The first photo of the Chernobyl disaster taken 14 hours after the nuclear catastrophe went viral yesterday along with the fascinating story behind it.
Ukrainian photographer Igor Kostin took the photo from a helicopter on April 26, 1986, and all of his pictures were ruined from the high radiation — all of them except one.
The one photo negative that came out also suffers from intense radiation but the grainy image offers a tantalizing glimpse into the worst nuclear disaster of all time.
Kostin appears to have taken the photo away from the helicopter window, perhaps that is why this frame survived. However, the image is still foggy because of the radiation.
This is the first image captured of Chernobyl, taken 14 hours after the explosion on April 26, 1986.
The photo was snapped from a helicopter assessing radiation levels over the disaster area. The image is grainy due to the intense radiation in the air, which began damaging the… pic.twitter.com/ARVOzBprKz
— Fascinating (@fasc1nate) August 2, 2023
On that fateful day, Kostin was working for the Novosti Press Agency based out of Kyiv when a helicopter pilot whom he worked closely with alerted him that there had been a fire at the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl.
According to Kostin’s Wikipedia entry, the photographer witnessed a “war-like” scramble of military vehicles rushing to the scene. Kostin himself felt odd from the effects of the toxic smog and high temperatures.
He apparently returned to Kyiv after his camera failed owing to degradation caused by radiation.
After developing the film, the entire roll came out black except one which was sent to Moscow. The Soviet authorities did not permit Kostin to publish the photo until 10 days later when the photo was beamed around the world informing people everywhere of the horrors that had unfolded.
The photo was posted to the Fascinating X page (formerly Twitter) on Wednesday where it received over 32 million views and 150,00 likes.
Kostin went back to Chernobyl several times, officially accredited by the Soviets he explored the rubble of Chernobyl on May 6 and covered Pripyat residents evacuating the area.
Kostin later documented the problems of contamination, capturing photos of infants and animals born with deformities.
While the photographer himself suffered the effects of radiation, he was exposed to five times the acceptable levels, he lived for a long time after Chernobyl eventually dying in 2015 in a car crash in Kyiv.