Koundakjian’s Beirut Retrospective

harrykoundakjianbeiruthu.jpgLongtime colleague, Harry Koundakjian, has been enjoying a well-deserved wave of recognition recently as he’s exhibited his photographs and lectured about his 50 years photojournalism around the world. A veteran photojournalist, he’s been published in everything from Paris Match to LIFE magazine.

Beirut’s Daily Star newspaper, reported from Harry’s current exhibition (which runs till Sunday, May 13) at the city’s Haigazian University in today’s edition:

…In the course of his career, says Koundakjian, he filled 29 Lebanese passports and now his first American one – the paper trail of a life spent seeking and documenting the life of the Middle East…The walls of the gallery are flecked with stars and famous faces…it was Koundakjian’s picture of Princess Lala Lamia, the daughter of Lebanese Prime Minister Riad Solh, watching a water-skiing competition in Jounieh that won him his first award (an Honorary Degree from the first World Photo Competition in 1963).

Other famous faces include Louis Armstrong, Omar Sharif, the Aga Khan and of course Lebanon’s own Fairuz, along with hundreds more.

There are also some facts I didn’t know about the honorable Harry:

Koundakjian was the first-ever staff photographer in Lebanon. He took up a post at L’Orient Le Jour after his dark-room employer, scolding him for slipping out to photograph a foundering smuggling ship mid-shift, turned on a light and ruined his developing negatives, and the editor decided to commission him full time. After six months or so other Lebanese newspapers employed their own photo-journalists, and the trade was established.

Koundakjian is a man fascinated by accident. His second photograph to be presented at the World Photo Competition entitled “Please Save Me” was a picture of the pleading face of a Beirut taxi driver trapped in the wreckage of his car in 1962. “My photos are the accidents of accidents,” he says – but there is nothing accidental in his success, despite having “just fallen into” photography after his mother gave him a small Brownie camera when he was five. The humanity of this beginning is reflected in the intimacy of his photography. “Politicians like posing, I hate that,” he says. “I would tell a joke or distract them and then – bang.”

…his favorite is more personal: a print, signed by his editor at AP, taken during a Lufthansa hijacking in 1977 of one gunman holding a pistol to the pilot’s head in the cockpit. The caption reads, “To Harry, the greatest shooter in the world.” (original Daily Star article)

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