Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Legacy of Yannis Behrakis: Conflict Photographer Dies Aged 58

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Catherine Sirotkin
Catherine is an undergraduate student studying Political Science With Sociology at the University of Birmingham. She specialises in Middle Eastern conflicts and has an avid interest in international relations, development economics, as well as minority empowerment in the UK. Catherine is also a keen reader, podcast-listener and believer in God. In addition to politics, she is also a huge food lover, especially in terms of her sweet tooth.

“My mission is to make sure that nobody can say: ‘I didn’t know’.”

Yannis Behrakis

Whilst international security and conflict is a topic most often monopolised by politicians and writers, photographers play a pivotal role in how we understand and internalise the struggles of others. In 2015, the photograph of Alan Kurdi, a three year old Syrian boy photographed drowned on a beach, humanised those previously degraded as “cockroaches” in the refugee crisis. It was photography, not politics nor the likes of Katie Hopkins urging xenophobia, that was able to have the biggest effect in terms of changing Britons opinions. This importance is even more personified by Yannis Behrakis. 

Behrakis was one of the worlds best-loved photographers, committed to representing those that are wrongly portrayed and demonised by mainstream media. What made his work and his legacy so extra-ordinary was his ability to reflect empathy into the photos he took. In a world where digitisation has led to mass desensitisation, Behrakis humanised his photos and that is what made them feel so personal. His images portrayed the experiences of what the subjects were going through – be that starvation, war, heartbreak or happiness and encapsulated them into photographs that touched those around the world. Behrakis was able to switch the narrative of pity and degradation that we often see in mainstream media, to a narrative that showed the strength and humility of those that are fighting for the rights we often take for granted.

Following his recent death, we have included below some of his pictures that made the most impact:

All photo credits go to Yannis Behrakis and Reuters.

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