Saddled with debt and battling a financial crisis, Greece caught the eye of Reuters photojournalist Yannis Behrakis, who turned his lens on the country’s struggling industry after a six-year recession

Yannis, who is Reuters chief photographer, Greece & Cyprus, was almost bitten by a snake and survived a roof collapse to recount his experiences to Amateur Photographer.

The award-winning photographer – who in 2000 survived an ambush in Sierra Leone – travelled from Athens to northeastern Greece, and back via the Peloponnese region in the south, to document once-flourishing industry in a country dogged by an unemployment rate of more than 25%.

Yannis’s ‘Ghost factories of Greece’ is part of Reuters’ The Wider Image project.

AP Who is the photographer you most respect and why?
YB James Nachtwey [US photojournalist], because of his talent, his immense dedication and braveness, his humanity and simplicity.

AP What camera gear do you mainly use for your work – a small compact system camera or a bulkier high-end DSLR, or both?
YB My main day-to-day gear is the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. In some cases, such as sports and mega-telephoto action, I use a [Canon] EOS-1D X and a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R.

A Greek farmer  drives his tractor as  Afghan immigrants sleep on the Greek-Macedonian border before an attempt to flee to Macedonia from the border village of Idomeni in Kilkis prefecture May 13, 2015. Hundreds of mostly Afghan, Syrian, and African immigrants cross daily from Greece into Macedonia on their way to northern European countries; most of them are turned back by Macedonian border guards.  REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis - RTX1CUK2

A Greek farmer drives his tractor as Afghan immigrants sleep on the Greek-Macedonian border before an attempt to flee to Macedonia from the border village of Idomeni in Kilkis prefecture May 13, 2015

[© Yannis Behrakis/Reuters]

AP Did you encounter any problems when taking your Greece pictures, such as locals not happy at the message your pictures would put across?
YB Not really. The main difficulty was accessing the interior of the structures as many of them were on the verge of collapsing. In one case, part of the roof collapsed while I was taking pictures in the basement. In another, a snake bit my boot in a timber factory.

AP In general terms, what is your secret to a high-impact documentary photograph?
YB Aim for the pick of the action and the emotion, combined with good light. Take pictures that create emotions for the viewers. Make the viewer feel happy or sad, make them laugh or cry, or both.

AP What project are you working on now?
YB I am documenting the issue of immigration. People from Africa, the Middle East and central Asia arrive in Greece from Turkey every day. Greece is suffering from a brutal financial crisis so there are no jobs for the migrants. They try to flee from Greece to northern Europe hoping for a better life.

• For further details about the Greece assignment, and to view Yannis’s images from the project, see Ghost factories of Greece. For more about Reuters’ The Wider Image project, see HERE.

Seven year-old Ariana, a Kurdish-Syrian immigrant, rests before crossing into Macedonia along with another 45 Syrian immigrants near the border Greek village of Idomeni in Kilkis prefecture May 14, 2015. Hundreds of mostly Afghan, Syrian, and African immigrants cross daily from Greece into Macedonia on their way to northern European countries; most of them are turned back by Macedonian border guards. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Seven year-old Ariana, a Kurdish-Syrian immigrant, rests before crossing into Macedonia along with another 45 Syrian immigrants near the border Greek village of Idomeni in Kilkis prefecture May 14, 2015

[© Yannis Behrakis/Reuters]