Agence France-Presse stringer Angelos Tzortzinis has clinched the 2015 Wire Photographer of the Year title for his heartfelt work documenting his country’s response to two unprecedented crises.
Tzortzinis, who was born in 1984 in Egaleo, had no aspirations to become a photographer, but was very focused on finding “a way out” of that life.
In 2006, he joined the Leica Academy of Creative Photography in Athens, after which he realised that the camera could be that path.
“My goal is not to promote myself in photography,” he told TIME. “Instead I want people to see my pictures and understand what they mean to me.”
The 31-year-old Greek started collaborating with Agence France-Presse in 2007, while pursuing a career as a freelancer working on personal projects in Egypt, Libya, Turkey and Greece, as well as on assignment for The New York Times.
“A good photographer is not someone who takes nice photos; it’s a much more complicated process.
The photographer’s values and experiences form a large part of it and [seep through] into his or her photographs. That’s why I want to cover stories that affect my daily life and concern me, like the economic crisis in Greece and the refugee situation.”
For the last six years, he’s been focusing on the economic crisis, often shooting powerful images of the true impact political decisions have on everyday people at close range at protests.
“I’m interested because I’m part of it,” he says. “I’m not just a visitor. I live inside the problem and I feel it daily. I’m really confused and troubled by it, so I try to find answers to the questions I have through my photos.”
Now that Greece has become the main point of entry for hundreds of thousands of Syrian, Iraqis and Afghans looking for better lives, Tzotzinis covers the pain of the refugees.
He decided to start covering the story in Kos and Lesbos even without an assignment. Since then, AFP has assigned him on multiple occasions.
“My goal is not to be one more witness to this situation,” he says. “I try to keep as much distance as possible and show things people might not usually see. I want to make images that pose questions about the future of these people.”
Angelos Tzortzinis is a freelance photographer and a stringer with Agence France-Presse based in Greece. He is TIME’s Wire Photographer of 2015. Previous winners include Bulent Kilic in 2014, Muhammed Muheisen in 2013, Marco Longari in 2012, Pete Muller in 2011, and Mauricio Lima in 2010.