Achilleas Zavallis (Cyprus, 1977) is a visual storyteller interested in exploring how geography, the environment and resource scarcity affect and interact with conflict and migration patterns in the Mediterranean Basin. Growing up between Europe and the Middle East he specialises in in-depth coverage of conflicts and migration waves in the wider region and has dedicated his career to exploring these issues and trying to better understand how seemingly unrelated events interact with each other.
A self-taught photographer, he started working in 2002 photographing breaking news and features for a variety of publications in his hometown. A newspaper assignment in 2004 saw Achilleas covering the efforts from a small group of doctors from Cyprus trying to bring medical relief and supplies to a remote part of Sri Lanka after a tsunami left thousands homeless and hundreds dead. Faced with the devastation to the infrastructure of the country he decided to put down his cameras and work with an NGO, helping to rebuild and equip a hospital ward on the island.
Returning to Europe the next year he based himself in Greece where he started documenting the journey of refugees trying to make their way to Europe. Part of this work on migration was selected in 2007 for the City Streets photography competition, organised by The British Council and The Migration Policy Institute of Greece, and he went on to participate in a series of workshops with Magnum photographer Nikos Economopoulos. Following the global financial crisis in 2007-2008 Achilleas started photographing its impact on the Greek society and economy. During this time he was selected to take part in ThePrismGR2010 which documented the effects of the crisis in the country with the use of multimedia.
By 2012, in an effort to better understand some of the reasons behind an increase of migration through Greece towards Europe, Achilleas relocated to Turkey and started an extensive documentation of the Syrian revolution and subsequent civil war. Being one of the first photographers to cover the conflict allowed him to create a large network of contacts which gave him an intimate understanding of the dynamics at play and helped him do extended journeys in the war-torn country. Some of this work is currently part of evidence used by human rights groups and organisations to prosecute the Assad regime for the use of chemical weapons against civilians and crimes against humanity.
Upon returning to Europe he was selected to participate in the 2014 Nikon-Noor Masterclass and in 2015 he started working on his long-term project “The Long Road” documenting the Balkan Migration Corridor which followed refugees making their way from the shores of Greek islands towards Northern Europe.
With the rise of ISIS Achilleas returned once again to the Middle East, to cover the military operations of Mosul and Raqqa and the reconstruction efforts after the collapse of the Caliphate.
Currently based in Greece he continues to document the cycles of violence in the Middle East, the integration of refugees in Europe and how the climate crisis is affecting the continent. Some of his latest work has seen him photograph the famine in Yemen, the financial crisis in Lebanon and the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh.
Achilleas is a regular contributor to a variety of international publications, news organisations, production companies and NGO’s including The Guardian, Agence France Presse (AFP), Liberation, Le Nouvel Observateur (L’ Obs), Vice News, dsWeekblad, Verdens Gang (VG), Delirio Productions, Blink Films, UNHCR, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and PRO ASYL.
He has completed two Hostile Environment First Aid training courses and has his own Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).
Currently based in Athens, Greece.