Gerd Ludwig

Gerd Ludwig (birth name Gerhard Erich Ludwig, born March 17, 1947 in Alsfeld, Hesse, Germany) is a German-American documentary photographer and photojournalist.


  • Biography 1
  • Chernobyl Coverage and Crowdfunding 2
  • Quote 3
  • Bibliography 4
  • Anthologies 5
  • National Geographic Stories 6
  • External links 7


Gerd Ludwig initially studied German literature, political science, and physical education at the University of Marburg, before leaving prematurely to travel in Scandinavia and North America, supporting himself with jobs as a bricklayer, sailor, and dishwasher. Upon his return to Germany, he studied photography with Professor Otto Steinert [1] at the Folkwang Hochschule in Essen, graduating with a degree in Photo Design from the University of Essen. Following, he co-founded VISUM [2], Germany’s first photographer-owned photo agency. In 1975, he moved to Hamburg and began working for major international publications and advertising agencies.

In 1984 he re-located to New York and in the early 1990s, he signed on as a contract photographer for National Geographic Magazine. His humanistic focus on the socio-economic changes following the dissolution of the Soviet Bloc resulted in his book, Broken Empire: After the Fall of the USSR [3], a ten-year retrospective published by National Geographic, in 2001; his ongoing coverage of post Soviet Russia has garnered his distinction as being the western world’s foremost color photographer documenting the region.

Gerd Ludwig is a veteran of the renowned A Day in the Life [4] book series created by David Elliot Cohen and Rick Smolan. He also exhibits his work in galleries and festivals such as the Visa pour L’Image [5] in Perpignan (9), occasionally shoots advertising, and has won numerous photographic awards. Major awards include the International Photography Award’s [6] 2006 Lucie Award [7] for International Photographer of the Year and the 2014 Dr. Erich Salomon Award (Dr. Erich Salomon Preis), dedicated to Erich Salomon, a lifetime achievement award for photojournalists given by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie (DGPh, or German society for photography). In 2009, he joined the exclusive INSTITUTE for Artist Management, an agency run by Frank Evers focusing on Fine Art and Documentary Photographers.

Now based in Los Angeles, California, Gerd Ludwig continues to photograph mostly for National Geographic Magazine while working on personal projects such as Sleeping Cars [8] and bringing back into light work from his archive, such as his early color portraiture of Joseph Beuys [9].

Chernobyl Coverage and Crowdfunding

Gerd Ludwig first photographed the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster for National Geographic Magazine in 1993, and then later in 2005. After attempts to generate interest in covering the 25th Anniversary of the disaster were rebuffed by major publications, he turned to crowdfunding to finance the trip [10]. In December 2010, he became one of the first internationally recognized documentary photographers to utilize crowdfunding for a personal project [11]. His Kickstarter campaign raised $23,316 for a return trip to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone to continue his coverage of the aftermath of the world’s worst nuclear disaster to date [12]. On March 11, while the Kickstarter campaign was still in progress, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster brought renewed attention to Chernobyl and nuclear energy issues, resulting in addition interest in his project, eventually pushing the funding to nearly 200% of his initial goal of $12,000.

The images resulting from Gerd Ludwig's returned trip to Chernobyl have been exhibited worldwide (including an exhibition at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Headquarters in London [13]); published world wide (including Time Magazine); presented at the LOOK3 Charlottesville Festival of the Photograph in Virginia Video on YouTube; and led to the creation of his iPad App, The Long Shadow of Chernobyl [14], produced in collaboration with Lightbox Press [15]. In 2012, his iPad App was awarded 1st place in the National Press Photographers Association's annual Best of Photojournalism [16] contest in the Tablet division [17].

In 2013, he returned again to the Zone to follow up on the cleanup efforts and the progress of the Chernobyl New Safe Confinement. This marked the 20th year of covering the aftermath of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, and he soon after began the process of turning his coverage into a book. In February 2014, he teamed up with Austrian publisher Edition Lammerhuber [18] owned by Lois Lammerhuber to publish his 20-year retrospective photo book, The Long Shadow of Chernobyl [19]. To fund the printing costs of the book, Mr. Ludwig again turned to Kickstarter, raising $45,571 [20]. The launch of the book took place at the Naturhistorisches Museum (Natural History Museum) in Vienna, Austria and coincided with a major exhibition [21] and discussion panel.


