Yannis Behrakis, award-winning Reuters photographer, dies aged 58

LONDON (Reuters) – Yannis Behrakis, one among Reuters’ most embellished and best-loved photographers, has died after a protracted battle with most cancers. He was 58.

Yannis Behrakis in Normandy, France, October 10, 2016. Enric Marti/Handout by way of Reuters

After becoming a member of the information wire 30 years in the past, Behrakis lined lots of the most tumultuous occasions around the globe, together with conflicts in Afghanistan and Chechnya, an enormous earthquake in Kashmir and the Egyptian rebellion of 2011.

In the method, he received the respect of each friends and rivals for his ability and bravado. He additionally led a workforce to a Pulitzer Prize in 2016 for protection of the refugee disaster.

Colleagues who labored with him within the area mentioned Reuters had misplaced a gifted and dedicated journalist.

“It is about clearly telling the story in the most artistic way possible,” veteran Reuters photographer Goran Tomasevic mentioned of Behrakis’ fashion.

“You won’t see anyone so dedicated and so focused and who sacrificed everything to get the most important picture.”

That dedication was putting. His buddy and colleague of 30 years, senior producer Vassilis Triandafyllou, described him as a “hurricane” who labored all hours of the day and night time, generally at appreciable private danger, to get the picture he wished.

When Behrakis wasn’t absorbed in work, he was heat, humorous and bigger than life. He is also fiery.

“One of the best news photographers of his generation, Yannis was passionate, vital and intense both in his work and life,” mentioned U.S. basic information editor Dina Kyriakidou Contini.

“His pictures are iconic, some works of art in their own right. But it was his empathy that made him a great photojournalist.”

What underpinned every thing Behrakis did in his skilled life was a willpower to indicate the world what was taking place in battle zones and nations in disaster.

He acknowledged the ability of an arresting picture to seize folks’s consideration and even change their habits. That perception produced a physique of labor that will probably be remembered lengthy after his passing.

“My mission is to tell you the story and then you decide what you want to do,” he informed a panel discussing Reuters Pulitzer Prize-winning picture collection on the European migrant disaster.

“My mission is to make sure that nobody can say: ‘I didn’t know’.”


Behrakis was born in Athens in 1960.

He got here throughout a Time-Life pictures ebook as a younger man, which prompted him to enroll in a personal pictures course. His love affair with the commerce had begun.

He labored in a photographic studio within the mid-1980s, however discovered the environment stifling.

It was a 1983 film, “Under Fire”, a couple of group of reporters working in Nicaragua within the days resulting in the 1979 revolution, that impressed him to take up journalism.

He began at Reuters in Athens as a freelancer in 1987, and in January, 1989, was despatched on his first international task to Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya.

He shortly displayed a knack for being in the best place on the proper time.

When Gaddafi visited a lodge the place journalists had been cooped up for a number of days, a scrum of reporters crowded across the Libyan chief to get photos and soundbites.

“I somehow managed to sneak next to him and get some wide-angle shots,” Behrakis wrote. “The next day my picture was all over the front pages of papers around the world.”


For the following three a long time, Behrakis was frequently on the street overlaying violence and upheaval throughout Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

The photos he produced received awards and admiration among the many tight-knit neighborhood of warfare correspondents, who famous his uncommon means to search out magnificence amid chaos and for his braveness to be on the coronary heart of the motion.

The photos reut.rs/2IIte65 captured the fear of battle, concern, dying, love, intimidation, hunger, homelessness, anger, despair and braveness.

One from the wars in former Yugoslavia, taken in 1998, reveals an ethnic Albanian man reducing the physique of a two-year-old boy who had been killed within the combating right into a tiny coffin.

Behrakis took the image from a excessive place and used a sluggish pace/zoom approach to create a dizzying sense of motion.

“The picture was very strong and the body of the boy almost floating in the air,” he mentioned of the picture. “It almost looked like his spirit was leaving his body for the heavens.”

In 2000, whereas overlaying the civil warfare in Sierra Leone, Behrakis was touring in a convoy with Reuters colleagues Kurt Schork and Mark Chisholm, and AP cameraman Miguel Gil Moreno, when it was ambushed by gunmen, believed to be rebels.

Schork, one among Behrakis’ closest pals, was hit and died immediately, and Moreno was additionally killed. Behrakis and Chisholm escaped.

Both survived the assault by crawling into the undergrowth beside the street and hiding within the jungle for hours till the gunmen disappeared.

Behrakis took a photograph of himself simply after the ordeal. The image reveals him staring up on the sky, his eyes dazed.

“I think that changed Yannis a lot,” Chisholm mentioned of the assault and Schork’s dying. The 4 reporters had bought to know one another throughout the siege of Sarajevo within the mid-1990s and had grow to be a “band of brothers”.

“He was a great character, a brilliant photographer, a great colleague,” Chisholm mentioned.

Behrakis mentioned he hated warfare, however, like many others, he liked the journey, journey and camaraderie that got here with it. Rather than placing him off, Schork’s dying drove him again to fight zones, at the least for some time.

“His memory helped me to ‘return’ to covering what I consider the apotheosis of photojournalism: war photography,” Behrakis wrote.


In current years, Behrakis spent extra time in his native Greece, the place he recorded the influence of the monetary disaster on the nation and the inflow of tons of of 1000’s of refugees getting into Europe.

In 2015, Behrakis and a workforce of photographers and cameramen labored in relay for months to cowl the 1000’s fleeing wars in Syria, Afghanistan and past.

He took a youthful and fewer skilled photographer, Alkis Konstantinidis, below his wing at the moment and the 2 turned shut.

Konstantinidis, additionally a part of the Pulitzer Prize-winning workforce, described Behrakis as a tricky, demanding mentor who led by instance.

“When you get close to him and he opens up, he is a person you want to sit next to and talk to for hours. You will always get something from him.”

For a proud Greek with a younger daughter, the refugee disaster had a profound impact on Behrakis, inflicting guilt, insomnia and nightmares.

But it additionally introduced out the perfect in a photographer who centered on the dignity of people in misery somewhat than making them objects of pity.

Triandafyllou was with Behrakis when he took what many take into account to be one among his greatest photos – of a Syrian refugee carrying and kissing his daughter as he walked down a street within the rain.

“That morning we left the hotel and it was raining and Yannis was complaining,” Triandafyllou recalled.

“On the way to the border we saw these refugees and he started taking pictures. After a while I said ‘OK, let’s go’. He said ‘No, no, wait, I don’t have the picture.’ I was waiting in the car and he eventually came back and said ‘OK, I have the picture.’ He was looking for this picture.”

Behrakis’ description of the picture was usually unorthodox.

“I would love to be this father; I think every child would love to have a father like this,” he defined.

“This picture proves that there are superheroes after all. He doesn’t wear a red cape, but he has a black plastic cape made out of garbage bags. For me this represents the universal father and the unconditional love of father to daughter.”

Slideshow (39 Images)

In 2017, Yannis launched a undertaking to assist Reuters construct a extra numerous workforce of reports photographers.

His appearances at picture festivals and occasions around the globe impressed many younger journalists to use for a bursary from Reuters. He was very happy with this work, and was nonetheless in search of a brand new era of expertise proper up till his dying.

Behrakis is survived by his spouse Elisavet and their daughter Rebecca and his son Dimitri.

Reporting and writing by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Simon Robinson

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source link reuters.com

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