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

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

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LONDON (Reuters) – Yannis Behrakis, one in all 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.

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

Colleagues who labored with him within the discipline stated Reuters had misplaced a proficient and dedicated journalist.

“It’s about clearly telling the story in probably the most inventive means potential,” veteran Reuters photographer Goran Tomasevic stated of Behrakis’ fashion.

“You received’t see anybody so devoted and so targeted and who sacrificed every little thing to get a very powerful image.”

That dedication was placing. His good friend and colleague of 30 years, senior producer Vassilis Triandafyllou, described him as a “hurricane” who labored all hours of the day and evening, generally at appreciable private threat, to get the picture he wished.

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

“Probably the greatest information photographers of his technology, Yannis was passionate, very important and intense each in his work and life,” stated U.S. normal information editor Dina Kyriakidou Contini.

“His footage are iconic, some artistic endeavors in their very own proper. However it was his empathy that made him an ideal photojournalist.”

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

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

“My mission is to inform you the story and you then determine what you wish to do,” he advised a panel discussing Reuters Pulitzer Prize-winning picture sequence on the European migrant disaster.

“My mission is to ensure that no one can say: ‘I didn’t know’.”


Behrakis was born in Athens in 1960.

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

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

It was a 1983 film, “Underneath Fireplace”, 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 overseas task to Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya.

He rapidly displayed a knack for being in the suitable 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 footage and soundbites.

“I by some means managed to sneak subsequent to him and get some wide-angle photographs,” Behrakis wrote. “The subsequent day my image was all around the entrance pages of papers around the globe.”


For the following three a long time, Behrakis was repeatedly on the street masking violence and upheaval throughout Europe, Russia, the Center East, Africa and Asia.

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

The pictures reut.rs/2IIte65 captured the fear of battle, worry, 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 preventing right into a tiny coffin.

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

“The image was very sturdy and the physique of the boy nearly floating within the air,” he stated of the picture. “It nearly regarded like his spirit was leaving his physique for the heavens.”

In 2000, whereas masking the civil conflict 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 in all Behrakis’ closest buddies, was hit and died immediately, and Moreno was additionally killed. Behrakis and Chisholm escaped.

Each 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 feel that modified Yannis rather a lot,” Chisholm stated of the assault and Schork’s dying. The 4 reporters had acquired to know one another throughout the siege of Sarajevo within the mid-1990s and had turn out to be a “band of brothers”.

“He was an ideal character, a superb photographer, an ideal colleague,” Chisholm stated.

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

“His reminiscence helped me to ‘return’ to masking what I think about the apotheosis of photojournalism: conflict images,” Behrakis wrote.


In recent times, Behrakis spent extra time in his native Greece, the place he recorded the impression of the monetary disaster on the nation and the inflow of lots of of 1000’s of refugees coming into Europe.

In 2015, Behrakis and a group 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 grew to become shut.

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

“Whenever you get near him and he opens up, he’s an individual you wish to sit subsequent to and discuss to for hours. You’ll all the time get one thing from him.”

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

However it additionally introduced out the most effective in a photographer who targeted on the dignity of people in misery reasonably than making them objects of pity.

Triandafyllou was with Behrakis when he took what many think about to be one in all his finest footage – of a Syrian refugee carrying and kissing his daughter as he walked down a street within the rain.

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

“On the best way to the border we noticed these refugees and he began taking footage. After some time I stated ‘OK, let’s go’. He stated ‘No, no, wait, I don’t have the image.’ I used to be ready within the automotive and he ultimately got here again and stated ‘OK, I’ve the image.’ He was searching for this image.”

Behrakis’ description of the picture was sometimes unorthodox.

“I’d like to be this father; I feel each little one would like to have a father like this,” he defined.

“This image proves that there are superheroes in spite of everything. He doesn’t put on a crimson cape, however he has a black plastic cape made out of rubbish luggage. For me this represents the common father and the unconditional love of father to daughter.”

Slideshow (39 Photographs)

In 2017, Yannis launched a undertaking to assist Reuters construct a extra numerous group of stories 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 pleased with this work, and was nonetheless searching for a brand new technology 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; Modifying by Simon Robinson

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