ATHENS – A major distinction for Greece was announced on Tuesday at New York’s Columbia University, as the members of Reuters photography staff Yannis Behrakis, Alkis Konstantinidis, and Alexandros Avramidis were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the unique way their photographs captured the country’s refugee crisis.
Behrakis, a multiaward-winning photojournalist and chief photographer of the Reuters team, told TNH the award “is a professional recognition of the work which has become the eyes to the world for millions of people through Reuters for almost 30 years.”
He continued, with characteristic modesty: “The award is important, but my work and the work of my colleagues is the most important, for it has become the voice of the persecuted who have found temporary shelter in Greece this past year,” pinpointing how important it is to chronicle, capture, and report events through photography, not only through brutal professionalism, but through consideration for the suffering of our fellow human beings.
This is something the Greek photographer knows well, since his work has been the object of admiration and recognition in the past as well, as he has been named “News Photographer of the Year” seven times by the Greek Fuji awards. In 2000, he was awarded first prize in the General News Stories category among 4,000 photographers from 122 countries and 40,000 photos at the global photo competition World Press Photo in Amsterdam, as well as the Botsis Foundation award from the President of the Hellenic Republic. On October 14, 2002, he won the Bayeux-Calvados award for war correspondents, an annual prize awarded to journalists who cover conflicts all around the world.
However, the Pulitzer Prize is the highest honor given each year to print media and perhaps the highest honor overall for a media professional. The topic which Behrakis and his team address was so huge and so significant that it could not have been covered in an ephemeral manner.
“I started (covering the issue) early on, in May. Afterward, as the refugee issue became huge, I placed the members of my team in various parts of Greece so we could have the best coverage. We have been covering the issue relentlessly for over ten months.”
Behrakis is concise and substantial in his opinion on the Greeks’ attitude toward the refugees. “Greece has received awards worldwide and has elicited positive feedback about the way the Greeks have welcomed the refugees,” he told TNH.
Behrakis did not hesitate to send a message aimed at the Greek-Americans, who are also immigrants (or the descendants of immigrants). “We love them and appreciate their assistance through all the hard times. I have many relatives in America, like my uncle George Behrakis in Boston, who has done so much through his philanthropy. George and the other Greek-Americans, both in America and in Greece, make us proud.”
It is worth noting that Behrakis, who was born in Athens in 1960, has photographed the most important political, military, athletic, and social events of the past 25 years, and besides the aforementioned has also won the Overseas Press Club of America photography award for Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad.
By Achilleas Kouremenos