Pulitzer Prize-Winning Greek Photographer Alkis Konstantinidis Talks to TNH

Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Alkis Konstantinidis. Photo: (EUROKINISSI/Tatiana Bolaris

ATHENS – Greek photojournalist Alkis Konstantinidis is one of a group of Reuters photographers who were awarded the Pulitzer Prize in the “Breaking News Photography” category, for their photos of the mass migration of Central and South Americans towards the U.S. border, and its aftermath.

It is the second Pulitzer for Mr. Konstantinidis who in 2016 was honored alongside Alexandros Avramidis and the late Yannis Behrakis, who passed away on March 2.

The internationally acclaimed Greek photojournalist spoke to The National Herald about his work, Yannis Behrakis, the significance of the Pulitzer Prize, the media industry and, of course, the figure of the immigrant.

“I was born in 1984 in Thessaloniki, studied French Literature at the Aristotle University, but I became involved with photography from a very young age. I have been working since 2009 in Athens, I started out as a freelancer and for the last five years I’ve been working for Reuters,” Konstantinidis said.

Asked about the significance of the prize, the photojournalist said that “I continue to do what I started 10 years ago, just as I would like to contribute (in my work) and have the greatest impact on the rest of the world. (Contributing) to people learning things that are too difficult for them to come into contact with in their everyday lives. To be able to show them some other aspects of life in other parts of the world.

TNH: The renowned photographer Yannis Behrakis recently passed away…

Alkis Konstantinidis: First of all, Yannis was a very good friend who led us to the first Pulitzer and led all of us younger photographers towards photojournalism. He made us believe that Greek photojournalism can exist in the global photographic market and for we ourselves to progress as photographers. He was essentially the one that led the way for us, and we, the faithful, have followed.

TNH: How important is this recognition for Greek photojournalists in a field that has shrunk in Greece over the last few years?

AK: It is my pleasure to know that my colleagues also find some joy in this and I can make them proud, because each of us has gone through a great deal in recent years. And we are talking about people who work very hard, much harder than I do in much worse conditions. So, I hope this is something representative and can make them happy – that what we do has value.

Our market has been shrinking a lot and things are difficult on a global level, but photography is one of the main elements in reporting a story, and it always will be timely and necessary to accompany everything that our colleagues are also producing, an excellent text or a great video. So this support should not be lost in my eyes, and opportunities should be given – as far as any of the journalistic organizations can.

TNH: You have been awarded for the U.S.-Mexico border coverage. What is your comment on the immigration treaty, given that many Greeks in America have had similar experiences?

AK: The images were the same whether in Greece or at the U.S.-Mexican border. The immigrant and the refugee are one, they are the same. There is always a reason why we cannot understand ourselves and realize why, why would someone leave home, leave his family behind or take his family on such a long and dangerous journey. But we have to understand the reasons, try to walk in these people’s shoes, to understand the reasons that push them into such a reckless decision.

Finally, speaking of the fact that he is working in an organization like Reuters, which gives him the opportunity to develop his talent, Konstantinidis said, “I feel really lucky and it’s a great privilege to work for an organization like Reuters, that believes in you and can invest in you, because they know how much they will receive in return for that belief and investment.”

The Pulitzer Prizes, as every year, were selected by an independent committee officially run by the Columbia University Postgraduate School of Journalism in New York.