Photographers' Blog

Mining the depths in Punjab

Choa Saidan Shah, Pakistan
By Sara Farid

The air became heavier as the rocky walls of the tunnel closed in around us and the last ray of sunlight disappeared around a corner. Ahead was darkness, behind was darkness. The miners’ headlamps and their shining eyes were the only points of light.

We scrambled and crawled along as the tunnel shrank and the wooden beams holding up the ceiling became lower and lower. Finally we came to the coalface. A few bulbs dangled on thin, bare wires. The feeble light glistened off the men’s sweating bodies as they swung their pickaxes into the rock.

A 25 year old miner Mohammad Ismail digs coal in a coal mine underground in Choa Saidan Shah, Punjab province, Pakistan  REUTERS/Sara Farid

Down here, work starts at 7 a.m. and lasts for five to six hours, which is about as long as the body can take. Laborers hack away at the coal, break it up and load it onto donkeys to be transported to the surface.

Working in these conditions, a team of four can dig around a ton of coal per day. They sell it on at $10 per ton, which is split between the four of them. They have to cover all their expenses themselves.

The work is exhausting and the miners often lose their breath, taking a break every 10 minutes to recover. In the thin air, the men drink water and dip tobacco. The dim bulbs keep going on and off as the power falters, and the miners’ small head torches become arcs of light against the rock as they move.

Kandahar to Idaho: a life in recovery

Pocatello, Idaho
By Jim Urquhart

It’s been just over two years since Sgt. Matt Krumwiede’s life was changed forever by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. Until last month, it had been even longer since he had last set foot in his home in Pocatello, Idaho.

On Sunday, June 29, Matt came home for a short visit for the first time since a homemade bomb tore away both his legs while he was on patrol in Kandahar.

U.S. Army soldiers secure an area, as a medic treats Sgt. Matt Krumwiede who was wounded by an improvised explosive device (IED) in southern Afghanistan June 12, 2012. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

Many of those who were there to welcome him back last saw him before he was injured. He still is the spitting image of his twin brother Mark, who is also in the army, but now Matt walks on prosthetic legs.

Waiting to die

Varanasi, India
By Danish Siddiqui

The River Ganges is sacred in Hinduism, and the city of Varanasi, which lies on its banks, is one of the oldest and holiest sites for Hindu pilgrims from all over the world.

Devotees believe that you can wash away your sins by taking a dip in the Ganges at Varanasi. What’s more, dying and having your ashes scattered here is a sacred thing for Hindus who believe that it brings “moksha,” or freedom for the soul from the constant cycle of death and rebirth. To attain this salvation, many travel to Varanasi to die.

A woman stands in a street outside the Mukti Bhawan (Salvation Home) at Varanasi, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, June 17, 2014. Picture taken June 18, 2014. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

“Mukti Bhavan,” or “Salvation House,” is a charity-run hostel for people who wish to pass away in the city. It has 12 rooms, a temple and small quarters for its priests. Lodging there comes with certain conditions: guests have two weeks to die or they are gently asked to move on.

Uighurs of Shanghai

Shanghai, China
By Aly Song

The traditional home of China’s Muslim Uighur community is the far western state of Xinjiang, a region that has been plagued by violence in recent years.

The government blames a series of attacks on Islamist militants and Uighur separatists, who it says want to set up an independent state called East Turkestan. But human rights activists say that government policies – including restrictions on Islam – have stirred up the unrest, although the government strongly denies this.

Uighur men visit the Bund in Shanghai, April 3, 2014. REUTERS/Aly Song

Some members of the Uighur community have chosen to move elsewhere around the country and Shanghai, the city where I am currently based, had 5,254 Uighur residents as of 2010, according to a government website.

A touch of normality

Juba, South Sudan
By Andreea Campeanu

I first heard about kickboxing in Juba over a year ago, long before fighting broke out in South Sudan that has so far killed over 10,000 people.

The kickboxing team had members from different tribes as well as two South Sudanese girls and two Italian girls who were training with them. There were about 20 of them altogether.

Kickboxers stand in the ring before a competition in South Sudan's capital Juba November 22, 2013. REUTERS/Andreea campeanu

They had contests every so often and in November, I photographed one, which was held to promote diversity and peace. I kept promising myself (and the coach) that I would come back to shoot their training.

More than cojones

Pamplona, Spain

By Vincent West

“Have we vanquished an enemy? None but ourselves.”

- George Mallory, mountaineer.

