As a photojournalist for the past 25 years, Yuri Kozyrev has witnessed many world-changing events. Born in Russia in 1963, Kozyrev started his career documenting the collapse of the Soviet Union and then capturing the changes in his home region for the Los Angeles Times in the 1990s. Kozyrev started covering international news in 2001 and was in Afghanistan immediately after September 11. Between 2003 and 2009, he lived in Iraq and photographed the different sides of the conflict as a contract photographer for Time magazine. Since 2011, Kozyrev has documented the uprisings in the Middle East and their aftermaths in Bahrain, Tunisia, Yemen, and especially Egypt and Libya.
Kozyrev has received several World Press Photo Awards, the Overseas Press Club of America’s Olivier Rebbot Award, and the International Center of Photography’s Infinity Award for Photojournalism. In 2008, he received the Frontline Club Award for his coverage of the war in Iraq. “My Year On Revolution Road,” his work for Time magazine documenting the revolts in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, won the 2011 Visa d’or News at the Visa pour l’Image International Festival of Photojournalism. Kozyrev’s other work has won the Photo Trophy and the Public Prize at the 2011 Bayeux-Calvados Award for War Correspondents, Photographer of the Year at the 2011 Pictures of the Year International competition, and first prize for spot news at the 2012 World Press Photo contest.
Between 2011 and 2012, On Revolution Road was shown in 10 different countries. Other exhibitions include the group exhibition Révolutions Arabes, and Russie(s), a showcase of work from Russia by Kozyrev and photographer Stanley Greene, at Maison de la photographie Robert Doisneau. Kozyrev is represented by NOOR.
When a series of Arab uprisings first erupted in Tunisia in December 2010 and sparked protests in multiple Arab countries, I was assigned by Time magazine to photograph Cairo’s Tahrir Square where thousands of Egyptians were demanding political change.
As demonstrations swept the region, I documented uprisings in several countries but kept a particular focus on Egypt and Libya.
Much of the reportage on these events has focused on what they had in common. Yet as I crisscrossed the region, I became conscious of many differences. Rebels in Libya and protesters in Bahrain may have both been fighting tyranny, but their approach and aspirations were not the same.
I concluded that each revolution must be assessed in its own context. Each has a distinctive character and impact. Each therefore demands its own narrative.
In the end, the differences between the aftermaths of the region’s revolutions may be more important than their similarities.
Upon returning to Libya in 2012, I found the country in the midst of a great, collective exhale. Libyan journalists and politicians were navigating new and unfamiliar terrain. Families emerged from the rubble. The violence and shootings decreased. The most marvelous thing I found was optimism; despite the challenges they faced, many Libyans seemed hopeful.
In Yemen, after former president Ali Abdullah Saleh transferred power to Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in February 2012, Western media often focused on threats from Al-Qaeda and U.S. drone strikes on suspected militants. Most accounts overlooked the real challenges facing Yemenis. Many feel the revolution’s aftermath has not brought substantial change, but rather political instability, violence, and shortages of basic necessities such as water.
Tahrir Square, the hub of the popular uprising that toppled former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak last year, remains the center of protests and violent clashes between citizens and government forces. The last time I was in Tahrir Square there were thousands of bearded men celebrating the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood and its candidate, Mohamed Morsi, in Egypt’s first competitive presidential election. The past year has shown that the groups driving a revolution will not necessarily be the ones that gain power to build democracy.
—Yuri Kozyrev, April 2013