Veteran Photojournalist Harry Koundakjian Passes Away

Harry Koundakjian

“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 Koundakjian

NEW YORK—Veteran photojournalist, the retired Associated Press international photo editor and long-time Asbarez collaborator Harry Koundakjian passed away Monday. He was 83.

Koundakjian has been termed the father 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.

At the same time Harry freelanced for Magazine and Ousbou el-Arabi weeklies of Beirut, where he had more than 300 cover picture-stories; for Time and Life magazines and The Associated Press; Paris Match, France-Soir as well as Dalmas and Keystone photo agencies of France; Illustrated London News magazine, The Daily Mail and The Daily Express and The London Times, and The Guardian.

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 East 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 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.

Koundakjian 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.

Known as Harry “The Horse,” he is now the international photo editor at The AP, in New York.

“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,” Koundakjian told columnist Tom Vartabedian for a story published in 2005.

The management, editorial board and staff of Asbarez convey their heartfelt condolences to the Koundakjian family.


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