Lefteris Pitarakis, a photojournalist in difficult lands

Photo Credit: Cristiana Ferrauti
Lefteris Pitarakis, Associated Press Staff Photographer, has given a lecture at the University of Westminster.

The job of a photojournalist in the war lands he has visited – like Gaza or Syria – is not easy, but there are many stories to report. A good preparation and a strong will make the team ready to overcome the difficulties.

During the lunchtime lecture, Mr Pitarakis has shown part of his works: a video from Tunisia and several photos shot during the Gaza War. This last job has taken nearly five weeks during the summer.
He has now just returned from the Syrian Border.

The pictures frame some dramatic moments during the conflict. Many dead bodies, young and adult ones, are at the centre of the scene.
Other wide shots show the ruins of buildings in the Middle East sunlight.
Moreover, many photos have people’s crying or suffering faces as their main focus.

“The children are totally victims. So, that’s why I am very sensitive in having them in my photos. […] They are the victims of what is happening”. This is the answer of Lefteris Pitarakis when asked about the considerable presence of children in the works shown.
There is no message behind them.
He seems to repeat the lecture a good reporter should always bear in his mind: “We are not there to change”, he said.

All the works that he produce could well be sold to different newspapers, in different parts of the world. A strong scene that cannot be shown in the western society, for example, could gain the front page in the opposite side of the globe.
For this reason, the aim of a reporter should be to gather as much information as he can.

The correspondents involved in these stories are not there to make things better or to soft the drama. Their aim should be to come back with the stories, reported in their essence.

A different matter is how to do it. “I always try to communicate to people”, he answered to the question about the dignity and the privacy of specific moments when the protagonists could have been against any report.

There are sensitive stories that must be treated alone, whereas in other case the team work is necessary. It totally depends.
However, when the man or the woman asked for a stop, he just stopped filming. The respect is the first principle to remember.

Lefteris Pitarakis started as a photographer, but now he works a lot also with the camera. However, when in doubt about which device to use, he just go straight with the photos.
He realized the benefits of a video when he had met people who have to talk about their stories. A frame, in those cases, is not sufficient.

Pitarakis was born in Athens, Greece. In the ancient country of the classics, he studied photography video and digital imaging at the college.
Afterwards, he took a Honors Bachelor’s degree in Photography at the Middlesex University and a Master’s degree (Distinction) in Photojournalism at the University of Wetsminster, London.

In  April 1998, he started working for the Associated Press in Athens. In 2005, he moved in London, and, from here, he leave at times to cover the Middle East and Africa regions.