Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photographer Yannis Behrakis Speaks with TNH

Pulitzer winner Photojournalist Yannis Behrakis. Credit: Enric Marti

By Theodore Kalmoukos

BOSTON, MA – Pulitzer winner photojournalist Yannis Behrakis has made and continues to make history with his photographic art, technique, and written word on a global level.

At the same time, history has written about him and the global community has honored him with many awards, including the prestigious Pulitzer in 2016.

His photographs are alive and touch the souls of the people. It is this touch that made him the best in his field. Recently, he visited Boston for a presentation at Tufts Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and he spoke with The National Herald:

TNH: What attracted you to photographic art?

YB: The fact that the photograph combines art and technique. Also, it is a very effective way to keep eternal the moments of history throughout the passing of time. What attracted me to photojournalism was and still is the ability to enter the homes of millions of people and with my photograph to give the opportunity to a global audience to learn what is happening at the ends of the world. So, this way I don’t let anybody say that “I didn’t know.”

TNH: How do you feel every time you make history with your camera?

A Syrian refugee kisses his daughter as he walks through a rainstorm towards Greece’s border with FYRO-Macedonia, near the Greek village of Idomeni, September 10, 2015. Thousands of refugees and migrants, including many families with young children, have been left soaked after spending the night sleeping in the open in torrential rain on the Greek- FYRO Macedonian border. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

YB: I feel a great responsibility, and especially because I work for Reuters, the photographs and my reporting become a source of information to more than a billion people on earth.

TNH: How would you describe the dynamics of the photograph?

YB: The photo-reporting is one of the very strong, important journalistic means of information. We see often photographs that become the reason that the global community changes its position on an issue. Furthermore, we have seen photographs that even change the positions of governments.

TNH: Have the contemporary electronic means such as video cameras, iPhones etc., influenced your job?

YB: In a way yes. Sometimes I photograph with my mobile phone and I use the social media and do multimedia. Essentially, they have influenced my job positively.

TNH: Which assignments have touched you most as a person?

YB: All the assignments that have to do with social issues and situations where our fellow human beings suffer, such as wars, natural disasters, etc. Unfortunately, one of the usual issues that I cover has to do inhumane situations from humans onto other humans.

TNH: Have you faced dangerous situations? If yes, where and how?

YB: I have been injured many times. Fortunately, not seriously, and I have lost many good friends and colleagues. I faced danger and I was injured twice in Croatia, in Chechnya, in Sierra Leone, and in Israel.

TNH: When you started you career did you imagine that would you have risen to this level?

YB: I hadn’t thought of that. When I started I wanted to be successful, not famous. I want to be behind the camera, not in front.

TNH: How did you feel last year when you won the Pulitzer?

YB: It was a significant professional success. It was more significant because I won it together with a new team that I have created essentially from former students of mine.

TNH: Please tell us about Greece and also about the Greek-American Community? What are we for you?

YB: Greece has been going through difficulties for many years now. It is not the first time and it is not going to be the last. It is not going through the most difficult period of its history. The spirit and the strength of the Greeks will pass the difficulties this time as well.You are the ambassadors of the Greek spirit in America and around the globe. You have proven your love for Greece and you are bridge and support of the Greeks back in the homeland. Greece needs you. We should never forget that people are not born Greek, but they become Greek. If they want to be called Greek, they should prove it with their actions every day. A good way to prove that is to be more giving and less egotistic.