Umit Bektas

Umit Bektas

Istanbul, Turkey
Ankara, Turkey
“When I first began taking pictures for the college newspaper, I remember telling myself: 'This can’t get any better.' I still think so.”


Politics, business, natural disasters, conflict, sports

One Shot

. ANKARA, Turkey. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
A student argues with riot police during a protest against Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan at the Middle East Technical University.
“I don’t know what went on in this student’s mind as he confronted riot police who were there to break up a demo on campus. I have no wish to judge him as being right or wrong. But every time I look at this photo, I just love the way he is standing up to them. It is possible to be strong even when you are all on your own.”


When I was at elementary school, a neighbour’s relative snapped the children of the neighbourhood one by one with a Polaroid camera. I thought they would be ordinary pictures. But suddenly this white paper came out of the camera. As the young man waved the paper back and forth, I saw silhouettes appear on it.

I was introduced to photography in college. The magic of that first pale image appearing on paper, responding to a chemical solution, made me a photography fan from day one. Photojournalism, combining news coverage with photography, seemed just right for me.

When I first began taking pictures for the college newspaper, I remember telling myself: ‘This can’t get any better.’ I still think so.

Since the day I started to work as an assistant photographer for a local newspaper, I have always been careful to heed the advice of more experienced photographers. I still do.

I have always been deeply moved when covering displaced people, refugees and, in particular, their children. I can never forget how helpless the human being is in the face of big disasters and how technology and progress fail to withstand the forces of nature.

Ideally, I would like to take photos that appeal to all people, because the wider your audience is, the more satisfying your pictures will be.

My most important source of inspiration is my experience in photography. As long as you can remember what was done before, you can always draw lessons from the past and use it as an incentive to improve in the future.

On any given day you wake up, have breakfast and go to work. You think it will perhaps be a dull day. But suddenly something breaks and you find yourself snapping the next day’s front-page pictures. The beauty is in this uncertainty and the excitement it creates.

Never say, “I’ve finished this job, I’ve done the best,” because there is always more to do: other photos to take, a better angle, the perfect lighting to find. No photographers should ever be content with taking a perfect photograph and think they can coast on its glory for the future.

When editing, I always seek out the one image that transmits its message in the clearest and simplest manner. I am ruthless when discarding technically weak pictures.

I have the greatest respect for fellow photographers who have lost their lives or been injured in the pursuit of photography. Maybe not everyone remembers the names of these men and women who risked their lives to inform people, but the photos they have taken will remain for centuries as evidence of the realities of human history.

People always want to know the truth. It is easy to manipulate words, but news photography has been the vision of truth, of what is actually happening. Laid before your eyes, devoid of any misinformation, it is simple and easily remembered. The purpose of news photography has never changed.

Behind the Scenes

. WARDAK PROVINCE, Afghanistan
Photographer Umit Bektas files pictures while on assignment in Wardak province, Afghanistan.
. ANKARA, Turkey. Adem Altan
A demonstrator attacks Umit Bektas with a stick as others clash with police forces during protests against the government's education policies, at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara.