unseen by the public. A fine art edition of 21 images (available from the @faheyklein gallery) can be seen on my website at
@thephotosociety #beuys #art #artist #Kleve #Germany #LowerRhine #hat


This gallery of photographs was taken over several years in various locations in Russia.

Today, on the eve of Russian Orthodox Epiphany, which falls on January 19th (as the Russian Orthodox Church follows the Julian Calendar) thousands of Russians – young and old - prepare to do what they do on Epiphany every year. They gather on frozen rivers and lakes all across their vast country to take a dip in the icy priest-blessed waters. This is believed to cleanse the soul of sins and protect the faithful from evil. According to Orthodox Christian tradition, this January feast day celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan.

@thephotosociety @natgeo @natgeocreative #Russia #RussianOrthodox #Epiphany #religion #Christianity #iceswimming


Inside Baiterek in Astana, Kazakstan, visitors place their hand in a golden imprint cast of President Nazarbayev’s right hand, the national anthem sounds and a nearby plaque suggests to make a wish.

Baiterek is the quintessential symbol of Astana, itself alluding to a Kazakh folktale of the mythic bird Samruk and its golden egg, laid high in a poplar tree. The Baiterek monument and observation tower has become the symbol of Astana (see earlier posts) and was supposedly sketched out by President Nazarbayev himself. Astana is a futuristic city that has risen from a forsaken landscape and post-Soviet rubble. In 1997, the small town of Akmola replaced Almaty as capital of Kazakhstan, and subsequently was renamed Astana (meaning "The Capital" in Kazakh). The planned city has exploded in population and is now home to ultramodern buildings and skyscrapers.

Today, Nazarbayev is meeting with Trump in Washington. Nazarbayev has been president since the creation of the office after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990. In 2007, the Parliament of Kazakhstan approved a constitutional amendment which allows Nazarbayev to seek re-election as often as he wishes. This amendment only applies to Nazarbayev, but subsequent presidents will be restricted to a five-year term.

@natgeo @natgeocreative @thephotosociety #Baiterek #Astana #Kazakhstan #Nazarbayev #gold



A doll with a gas mask in an abandoned kindergarten in Pripyat (inside the Nuclear Exclusion Zone). At 1:23 am on April 26, 1986 reactor #4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant blew up. The radioactive fallout spread over thousands of square kilometers, driving more than a quarter of a million people permanently from their homes. More than 100,000 people may have succumbed to Chernobyl-related illnesses.

In 2011, the Ukrainian government legalized trips to the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Chernobyl has since become a disaster-tourism destination.

The most riveting attraction for visitors is the ghost town of Pripyat. Formerly home to almost 50,000 people, Pripyat is now in decay: dolls are scattered in abandoned kindergartens, floors are rotting, paint is peeling from the walls, and gas masks litter evacuated schools.

Three decades later, tourists and guides are creating a bewildering disturbance, as they assemble tableaux to illustrate the flight from disaster. The most repeated motif: a lonely doll neatly arranged with or next to a gas mask. The ever-falling chips of chalk from the ceilings have blanketed some of these “still-lifes,” furthering the illusion for the next visitor that this is how the evacuees hastily abandoned the scene. With so many rearranged scenes—many of the same themes repeated—the uncritical observer may believe these sights to be an authentic representation of the disaster’s aftermath.

You can learn more about Chernobyl from my iPad app and book The Long Shadow of Chernobyl.

@thephotosociety @natgeo @natgeocreative #Chernobyl #Pripyat #stilllife #abandoned  #radiation #doll #gasmask #LongShadowofChernobyl


In recognition of Russian Orthodox Christmas this Sunday, here is Father Sevastyan meditating on the Gospels at Svyato-Kazansky hermitage, one of many Russian Orthodox communities resurrected across the land (shot on assignment for @natgeo a few years back). After being driven underground by Soviet rule for nearly 80 years, the Russian Orthodox Church has been restored to its former splendor as the center of Russia’s identity — spiritually and architecturally. Like many of the Eastern Christian churches, the Russian Orthodox Church did not make the switch from the Julian to the Gregorian Calendar in 1582. The new calendar was necessary because middle age astronomers had realized that the Julian Calendar was out of sync with the suns trajectory around the earth. The centerpiece of the calendar reform was the omission of the dates between October 5th and October 15th of that year. Consequently, December 25th of the Julian Calendar is January 7th on the Gregorian calendar. Therefore, Eastern and Western Christians celebrate Christmas at different times.