“I think about my mother,” says bullrunner Deirdre Carney.

“I don’t think a lot of men think about that. It might be a woman thing… Women think about the loved ones that will be harmed by them being harmed.”

U.S. runner Deirdre Carney (R) talks to veteran runner Joe Distler following the seventh running of the bulls of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona July 13, 2014. The festival, a heady mix of drinking, dancing, late nights and bullfights, made famous by Ernest Hemingway in his novel "The Sun Also Rises", runs for nine days until July 14. Four runners were hospitalized following the run that lasted two minutes and fifty-two seconds, according to local media. REUTERS/Vincent West (SPAIN - Tags: SOCIETY ANIMALS SPORT ATHLETICS)

Carney is talking about her thoughts before running with the bulls at Pamplona’s famous San Fermin festival, where being harmed is a definite possibility.

An ambulance service personnel tends to an injured female runner after she fell next to Miura fighting bulls at the entrance of the bullring during the final running of the bulls at the San Fermin festival in Pamplona July 14, 2014. A bull gored two men after breaking away from the pack and chasing them through the streets of Pamplona in the closing run of the San Fermin festival on Monday. REUTERS/Eloy Alonso (SPAIN - Tags: SOCIETY ANIMALS)

Several people were hospitalised during the event this year, one after being badly gored in the thigh by the 600 kg (1,323 lb) Victoriano del Rio fighting bull “Brevito”. 

At a Colorado Cattle Drive

Igancio, United States

By Lucas Jackson

According to official statistics, around one percent of the United States’ population operates farms or ranches. After eight years of living in New York, I have discovered that the land rights issues that I remember my parents discussing when I was a child in rural New Mexico are all but invisible to the remaining 99 percent.

Cowboys David Thompson and Wyatt Williams release a calf after giving it medicine after pushing a herd of hundreds of cattle across Highway 160 during a weeklong operation on a Forest Service grazing lease run by rancher Steve Pargin near Ignacio, Colorado

But ranchers’ land rights became big news recently, through one extreme example. This was the story of Cliven Bundy, a Nevada cattle rancher who stopped paying grazing fees, and whose protest became a catalyst for an armed standoff with Bureau of Land Management rangers in the Nevada desert.

This level of hostility between a rancher and the government is rare, but an unfortunate side effect of stories like Bundy’s is that many Americans begin to think that these outliers are representative of the group, which is certainly not true.

The other Pakistan

Islamabad, Pakistan

By Zohra Bensemra

A fist slams into a punching bag. Sparks flare from a saw as a punk carves a huge guitar from a block of stone. A female climber dangles precariously from a cliff.

A Pakistani interior designer Zahra Afridi uses a circular saw as she sculpts a guitar outside the classic rock cafe she designed in Islamabad

Welcome to Pakistan, a country of 180 million people whose residents are as varied as they come. Among them are millionaires and beggars, child brides and female executives, the Taliban and an ultra-chic international jet set.

Many Pakistanis feel angry that headlines about their beloved nation are dominated by violence and extremism, saying that a number of troublemakers has been allowed to define their country’s image.

On the Sidelines of the Brazil World Cup

Miami, United States

Russell Boyce

As national soccer teams and the photographers who have been covering them start to trickle home from the Brazil World Cup, it’s time to revisit the “On the Sidelines” project.

This Reuters Pictures project was billed as a chance for photographers to share “their own quirky and creative view of the World Cup”. I thought that I’d examine what has been achieved.

The media bus driver is reflected in a mirror during the trip away from the Pernambuco arena in the rain in Recife June 28, 2014.  In a project called 'On the Sidelines' Reuters photographers share pictures showing their own quirky and creative view of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder    (BRAZIL - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP SOCIETY TRANSPORT) - RTR3WAK2

As a way of introducing the project, let me use a comparison. I’m intrigued by the notion that an animal that has been caged, but is well fed and well treated, will not exchange freedom from its pen for the uncertainty that this freedom might bring.

The world’s best commute?

London, United Kingdom

By Toby Melville

As a Reuters Photographer based in London, an average commute to my first assignment of the day – normally covering either a political or business story in the city centre – would take roughly an hour. That’s 60 minutes, to drive all of 8 miles.

These commutes take place in the morning rush hour, when I find myself bumper-to-bumper with thousands of other short-tempered drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, buses and taxis. And I do this journey while trying to get to my first job, usually in a state of tension and anxiety…

But for two weeks a year it is different. Completely different. Commuting is fantastic.