“A great photograph touches the soul and broadens the mind.”


  • AO TEA ROA: Island of Lost Desire. Hundertwasser in New Zealand (Albrecht Knaus Verlag, 1979)[22]
  • BROKEN EMPIRE: After the Fall of the USSR (National Geographic Society, 2001)[23]
  • The Long Shadow of Chernobyl, an interactive photo book as iPad App (Lightbox Press, 2011)[24]
  • The Long Shadow of Chernobyl (Edition Lammerhuber, 2014)[25]


  • Visions of Paradise (National Geographic Society, 2008)[26]
  • What Matters (Sterling, 2008)[27]
  • Blue Planet Run (Earth Aware Editions, 2007)[28]
  • Wide Angle: National Geographic's Greatest Places (National Geographic Society, 2005)[29]
  • Witness: The World's Greatest News Photographers (Carlton Books, Ltd, 2005)[/1844424928]
  • A Day In The Life of Africa (Tides Foundation, 2002)[30]
  • The View Project by Joyce Tenneson (Blurb, 2010) [31]
  • National Geographic 50 Greatest Pictures (National Geographic Society, 2011) [32]
  • Behind the Photographs, Photographer Portraits by Tim Mantoni (Channel Photographics, 2012) [33]

National Geographic Stories

  • "On a Roll" National Geographic: July 2015
  • "Two Cities" National Geographic: March 2015
  • "The Nuclear Tourist" National Geographic: October 2014
  • "Störfall in der Todeszone" National Geographic Germany: October 2014
  • "Searching for King Arthur" National Geographic Germany: January 2014
  • “Tomorrowland” National Geographic Magazine: February 2012
  • “Crimea: A Jewel in Two Crowns” National Geographic Magazine: April 2011
  • “Soul of Russia” National Geographic Magazine: April 2009
  • “Jakob der Reiche” National Geographic Germany: March 2009
  • “Moscow Never Sleeps” National Geographic Magazine: August 2008
  • “Send Me to Siberia” National Geographic Magazine: June 2008
  • “Vitus Bering” National Geographic Scandinavia: October 2007
  • “Vitus Bering” National Geographic Germany: February 2007.
  • “Marktl” National Geographic Germany: May 2006.
  • “The Long Shadow Of Chernobyl” National Geographic: April 2006.
  • “Napoleon In Germany” National Geographic Germany: November 2005.
  • “The Salton Sea” National Geographic: February 2005.
  • “Nibelungen” National Geographic Germany: December 2004.
  • “Russia Rising” National Geographic: November 2001.
  • “Russlands Seele” National Geographic Germany: November 2001.
  • “The Brothers Grimm – Guardians of the Fairy Tale” National Geographic: December 1999.
  • “A Comeback for the Cossacks” National Geographic: November 1998.
  • “Russia’s Iron Road (Trans-Siberian Railroad)” National Geographic: June 1998.
  • “Moscow. The New Revolution” National Geographic: April 1997.
  • “Reinventing Berlin” National Geographic: December 1996.
  • “Toronto” National Geographic: June 1996.
  • “Soviet Pollution,” National Geographic: August 1994
    • “Lethal Legacy: Pollution in the Former U.S.S.R.”
    • “Chernobyl: Living With the Monster”
  • “A Broken Empire” National Geographic: March 1993
    • “Russia: Playing by New Rules”
    • “Kazakhstan: Facing the Nightmare”
    • “Ukraine: Running on Empty”
  • “Main-Danube Canal Links Europe’s Waterways,” National Geographic: August 1992.
  • “The Morning After: Germany Reunited” National Geographic: September 1991.

External links

  • Gerd Ludwig
  • The Long Shadow of Chernobyl, a long-term project by Gerd Ludwig
  • The Long Shadow of Chernobyl, LOOK3 presentation on YouTube

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