@thephotosociety @natgeo @natgeocreative #Russia #SvyatoKazansky #priest #religion #RussianOrthodoxChurch #snow #church #meditation


For many years now, I have been photographing a project called “Sleeping Cars.” It all started with this hibernating car that caught my eye in Russia over 10 years ago. Several months later, a friend of mine made an interesting comment while we were stuck in LA traffic - he said, “I wonder where all these cars go to sleep at night.” These moments gave birth to a project about resting cars that developed over the following years. On my dedicated @sleepingcars IG feed, I am posting photographs of sleeping cars from around the world – specifically images that were shot in Los Angeles. Many of these photographs were published in my book, Sleeping Cars, released in 2017 by Edition Lammerhuber. Additionally, some of the photos have been shown in a solo exhibit at the @faheykleingallery in Los Angeles. If you are a car lover, be sure to follow @sleepingcars to keep up with the latest content.

@thephotosociety @natgeo @natgeocreative  #Russia #SleepingCars #SleepingCarsBook #car #snow #winter #carlovers #carlover #carculture #cars



A beech tree forest near my hometown of Alsfeld in the state of Hesse, Germany. Since my early childhood years, hiking through the forests of the Vogelsberg, a volcanic mountain range in the German Central Uplands, made me feel like walking through a winter wonderland.

@thephotosociety @natgeo @natgeocreative #Hesse #Germany #Vogelsberg #beechtrees #forest #snow


All dolled up but overwhelmed by her surroundings, a young girl heads to her aunt’s Quinceañera, a coming-of-age rite for Latina girls turning 15. Mexican Americans make up more than 70 percent of Imperial County, the state’s poorest,  which borders Southern California’s ill- fated Salton Sea.

After a one-year break, I will resume teaching my Salton See Photography workshop titled The Art of Storytelling in April of 2018. If you want to read more about it go to my fb artist page and follow the link to my website.

@thephotosociety @natgeo @natgeocreative #festive #photoworkshop #SaltonSea


A rediscovered tourist attraction following German reunification, the Bastei is a rock formation scaling roughly 194 meters above the Elbe River in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains of Germany. Not far from the city of Dresden, they are the major landmark of Saxon Switzerland National Park where especially strict conservation rules are in place.

@thephotosociety @natgeocreative  #Germany #Bastei  #landscape #snow #sandstone #mountains  #environment




This is a very personal post for my son Maxim Ludwig and the Raw Dog Band.

If you live in Los Angeles or happen to be here on Friday, December 15th, and like indie/art rock music, come join me for his concert at the Hi Hat in Highland Park (5043 York Blvd Los Angeles, Ca 90042). Maxim Ludwig and the Raw Dog Band are headlining, and will go on around 11pm.  He will be playing songs from his album, Libra Scorpio Cusp, as well as a couple of his unreleased songs. See you there!

If you can't make it, be sure and check out his music on Spotify or or your favorite online platform.

@thehihatla @MaximLudwig #LibraScorpioCusp #music #rocknroll #indierock #LosAngeles #LAmusicscene #artrock


Tending his flock, a priest gives Communion to a child at Znamensky Cathedral in Tyumen. After being driven underground by Soviet rule for nearly 80 years, the Russian Orthodox Church has been restored to its former splendor. Today, young and old are embracing age-old acts of devotion and faith as the church’s role within local communities is expanding. Russia has realigned itself with God and its people are reveling in their reunion with the deeply rooted mysteries and abiding traditions of their once buried past.

