News photography has many goals: To record a unique, magic moment that will never repeat itself, to leave people speechless with its power and beauty. To send a message to the audience; to make people cry or laugh or both. To make people feel guilty; to make them put their hands in their pockets to give money for a good cause. To make people think twice before pulling the trigger!
A movie changed my life. I was working in a studio doing commercial photography, and then I watched "Under Fire". After that I wanted to become a photojournalist and cover wars.
My first assignment abroad was in Libya in January, 1989, four days after I became a Reuters staffer. I covered a breaking story with the U.S. air force striking Libyan war planes. Colonel Gaddafi came to visit journalists in the hotel where we’d been kept indoors for several days. But he left without talking to us, and in the pandemonium, as the press tried to interview him and take pictures, I somehow managed to sneak next to him and get some wide-angle shots. The next day my picture was all over the front pages of papers around the world – and the government deported us to Malta.
I’m one of the few lucky ones who get paid to do their hobby! I find myself helping younger photographers with my experience.
I hate war, but I want to be there and make a record of the suffering of people during wars (and sometimes after), as well as the actions and reactions of soldiers. I think it’s great for their parents, friends and compatriots to see them fighting for whatever they believe is right. I'm there to record the best and the worst of humankind. This is my contribution to world peace.
In Sierra Leone, in May 2000, a very dear friend and great Reuters reporter, Kurt Schork, was killed while covering the civil war, along with another good colleague from APTN. His blood marked my clothes and his loss marked my soul forever. His memory helped me to “return” to covering what I consider the apotheosis of photojournalism: war photography.
The best thing about my job is the travelling, the challenge, the creation, the passion, the adventure, meeting new people, recording history in the making. The worst is the weight (I like to travel light)!
Behind the Scenes
Yannis Behrakis takes pictures of Israeli soldiers during a gun fight.
Behrakis takes a self portrait after surviving an ambush by Revolutionary United Front rebels in the jungle of Sierra Leone.