A year ago, after eight years with Getty Images, photographer Daniel Berehulak left his staff position and set out as a freelancer.
Berehulak’s subsequent work for the New York Times, coupled with a POYI win and a Chris Hondros Award, are testament to the 38-year-old’s talent. A solo show opening in New York this week highlights Berehulak’s recent work from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan over the past five years.
Born in Australia to Ukrainian immigrant parents, Berehulak began his photography career at the turn of the millennium as a freelance sports photographer in his native Australia. He covered sports, for the most part, before taking a staff position as a news photographer with Getty Images in 2005. Berehulak’s first real news assignment came before he even officially started with Getty when, en route to London, he was dispatched to cover an earthquake on an island off the coast of Indonesia. “I flew 36 hours,” he racalls, “had to talk my way on to a military vessel. I had no idea what a fixer was and no translator. I didn’t have a satellite phone, no way of transmitting my images.” Photojournalists from Associated Press and Reuters came to Berehulak’s aid, helping him file — and one even lent him $50 to get off the island at the end of the assignment.
In London, Berehulak found himself predominantly shooting news — and doubting his own abilities.
“The photographers I worked alongside loved the news cycle and the hustle and getting that front page of the newspaper,” he says. “But I wanted to be out in the field in conflict areas, documenting real life rather than political theater.”
Between 2006-2007, Berehulak was dispatched to cover the 20th anniversary of Chernobyl, Benazir Bhutto’s return to Pakistan, the food crisis in Nadjir and the trial of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. Rubbing shoulders with the likes of James Nachtwey, David Guttenfelder and John Moore he realized how hard they worked and was inspired by their dedication and their methods.
By 2009, Getty relocated Berehulak to India, where he was given the freedom to drive his own stories. He also consistently worked in Pakistan, learning from colleagues like Adrees Latif and Kevin Frayer.
Berehulak’s coverage of the 2010 Pakistan floods was among the most dramatic of the monumental disaster; a year later Berehulak returned, to find and re-photograph individuals in their new lives amid the devastation.
Despite these successes, Getty then assigned Berehulak to cover sports: a four-week assignment to shoot the Cricket World Cup meant he was unavailable to cover the Japanese tsunami — the year’s biggest news story.
“The pros of being a staff photographer [were] a steady salary, having equipment provided and expenses paid [and having my work] disseminated across the globe.” However, Berehulak adds, “there was the added frustration that I didn’t own the copyright of my own photographs for the duration of my career.”
Since going freelance, Berehulak has shot multiple stories for the New York Times, including several in Afghanistan. He also covered Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa last December, Brazil in the build-up to the World Cup and, most recently, a piece in Somalia.
“At Getty I would have 20 different options for the same kind of event, rather than focusing on the one image that will summarize the story. Over the past 12 months, I have been approaching my work very differently, and it has helped me grow in terms of how I approach a story.”
Berehulak says that while his images for the New York Times stories get syndicated, compared to his exposure through Getty, he’s seeing fewer of them being used by other publications. “But with social media to disseminate stories,” he says, “I feel my work has been reaching a larger audience and having more impact.”
In May 2014, Berehulak was named the winner of the Chris Hondros Award. “The award totally overshadowed anything else I had won,” he says. “It’s humbling to be associated in any way with Chris.” Hondros, it turns out, had a significant influence on Berehulak. “He would sit me down like a younger brother and explain things to me. ‘This is what you have to do.’ The biggest thing he drove home was the importance of covering stories regardless of the risk and situation. People have to be out there.”
The monetary aspect of the award — which comes in at $20,000 — “comes without pressure as to how to use it,” Berehulak notes, “but with that comes responsibility, knowing the dedication and devotion that Chris had to photojournalism.”
Berehulak is considering using the award money for a personal project, to be planned out over the next six months to a year.
Daniel Berehulak is a freelance photographer represented by Reportage by Getty Images. He works frequently on assignment for the New York Times.
The exhibition Daniel Berehulak: Afghanistan, India and Pakistan opens June 18 at 6pm at Site 109 Gallery in New York.