CULTURE

Iraq between 1991 and 2003

A punch in the stomach that gradually becomes a lump in the throat: That is the first impression viewers get at Yiannis Behrakis’s exhibition, currently on display at the Technopolis cultural complex. Under the general title «Iraq 1991-2003: An Autopsy,» the photographer’s 55 shots feature children, women, armed citizens, American soldiers and refugees. «This is not art, it is the awful truth,» said Behrakis. The exhibition is organized under the auspices of UNICEF with all proceeds from the sale of photographs and posters going to the children of Iraq. The Greek photographer, a leading Reuters photojournalist, visited Iraq at three different periods – always with camera in hand. The first time, in 1991, it was as a young professional off to cover the Kurdish refugees. In 1998, he returned to Baghdad, where he recorded the misery of the Iraqi people, trapped between the embargo and the inhumane regime. This year, he returned to Iraq to follow the war in various cities, including Basra and Baghdad. His images are captivating. They are genuine, full of power and honesty. They reveal his own courage and sang-froid when it comes to firmly standing on one’s feet and taking a picture of an injured infant lying in its confused father’s arms. «I wanted to focus my lens on the children, primarily because they really are the innocent victims of war,» said Behrakis. «Grownups are not so innocent in the sense that they poison children’s hearts with hatred for any kind of enemy. Since I consider that the ‘quality’ of my images is related to my subjects, I wanted, through this exhibition, to give something back to them.» The photographer also pointed out that even a small donation of one euro can help a child to have drinkable water for a few days. The exhibition runs to June 29 and is curated by Christina Kidoni with the support of Reuters. Among the various distinctions Behrakis has received for his work are first prize for the news section in the World Press Photo 2000 competition, the award for Best Foreign Report by the Overseas Press Club in 2000, and the Bayeux International Award of War Reporters in 2002. He has twice received the European Photojournalist of the Year award, in 1998 and 2002. «Yiannis Behrakis: Iraq 1991-2003: An Autopsy» is on at the Athens Municipality’s Technopolis arts complex, Angelos Sikelianos Hall, 100 Pireos, Gazi. Opening hours from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.