“My future is today. I’ll always have a camera around my neck, even when I’m buried. It’s been a productive career, one rich in satisfaction and joy.
Every day is still a fresh adventure.”
NEW YORK—Veteran photojournalist, the retired Associated Press international photo editor and long-time Asbarez collaborator Harry Koundakjian, passed away on April 21. He was 83.
Harry has been termed the father of photojournalism in the Middle East. He began his career in 1952 when he joined the Beirut-based French-language newspaper L’Orient, and its sister Arabic publication Jarida as the first press photographer in Lebanon. He joined the Associated Press in Beirut in 1966 and covered all Middle East events, from military coups d’état to royal weddings and deaths, earthquakes in Turkey, Iran, and Morocco, a cyclone in East Pakistan, and more.
Being Armenian and neutral in Middle Eastern conflicts, he was the only remaining photo-editor during and after the Munich Olympic massacre. He covered Miss Europe pageants during five years in Beirut, as well as the Pope’s first visits to Jerusalem, East Pakistan, and Turkey.
He traveled with Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Cyrus Vance in the presidential aircraft during their shuttles to make peace between Arabs and Israel. He visited West Africa, where he accompanied Pat Nixon during her “goodwill” tour. Harry was also supervising photo-editor for the Asian Olympics in Tehran.
He did several picture stories about Leila Khaled, who hijacked a TWA jetliner to Algiers and Damascus. He had front-page and cover photos of the Lufthansa hijack to Dubai by Palestinians, showing the hijacker aiming his pistol at the pilot’s head. The pilot was later murdered, and his body was thrown from the plane in Aden.
Harry covered the Lebanon crisis from 1973 until 1979, when he was transferred, with his family, to New York City headquarters as a multilingual photo editor responsible for publications’ needs outside of the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
His photos of Pope Paul VI praying, Yasser Arafat embracing refugee children, and King Hussein’s wedding won him several prizes and were featured in Life and Time magazines.
“My future is today. I’ll always have a camera around my neck, even when I’m buried. It’s been a productive career, one rich in satisfaction and joy. Every day is still a fresh adventure,” Harry told Weekly columnist Tom Vartabedian for a story published in 2005.
The Armenian Weekly and Hairenik Association convey their heartfelt condolences to the Koundakjian family.