Saturday Evening Post #42 “I’m Not a Lifesaver”

No doubt you will have seen as the credits in a magazine, newpaper or book for Photo by AFP.

AFP is a noted news service that goes all the way back to 1835. AFP are the initials for “Agence France-Presse”.

They currently have over 400 photographers-photojournalists at work on stories in war zones, policitcal events, and just about everything in between that is newsworthy.

One of their photographers has recently come to my attention.

His name is Aris Messinis, a Greek photographer.

The image that has created my interest in his work, and his life, and his compassion, was  a photo taken in March 2017 in Iraq, in Mosul, at the time of the ‘libertation’ of the township from the oppression of Islamic State, (ISIS).  I don’t have access to the image, and below is a quick copy from a magazine in an iPad display.  I don’t normally put other photographers work on this blog, but none the less, to explain it would be much to difficult. And I can’t locate a reference site to give it full credit.  The copyright is the work of Aris Messisnis.  His work is worth more than a second glance.

What caught me with the power of the image, built around the smoke, dust and haze behind the couple, that cover, yet hints at the destruction. While the glace behind is both protective and fearful.  The touch of the family belongings in the single yellow plastic bag holds both their possessions and the centre of their life away from the misery behind.

In October 2015 on the Island of Lesbos (Lesvos), he covered the story of refugees making the prerilous crossing of the Mediterranean looking for a new start to life.

During this assigment, Aris crossed a line that many of his peers feel must never be broken. He put down his camera and helped the people he was sent to photograph. Several photos of him helping children, and babies to safety through the surf surely testify to his involement as more than just a observer of the human condition.  He called out his fellow photographers for not helping a boat that had capsised and plunged its overloaded passengers into the water, “You could take all the pictures you needed, and then lent a hand to help. Why didn’t you?’

The response.  “I’m a photographer, not a lifeguard.”

This is a photo by Petros Tsakmakis. The photo is not one of those ‘set’ for the moment, Aris carried a number of children that day. Petros took quite a number of Aris carrying in young children

Here is a link to a full story by Aris.

Please be aware, that there are, as they say on the tele news, “Some quite confronting images on the site”.


Aris says, “I respect the need to be objective, but in our personal time, when we are not working, we are human.”


Thank God he was human.

Photos shared on the site are the work of Aris Messinis and Petros Tsakmakis. I acknowledge the copyright to be theirs or their associated companies.


9 thoughts on “Saturday Evening Post #42 “I’m Not a Lifesaver”

  1. An excellent insight, David. Indeed, thank God he put the camera down. Sometimes photographers get so involved in getting the perfect images to document the scene that they don’t see that they can help in a situation. Unfortunately I have seen that happen as I guess you have too! We can all learn from Aris Messinis.
    Thanks for posting this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. G,day David,
      Hard call for a photojouralist. They are under pressure to present ‘just the right moment’, and while seeming to remain aloof, like any professional they are aware of the job needed to be done at the moment.
      I think Aris shows a good balance, as he says in the article, he has small children around the same age. Makes it just the bit more personal.
      That the photographer even needs to be there is much more a statement about the world around than the morals of photojournalists.
      The same happens to us as bird photographers, there may be a ‘Code of Ethics’, but I’ve seen the line crossed so many times by those who should well have known better. And having crossed it myself more than once, I’m not much in a position to point fingers, 🙂

      A good review of many of Ari’s pictures will show not just his photographic skill but his concern and involement with the subject. I think the greatest ones don’t show the mayhem and destruction, but rather capture the human spirit of rising above the trauma.
      Keep takin’ photos, we do.


  2. This is a very profound story, David. Professionalism behind the viewfinder shall never obstruct our truly human vision.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HI Adam, yep, good point, seeing mayhem and destruction and inhumanity day after day, it is pretty hard not to become either calloused, or at least build a shell of protection about your feelings. I think the important take away is Ari’s humanitarian approach, which as you say is something we all can aspire to.


    1. Hello Derek, I think I really wanted to share his photos and a little of his life as it does show the role of good people in action. No matter what the disaster, there are always folk who will step in and selflessly assist. Their actions need to be applauded.


  3. Very moving story David, thanks for sharing it. This truly makes us aware of the importance of being human and the need to love one another, for regardless of who we are, in truth we are’all in the same boat together’ and will all need the caring hand of someone like Aris to reach out for us at some time in our life.


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