Respected Award-Winning Photojournalist Yannis Behrakis Dies Aged 58 and the World Is Mourning

Respected photojournalist Yannis Behrakis was well-known for his work that covered many of the most tumultuous events across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe, including conflicts in Afghanistan, the former Yugoslavia, and Israel-Palestine.

He spent most of his career with Reuters until his death. In his Reuters biography, he said “I’m there to record the best and the worst of humankind. This is my contribution to world peace.”

A Syrian refugee kisses his daughter as he walks toward Greece’s border with Macedonia on September 2015. Photograph: Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

In January 1989, he was sent on his first foreign assignment for Reuters to Libya for Muammar Gaddafi. For the next three decades, Behrakis was regularly on the road covering violence, wars and protests.

The Reuters US general news editor Dina Kyriakidou Contini said “his pictures are iconic – some works of art in their own right – but it was his empathy that made him a great photojournalist”.

Throughout his career, he received various prestigious awards, including the World Press Photo in 2000, Photographer of the Year by the Guardian in 2015, and Bayeux-Calvados in 2016. He also led a Reuters team to a Pulitzer Prize in 2016 for the coverage of Europe’s refugee crisis.


An ethnic Albanian man mourns over the coffin of Gasper Karaqi in Kosovo in February 1999. This was one of the winning pictures in the 2000 World Press Photo Awards. Photograph: Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

In 2015, the work of Behrakis and his team was one of the most celebrated works in the journalist field. They covered thousands of fleeing refugees from Syria and beyond for months. “This picture proves that there are superheroes after all,” Behrakis explained. “He doesn’t wear a red cape, but he has a black plastic cape made out of rubbish bags. For me, this represents the universal father and the unconditional love of a father to his daughter.”

A Syrian refugee holds onto his children as he struggles to walk off a dinghy on the Greek island of Lesbos on September 2015. Photograph: Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

Once Behrakis said he hated war, but, like many others, he loved to travel and enjoyed the adventure and camaraderie that came along his journey. “My mission is to tell you the story and then you decide what you want to do. My mission is to make sure that nobody can say: ‘I didn’t know’.”

Yannis Behrakis’s self-portrait after surviving an ambush by rebels in Sierra Leone. Photograph: Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

Behrakis was born in Athens, Greece in 1960 and has died on the 2nd of March 2019, after a long battle with cancer. The warm-hearted Behrakis is survived by his wife Elisavet and their daughter Rebecca and his son Dimitri.

Written by Adin Lubis

Adin is a master student of Journalism & Media in Europe at Vrije Universiteit Brussel. She loves travelling, share her thoughts on her Instagram @adinlubiss, and vlogging on YouTube.