Grigory Dukor, who heads the Photo and Video Department at the TASS Russian News Agency, recounts what valuable lessons his considerable experience in photojournalism has provided and shares other fascinating insights into the life of a professional photographer.
Grigory Dukor heads the Photo and Video Department at TASS Russian News Agency. Dukor joined the agency in 2018. He has more than 30 years of experience in the field of photography.
He began his career as a commercial photographer and worked as a freelancer for local media.
In the early 1990s, he joined the Reuters News Agency and covered top news stories and key topics in politics, business, and sports, as well as military conflicts and coups, the Olympics, championships, and feature stories. Grigory served as Reuters’ Chief Photographer for its Russia and CIS team for the following 20 years, coordinating news coverage out of countries stretching across 11 time zones. He also held dozens of photojournalism training courses for professional photographers and picture editors around Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union (CIS).
Why did you decide to devote your life to photography?
My earliest memory of photography is that of my dad trying to teach me how to set aperture and exposure properly. Perhaps that was too soon as I remember just wanting to go out and play football. Later on, I became crazy about photography and could not think about anything else.
Did your career in professional photography start off smoothly?
I started out as an assistant to a commercial photographer. My first assignment was a stroke of luck. A fellow photographer who worked for a very popular newspaper back in those days asked me to substitute for him while he was on vacation. I ended up covering the first democratic protest rally in Moscow when about a million people showed up. As for the pictures, they looked great: rain, umbrellas, and police lines… It was a real scramble when I returned to the office. I had to prepare the prints urgently for publication on the same day. Other than the time pressure, I also had no idea what snapshots from the demonstration the newspaper would need, so I made several prints. About 15 minutes later, I heard the voice of the executive secretary next to the darkroom (he had never come to this part of the newspaper building before). “Who took these pictures?” he asked. I thought it was the beginning and end of my very brief career in journalism. But I was proved wrong. I got my first front-page photo and went on to work for the newspaper. That experience taught me not to give up.
What assignment left the biggest impact on you?
The assignment that left its most significant mark on me was in the early 1990s in Shaumyan, an Armenian enclave situated in the north of the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region in Azerbaijan. What started as a one-day return helicopter trip from the Armenian capital, Yerevan, turned into a two-week assignment. It was an amazing experience to work in that environment. What I learned then helped me a great deal in other coverages afterward. In the days before digital photography, I also had to make some extremely difficult choices when squeezing out my last roll of film.
What stories usually captivate you?
Stories about daily life excite me the most. Once I documented a dying village where young people had moved away to the cities in search of work. The residents were very welcoming and friendly, but for some reason, they seemed only to meet up once a week when the mobile shop arrived. Then they would go back to their homes until the following week.
I also love to shoot sports photos as there is always an opportunity to take a picture that is a little different from what has been taken before.
Whom do you look up to professionally?
The person I most respect is our chief photographer in Moscow from the early 1990s, Frederique Lengaigne. She showed great patience and tact.
What has working in photojournalism taught you?
My biggest lesson has been that it is not enough to just take a picture — you need to publish it quickly and give your clients what they need.
What’s your vision of the future of photojournalism?
The ability to tell a story in one frame, as well as multimedia, will keep photojournalism alive.