@thephotosociety @natgeo @natgeocreative #Russia #priest #communion #religion  #RussianOrthodoxChurch #splendor #identity


Lenin’s statue sits crumbling in front of the abandoned and deteriorating house of culture in the former village of Nova Krasnitsya inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

Since the Chernobyl nuclear reactor exploded on April 26, 1986, the area has been defined by desolation and abandonment. However, in recent months there has been talk of making use of the fallowed lands surrounding the ill-fated nuclear power plant as grounds for a renewable energy site, specifically utilizing solar energy.

Recently, plans for Chernobyl’s new start as a solar farm have become more concrete. According to Bloomberg, the joint project will be lead by a Ukrainian engineering firm and a German clean energy company. Construction of the initial 1-megawatt farm is expected to begin soon and is estimated to cost around $1.2 million, a cost that pails in comparison to the recently completed $2 billion New Safe Confinement.

The solar farm project is a big step for both the companies involved as well as the Ukrainian government, and denotes a strong effort to move closer to the overall goal of making the shift over to clean energy.

@natgeocreative @thephotosociety #statue #Lenin #NovaKrasnitsya #Chernobyl #Ukraine #ExclusionZone #abandonment


A battered doll keeps company with Vladimir Lenin in a kindergarten in Pripyat in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

At 1:23 am on April 26, 1986 reactor #4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant blew up. The radioactive fallout spread over thousands of square kilometers, driving more than a quarter of a million people permanently from their homes. In 2011, the Ukrainian government legalized trips to the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Chernobyl has since become a disaster-tourism destination.

The most riveting attraction for visitors is the ghost town of Pripyat. Formerly home to almost 50,000 people, Pripyat is now in decay: dolls are scattered in abandoned kindergartens, floors are rotting and paint is peeling from the walls.

Today however, Pripyat bears less than honest witness to its abrupt abandonment as tourists have stealthily started to alter the landscape by re-arranging items when left unaccompanied.

You can learn more about the Chernobyl catastrophe from my book and iPad app, which resulted from decades of covering the aftermath of the disaster: “The Long Shadow of Chernobyl.” @thephotosociety @natgeo @natgeocreative #Chernobyl #CNPP #Pripyat #stilllife #abandoned #destruction #radiation #doll #Lenin #LongShadowofChernobyl


No time during this year’s Thanksgiving to head back to continue my coverage of the Salton Sea and the Glamis Dunes, where I took this photograph a few years ago.

On holiday weekends, visitors gather at the dunes from all over the western U.S. and Mexico to race dune bikes, buggies, and other 4-wheel drive vehicles. This 100,000-acre haven for off-road car fanatics is part of the Imperial Sand Dunes, formed from windblown beach sands and the dry bed of Lake Cahuilla, the Salton Sea's ancient ancestor. With up to 150,000 visitors Thanksgiving is the biggest weekend - thereby briefly more than doubling the population of Imperial County. The combination of daring races  and excessive amounts of alcohol has caused a number of fatalities in past years. The races continue, despite the disapproval of those concerned with the environment. @thephotosociety @natgeo @natgeocreative #saltonsea #California #environment #sanddunes #Glamis #dunebuggy #offroad #racing #LakeCahuilla #ImperialValley


In 1930, Great Smoky Mountains National Park became one of the largest protected areas of the eastern United States. Spanning the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee, it encompasses roughly 525,000 acres of lush landscapes (with more tree species than in all of northern Europe), abundant wildlife (65 mammal and 230 bird species), and spectacular scenic beauty.

