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NPR Arts & Life

This Image Is Not Photoshopped

An image from Palindromo Meszaros' series "The Line."

This photo looks like two images stitched together; above is a normal forest, and below, a strange, Martian one. But it's a single image from a single place and time — the hills of western Hungary, six months after a devastating industrial accident.

In late 2010, the waste reservoir of a Hungarian aluminum oxide plant burst, releasing millions and millions of gallons of caustic red sludge. The meter-high toxic mudslide quickly moved downhill through two nearby villages, burying buildings, poisoning fields and killing 10 people.

Aerial view of the toxic red sludge flowing from a breached waste reservoir (diamond shape at right) through the villages of Kolontar and Devecser.
/ NASA Earth Observatory
/
Aerial view of the toxic red sludge flowing from a breached waste reservoir (diamond shape at right) through the villages of Kolontar and Devecser.

Soldiers and volunteers shoveled the muck into trucks and hosed down the streets, but where the sludge had been, every surface was stained red.

When Spanish photographer visited the disaster site in the spring of 2011, he says, a "feeling of the horror" still lingered.

"This is a place where the scars of history are strongly translated into landscape and architecture," he tells The Picture Show.

Meszaros published a collection of the most striking photos from his visit in Fraction Magazine last month. And his series, titled "The Line," is on display at the Festival des Promenades Photographiques in Vendome, France, until September.

"Sometimes people think that it is a conceptual installation when they start watching," Meszaros says. "It's an effect I was definitely looking for — something could seem beautiful and evocative somehow but at the same time make people understand how terrible it was."

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