A friend died this weekend. He was a difficult, accomplished man, whose innate compassion came with a bluster that often scared people. It scared me when I first met him.
Yannis Behrakis was a friend. I feel lucky I could call him that. We weren’t incredibly close but I knew I could rely on him if I ever needed to. He was smart and incisive in a way few people are. He had an abruptness that I shared so I had a lot of patience for him when sometimes people would get annoyed. I privately called him “Yoda”. He hated that.
He could be incredibly kind. He found incredible satisfaction in being a father and a husband and a son. He was funny. At my wedding, while I was, pregnant, dancing, he told me to be careful, otherwise my child “would turn into frappe”. You have to be Greek to appreciate that joke.
Most of all, he had this amazing gift to see things through a camera lens few other people can. Everyone recognised that, which is why he won awards and a Pulitzer. So often I had marveled at a photo and then looked down at the caption to see Reuters/Yannis Behrakis.
I did that the other day, before Yanni died, telling an editor about an amazing photo that she should use, without knowing or remembering it was Yanni’s. It’s the one above – it says so much about the country he loved that not one of us, his print colleagues, could ever get down on paper or screen, in all the billions of words we’ve used over the years to describe what happened in this country. It was humbling.
A lot will be written about Yanni in the next few days and his pictures will be rightly republished, reminding us of incredibly difficult work he did over the years in hellish places. It’s the best tribute we could give him – remembering.