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Greek Photographer Wins Award For Refugee Camp Photos

Greek photographer Tzortzinis
Greek photographer Angelos Tzortzinis has just received the UNICEF Photo of the Year 2020 award. Credit: Angelos Tzortzinis / AFP Illustration: GreekReporter

Acclaimed Greek documentary photographer Angelos Tzortzinis has fetched yet another international award, this time by World Press Photo, for masterfully capturing the harsh everyday reality of refugees at temporary camp settlements across Greece.

Shot in grayscale, his work “Trapped In Greece” has won Third Prize at World Press Photo 2021 in the Long-Term Projects / Stories category.

The award-winning photo story comprises thirty individual photos taken between 2016 to 2019. The project, shot mainly on the Greek islands of Samos and Lesbos but also in other refugee camps around Greece, aims to explore human and social adaptability.

World class Greek photographer

Overall, Tzortzinis has been working on migration issues for eight years.

The Athens-based freelance photographer is a regular contributor to Agence France Presse and has previously been recognized with awards from Time Magazine (Wire Photographer of the Year), Picture of the Year International (POYi), Magnum Foundation, UNICEF, Sony and Visa Pour l’Image.

He has covered major international events, most prominently the Arab Spring in Egypt and Libya, the revolution in Ukraine, and the Haiti earthquake several years ago.

In his home country, aside from the lives of refugees and migrants in Greece, he has also been documenting the domestic economic crisis for over a decade.

Harsh everyday reality of refugee camps

“Tens of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty-stricken homelands have become stranded in Greece since the height of Europe’s refugee crisis in 2016,” Tzortzinis comments on his personal website.

“International attention has shifted elsewhere, and local communities too have turned against them. More than 80,000 refugees and migrants were stranded in Greece, after the closure of the borders”, the Greek photographer adds.

Greek photographer Angelos Tzortzinis UNICEF award photo
A photograph by Angelos Tzortzinis from a previous photography contest, depicting the aftermath of the arson at the Moria migrant camp on Lesvos. Credit: Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP

According to a UNHCR report from March 2016, more than one million people, mostly refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, had crossed into Greece since the start of 2015.

As Balkan and European countries north of Greece began closing their borders to incoming migrants, over 90,000 people were left trapped in Greece, in camps or on the streets.

Tzortzinis’ compelling visual storytelling captured moments of the residents’ harsh everyday reality, bearing witness to their actual living conditions at temporary settlement camps set up by the government.

Moria Reception and Identification Center on the island of Lesbos, in the eastern Aegean, where a majority of his photos were taken, was the largest refugee camp in Europe. By the summer of 2020, approximately 20,000 people were living in the settlement which had been built to accommodate 3,000.

Similarly, on the nearby island of Samos, almost 8,000 refugees were living on a former military base that had been built to hold 650 people. Both camps were eventually destroyed by arson fires that were set on September 9 and November 20, 2020.

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