Photojournalist Alexandra Avakian has photographed prominent events of international struggle and social change for noted publications such as National Geographic, New York Times Magazine, TIME, and LIFE. Days before November 9, 1989, Avakian was sitting on a friend’s couch in Paris monitoring hourly news on a shortwave radio about the possibility of change occurring at the Berlin Wall. On Monday, November 6 at dawn, she flew to West Berlin, where she began shooting on assignment for LIFE. A day later, on November 7, she awoke before sunrise and walked close to the center of the city near the Brandenburg Gate. She recollects, “There was no confirmed information about whether the Wall would
fall or not yet, but there were demonstrations in East Germany…I found a group of young West German men slamming the Wall with a hammer. They had been at it for hours.” As East German border guards arrived, Avakian documented the chaotic scene.
She adds of that morning, “Suddenly a water cannon started blasting through the crack the young men had made in the Wall. East German border guards were trying to push us away with the hard freezing blasts of water. Wet and cold, I made lots of pictures and had no idea at the time that one frame would become the most famous picture of the fall of the Berlin Wall.” Days later, as the peaceful revolution crystallized, Avakian stayed in Berlin, documenting powerful scenes of public revelry, melancholy, and amazement as families mostly from East Berlin explored the Western half. Afterward, Avakian went immediately to photograph the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, and continued her coverage of the Soviet Union through the end of state communism. She also has covered the conflict and peace process between Israel and Palestine, among other countries undergoing challenges, uprisings, and revolutions.