Lessons in poverty and humanity: A Greek photojournalist’s work in Africa and India

“You become a better person; you learn to demand less from life. There is so much poverty, so much pain in these countries. This journey made me feel so ashamed. We are so engulfed in our own little world in the West.» Photojournalist Yannis Kolesidis was talking about the lifetime experience of traveling to Zambia, Niger and India with Doctors Without Borders, an NGO which has developed a major humanitarian aid network in those, and other, countries. «Whatever I had in mind prior to going on those trips, was completely reversed after what I saw, felt and experienced. As a photojournalist, I have covered many major events, but the images I came across on this itinerary will always stick in my mind,» said Kolesidis, who is scheduled to present photographs taken in all three countries at the Technopolis arts complex (100 Pireos) in Gazi from September 10 to 20. The event will mark the photojournalist’s first exhibition in a 15-year career in the field of photography, which includes top collaborations and international distinctions – most recently Kolesidis earned 2nd Prize Single in the People in the News category in the World Press Photo organization’s 2009 awards. «The first trip, in Niger, was the most shocking. When we arrived in Niamey, the capital, we had to make our way to a village which is the food supply center of Doctors Without Borders,» siad Kolesidis. «The journey is a nine-hour jeep ride. It felt like I was in an action movie. Every time I felt tired, I would close my eyes. When I opened them again, I wondered when the scene would end. When we finally reached the village and I saw the first malnourished child, I was deeply shocked. It was like a tiny toy. It was a 9-month-old baby, yet to me it seemed looked a newborn. I’m still shocked when I think of how we live in our part of the world when, at the same time, in another part of the planet, there are these 9-month-old babies with no food. These people lack the basics: food, clean water and medicine. The developed world has to provide them with some hope,» he says. Via the photojournalist’s 64 images, the Technopolis exhibition will take its visitors to three areas where Doctors Without Borders offer their services: to people living with the AIDS virus in Zambia, to children suffering malnutrition in Niger and «forgotten patients» with the parasitic disease kala-azar in India. For the organization’s staff, these missions become lifetime experiences as they try to convey a message to the rest of the world, while Kolesidis has a gift for recording it in a most forceful way.