Igor Kostin Chernobyl

Chernobyl photos and memoirs of the famous photographer Igor Kostin

Igor Kostin, with whom you now get to know more closely, in 2011, held an exhibition at which he showed archival photos taken at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant within a month after the tragedy. Igor Kostin photography

So, let’s begin. “Hot summer in Chernobyl”

The author of these notes is the photo correspondent of the Novosti Press Agency on the Ukrainian SSR Igor Kostin. From April to December 1986, he covered the progress of work to eliminate the consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident. Photographic material I. Kostin, made by him in dangerous conditions of highly active dose loads, entered the official report of the government commission of the USSR. His series “The Tragedy of Chernobyl” was awarded to the World Press Photo in Amsterdam of the highest international award “Golden Eye” at Interpressphoto in Baghdad, the gold medal, received the Grand Prix at the contest in the GDR and the Grand Prize of the Union

Remembering all that happened then, I ask myself, I would go for all this, knowing then what I know now. Is it worth looking for an answer to such questions?

At the end of April 1986, after the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, I flew in a helicopter to the destroyed fourth block. Those who were supposed to know about this flight did not know. I persuaded the familiar pilots to take me aboard.
– Not afraid?

– No.
Quite frankly, I did not quite imagine what awaits us, never thought about what an x-ray, irradiation is. Fear came later.
I take three cameras, the required amount of film, I get into the helicopter. We are flying.

Igor Kostin photos

And the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. A tall pipe, buildings are visible … Where is the fourth block? Despite the rumbling of the screws, I feel a grave silence below. The voice of one of the crew members: “three hundred and fifty … two hundred and fifty … one hundred and fifty …” These are the same x-rays that are already beginning to be spoken all over the world. However, why start? They say with might and main. The monstrous rumors of the Western press-thousands of deaths, mass graves, unpredictable consequences … Our press keeps quiet.

Chernobyl photo from the helicopter

The floor of the helicopter is covered with lead. The portholes are closed. On the starboard side, the collapse of the fourth reactor. A terrible black mouth. The pilot’s voice: “To the reactor is 50 meters, 250 roentgen” Why is it so black, this mouth? From the soot? However, then I did not think about it. I frantically shot, opening the porthole. It was stupid. A few minutes later, the cameras, stuffed with electronics, refused. After landing, they took away from me. Something, however, it was possible to wash. But it was much later.

After development, it turned out that the film was lighted. Almost everything is highlighted, except for a part of the color negatives. All black-and-white material and colored transparencies were processed by radiation before me.

Getting into the helicopter, I felt like a hunter chasing prey. Now I understand what the victim feels, which is followed by an invisible, inaudible and therefore even more terrible enemy.

On May 5, already officially, along with other accredited journalists, I’m going back to Chernobyl. All remain outside the 30-kilometer zone, where the evacuees gathered, the equipment and specialists are concentrated.

First impressions are completely unusual. Where did I see this? To the cinema? Or at the age of five, when the war began? .. Infinite columns of cars. In the bodies of trucks, cows, some sort of belongings, buses with people. Evacuation.

Photos from Chernobyl were given a great price

My questions were not answered. Yes, and could not answer. Nobody knew where they put on a pay and who deals with photo reporters. But there was no confusion. There was no panic, muddle-headedness, although the machine, later called LPA-liquidation of the consequences of the accident-this machine was just starting to spin out. Nevertheless, it was possible to do so that each performed exactly the definite task.

The driver of the truck, the army general, the minister, the concrete worker were equally dressed, communicated with each other completely on equal terms, and even the persons who we knew were also indistinguishable from each other – each wearing a respirator. Standard respirator, similar to a pig’s snout and soon replaced by “petals” – much more perfect protection, after which on the face there was no longer any diaper rash. In that terrible summer, because of the heat around the mouth and nose, people almost formed ulcers-the respirators did not take hours off.

I took kilometers off at thirteen from the fourth block. Removed and drivers, and regulators, concrete carriers and armored personnel carriers, of course, dosimetrists – the most famous at that time, surrounded by a halo of some mystery. They saw and measured what was imperceptible and insensible. However, it is not so insignificant. I felt that the air here is unusual, with some strange metallic taste. And all the time he was sick with a throat.

Chernobyl is a mortal danger

For a long time I did not stay in the zone. You could type in “extra” doses. I came for a day or two, then I left for Kiev, I returned again. If at first time had to spend the night and eat anywhere, then pretty quickly everything got better. There were friends from the traffic police department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Those who recently filmed at the crossroads of the city, at the consoles and in the offices. They gave me shelter, and gave me the same clothes they wore: white suits, reminiscent of pajamas, round caps. By that time, my own clothes were no good. Is that what to make the dosimetric instruments crack.