@thephotosociety @natgeocreative #GreatSmokyMountains #NationalPark #landscape #fog #NorthCarolina #Tennessee


The Wende Museum’s inaugural exhibit “Cold War Spaces,” explores public, private, secret, utopian, and changing spaces of socialist cultures. The show includes four 30x40 inch photographic prints from my body of work ‘The Long Shadow of Chernobyl’, like this one of the control room of reactor 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. It was here that on April 26, 1986, operators committed a fatal series of errors during a safety-test, triggering a reactor meltdown that resulted in the world's worst nuclear accident to date.
The museum is best described as a repository of Cold War-era artifacts from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. According to its founder and executive director Justinian A. Jampol the museum’s mission is to preserve Cold War-era history as a way to learn from the past and understand how it continues to impact the present.
After being tucked away in an obscured office park for more than a decade the Wende Museum has found a new home at the revamped National Guard Armory in Culver City, CA where it will reopen with a paid gala today, November 18 and a free opening to the public on November 19, 2017.
@wendemuseum @thephotosociety #nuclear #disaster #reactor4 #Чернобыльской #чаэс #coldwarspaces #Chernobyl #controlroom


A different view of the Smokies from my previous post.

Perhaps the most aptly named geographic landmark in the world, the Great Smoky Mountains span between the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee. In 1930, Great Smoky Mountains National Park became one of the largest protected areas of the eastern United States. It encompasses 814 square miles of lush landscapes (with more tree species than in all of northern Europe), abundant wildlife (65 mammal and 230 bird species), and spectacular scenic beauty. The mist of water droplets from low-level clouds is a significant source of water, making the Great Smoky Mountains the area with the highest amount of rainfall in the Southeastern US, approximately 60 inches (150 centimeters) annually. Unfortunately today, the Great Smokies’ signature blue fog is often being replaced by a toxic haze produced by ozone pollution and automobile emissions - with devastating results, as seen in my previous IG post shows.

@thephotosociety @natgeocreative #NationalPark #mountains #Appalachian #landscape #GreatSmokyMountains #environment #climatechange #haze


Sad beauty. Light barely permeates the fog to illuminate this view at Clingman’s Dome. Dead Fraser Firs, the result of balsam woolly adelgid (aphids) infestation due to air pollution, are fast becoming a common part of the landscape.
The Great Smoky Mountains, aptly named for naturally occurring mist-like clouds that quite frequently surround the mountains, are affected by air pollution from nearby industry, power plants, and cars. The pollution appears as a uniform haze, which threatens the health of flora and fauna and degrades visibility. The National Park Service works with state agencies to observe nearby industries in order to minimize the amount of new pollution produced and carefully monitors the air quality in the park.
@thephotosociety @natgeocreative @natgeo #mountains #pollution #landscape #GreatSmokyMountains #environment #haze #ClingmansDome #FraserFir #fog


A mural on a stretch of the Berlin Wall called East Side Gallery symbolically depicts East Germany’s most common vehicle, the Trabant, breaking through the wall. The remnants of the Berlin Wall are amongst Berlin's most photographed tourist attractions.

Today, November 9th marks the 28th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the barrier that separated East and West Berlin from 1961 to 1989. The wall completely encircled West Berlin, and a ‘death strip’ was added on the East German side in the years following initial construction. Officially, 138 people died trying to escape from East to West. Others succeeded - some jumping from buildings, hiding in the trunks of cars, or even crossing by hot air balloon. When then US President Ronald Reagan during his 1987 visit to Berlin proclaimed “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” even members of his own staff thought it was unrealistic and extreme. It simply seemed unimaginable - but just two years later the Berlin wall fell.

@thephotosociety @natgeocreative #Germany #Berlin #Berlinwall #East-West #graffiti #escape #Trabant #tourism


At a rally in Moscow, Russia, a young girl carries a portrait of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, commonly known as Lenin.

Yesterday, November 7th marked the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution. The Bolshevik Coup one hundred years ago, often dubbed as Red October, was an armed insurrection under the leadership of the Bolsheviks and Lenin and took place in Saint Petersburg (by then renamed Petrograd). It was the beginning of the Russian Revolution of 1917 that led to the first communist government in Russia, and subsequently to monumental, historical changes around the globe.

@thephotosociety @natgeo @natgeocreative #Russia #Lenin #Moscow #rally