The peculiar story of this selfie next to the "Foot of the Elephant", the lethal radioactive mass of Chernobyl

A selfie to shame everyone else: Nuclear engineer is photographed next to the Elephant Foot, a lethal radioactivity stack that emits up to 10, 000 roentgens per hour

An important historical document, a detective mystery and an aesthetically significant work; This photo is all these things. In it you can see the nuclear inspector Artur Korneyev working phantasmagorically next to what appears to be an "elephant foot", a lethal mound of radioactive material in the form of a fungus that initially radiated 10, 000 roentgens per hour. The "Elephant Foot" is the most dangerous accumulation of corium, one of the most toxic substances ever created. The photo was taken in 1996, 10 years after the Chernobyl tragedy, but even then the amount of radiation Korneyev must have received was surely enormous. Korneyev has visited Chernobyl hundreds of times and, according to journalist David Goldenberg, is perhaps the man who has received the most radiation. Despite that he has not died and maintains his good mood: "Soviet radiation is the best in the world, " he says.

The image arrived in the United States at the end of the 90s, to a dependency of the Department of Energy of that country. Then he emerged on the Web without anyone knowing what it was or how to explain it; it was believed that its granular effect was due to radiation (and a little so) and it was feared, of course, that the person portrayed there would be dead. After all, more than 30 workers died from acute radiation syndrome during the explosion and the subsequent cleaning of the huge Chernobyl nuclear accident in Ukraine. But Goldenberg did a great job tracking the origin of photography to its protagonist, Korneyev, who is still alive. The image is an old-fashioned selfie, mounting the camera, increasing the shutter time and returning to the scene. A selfie that makes everyone else ask for mercy.