I gradually became my own in Chernobyl. I was given a night’s lodging, put on a ration and, most importantly, gave the necessary information. I shot a lot, basically the process of decontamination. As special machines watered houses and streets with a solution that looked like soapy water. The military was engaged in this, which by that time in Chernobyl had become MANY.

And yet I understood that my place is not here. The main events took place where, one by one, huge military helicopters flew to the surface, laden with sand, lead, barium, everything that was delivered there at the highest speed and flew into the black mouth of the disrupted reactor. Something incredible was happening on the helicopter platform: engines were rattling, huge trucks were constantly jumping, helicopters took off, sat down, again took off – and so on without end.

“The camera that carries me, dragged me to the collapse of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant”

The main ejection of the fourth block lay on the roof of the third. From there, it was necessary to drop pieces of graphite into the mouth of the blown up reactor, some debris of metal, garbage, which under usual conditions could be collected in a few hours. We went up to the attic of the third block. There were already penetrated and protected with lead glass special inspection holes made by specialists of the Kurchatov Institute. The first shots were shot through them.

But it was all wrong! I had to get up on the roof, but Yurchenko refused this time categorically.

And again, persuasion, arguments!

Of course, the scouts were cunning. Of course, they still had to climb up to where I was so eager. However, in their hands they had devices warning about the danger, and I have a camera that carried me, dragging me to collapse. And yet, I think they were more worried about me than about the doses they received. The fact is that as soon as these doses reached a certain limit, a person was sent to rest, which lasted a long time and could drag on until such time as to return would not make sense. These people could not admit the idea that the most important thing in the zone would be done without them.

Radiation at Chernobyl NPP “lit up” all photos

On my chest I was wearing a leaden shirt. Then a protective suit. On the head is a cap, on top of which is a hood that covered the forehead and shoulders. They took ten pairs of gloves. Respirator-“petal” Special shoes on lead pads. The cameras were put in a lead box.
From the loft went on a flimsy metal ladder to the roof of the third block. I prepared the camera. Gennady Dmitrov once again ordered not to touch anything metal. Yurchenko stood at the exit from the attic and loudly counted the seconds. At the account of 20 I had to rush headlong back. This was enough not only to remove what I had in mind, but also to notice that there is an even more interesting plot.

Having expounded as expressively, as briefly everything that he thinks about me and my mental faculties, Yurchenko gave me a few more seconds. But when I returned, I asked for more.

I shot near the collapse of the fourth block. My eyes showed what no one would ever see.

Radiation lit up almost everything I shot, but this time I was ready for this and in the laboratory I still achieved the image. The man at the collapse of the reactor-about such an irrefutable testimony that the situation is under control, that it is normalized, could only dream of a reporter. I was there and did not take this picture.

Chernobyl photo

Again and again in Chernobyl was driving through the photo

A few days later I again went to Chernobyl, again made my way to my “cats” on the roof and took Sasha Yurchenko a meter from the collapse of the fourth block.

Everything changed in the attic of the third block. The roof was no longer empty. The work was boiling here. Major-General Tarakanov commanded. His situation was different from the situation of those soldiers whom he gave orders, only one circumstance. Soldiers in groups of eight people in a siren in advance worked out the maneuver on the roof, with special equipment they grabbed a chip in advance for each of them and threw it into the vent of the reactor, to where it flew. After that, the entire operation took 40 seconds-soldiers received gratitude from the commander, a cash bonus and dismissal. The general remained.

Robots, specially purchased from well-known Western firms, stood with knocked out electronics and idled. Radiation put them out of action.

I also worked a forty-second shift. I went ninth, took off everything I wanted, received the commendation from the commander, admittedly, without a bonus and dismissal, and after the change, General Tarakanov told me the command request: to make a panoramic shot of the roof, which would greatly facilitate the work of soldiers, since it would be possible to be sharper assign tasks. The images should have been all the debris that must be destroyed.

I climbed onto the roof again. At 20.00 the command was already lying on the table panorama of the famous roof.

Chernobyl photo cost of life awarded many awards

“Today, I am reminded of those events of pictures awarded with many international awards, modest forms of thanks from the staff for the elimination of the consequences of the accident and even memories. I see, as if it were yesterday, the faces of the “roof cats”, I hear the rumbling of helicopters, I see those who left their home, the garden and with a modest belongings in the basket were evacuated beyond the thirty-kilometer zone … I think: was this really all? And again: it was just an accident ”

A source. muz4in.net

Igor Kostin book

Unfortunately Kostin did not manage to write a full book, but in the first place he was a photographer, not a writer. A lot of interesting reports with amazing photos are available on the Internet and various publications.

Chernobyl photo

How does the Chernobyl nuclear power plant look like, after 31 years:

Chernobyl Power Plant 2017