Photographers' Blog

Becoming a man

Bungoma, Kenya

By Noor Khamis

As eastern Africa had uncharacteristically fallen silent, I decided to travel over 500 kilometres to western Kenya as schools had just closed and so month-long circumcision rituals had taken centre stage.

The rituals, which are observed in public, represent the annual rites of passage into adulthood for boys aged sixteen and below. The Bukusu community, a sub-tribe of the Luhya tribe, has strongly stuck to such traditions.

A Bukusu boy waits outside his uncle's home for the circumcision ritual in Bungoma

The ceremonies normally take place in August, to give the adolescents enough time to heal before school resumes.

I made several calls to local journalists based in those areas, presenting my interest in covering the ceremonies, and continued communicating with them once I had arrived, after an all-day journey.

I left early the next morning complete with a set of instructions from a local friend, and a driver, who doubled up as my guide. I used the drive from Bungoma, a town west of Nairobi, as an opportunity to gain as much information from him as possible.

Reburying the dead

Guatemala City, Guatemala

By Jorge Dan Lopez

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

The clock had only just struck seven in the morning and the sound of heavy hammers pounding cement had already begun to interrupt the silence in Guatemala City’s General Cemetery. As the sun’s first rays dipped the graveyard in light, they cast shadows on the wall from exhumers.

A grave cleaner uses a maul to break the cover of a crypt as a fellow grave cleaner works standing on a ladder during exhumation works at the Cemetery General in Guatemala City January 29, 2014.  If a lease on a grave has expired or not been paid, grave cleaners will break open the crypts to remove and rebury the bodies.  REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez

The men were opening and cleaning graves after people had stopped paying the lease or the lease had expired. The bodies, or what was left of them, were pulled out one by one by the grave cleaners and placed in clear, plastic bags.

The team began breaking the crypts’ lids and bricks. After a few minutes, I glimpsed the corner of a rotten casket and, eventually, I got a distinctive view of skin, bones, and an almost-preserved face, grimacing indescribably. But the grimace did not scare or repulse me; it reminded me of the ephemerality of life.

Independent Island

Eigg, Inner Hebrides, Scotland

By Paul Hackett

I had never had the privilege of visiting the Island of Eigg, located about ten miles off the Scottish mainland, but its rich and varied wildlife, beautiful scenery and its residents’ attempts to become self sufficient, made it somewhat famous.

A cow stands on Lag Bay beach, the island of Rum is seen in the background, on the island of Eigg, Inner Hebrides, Scotland

The idea of sustainability is something that concerns us all, and I was interested to see first-hand if it worked on such a small scale.

The first thing I noticed when I stepped off the ferry and onto the island was Donna, a local busker, playing her pipes on the quayside with her dog singing along beside her. It was a comical sight and quite lovely to arrive to the sound of the bagpipes.

Still missing – MH370

Beijing, China

By Kim Kyung-Hoon

Almost six months have passed since the Malaysian Airlines MH370 disappeared. Although authorities concluded that the plane crashed in the remote Indian Ocean and lost all the passengers, many family members refuse to accept that conclusion. They hope that they are still alive.

Zhiliang, whose fiance was onboard Malaysian Airlines Fight MH370 which disappeared on March 8th, is silhouetted at an empty house which he had planned to decorate with her for their marriage, after he shows the house during an interview with Reuters in Tianjin, August 26, 2014.      REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

However, public interest towards this incident has faded, so I decided to record what these family members are still going through and shed light on this mysterious incident once again.

I thought that portrait-style pictures showing family members together with the missing passengers’ mementos would tell a story.

At war for the trees

Centro do Guilherme, Brazil

By Lunae Parracho

A small army of Ka’apor warriors marched into the depths of the Amazon forest in northeast Maranhao state, with me in tow. This was one day of a weeklong operation to protect and survey the Alto Turiacu Indian reserve, which has been invaded by illegal loggers for years.

Ka'apor Indian warriors hike during a jungle expedition to search for and expel loggers in the Alto Turiacu Indian territory. REUTERS/Lunae Parracho

Ka’apor leader Irakadju told me how they had sought help from the Brazilian Army when they were in the region last year, but they had left, unwilling to ruin their jeeps and possibly afraid of the loggers.

“We got tired of waiting for the government,” Irakadju said, while pushing through vines, branches and thorns.

Burning Together

Black Rock Desert, Nevada

By Jim Urquhart

For the fourth year in a row I have found myself spending a week in – the heat and dust in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada north of Reno – surrounded by over 65,000 people attending the Burning Man Festival.

At this point I feel I am starting to get an idea of how to handle myself out here. It is a tough environment to work in. You have to bring in all your supplies to live and work with. This includes all your food and water for a week. Nothing is sold in Burning Man outside of ice and coffee. Your transportation options are pretty limited to mainly foot or bicycle.

The art installation Pulse & Bloom is seen during the Burning Man 2014 "Caravansary" arts and music festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada

In past years I have camped with other photographers but this year I brought along my wife Dayna to share the experience. When I’ve come home reeking of body odor and failure she has always asked me what it is like to be here. I’ve shown her photos and tried to explain it but I always feel like my explanations fall short in explaining the whole experience.

Circus animals of Mexico City

Mexico City, Mexico

By Henry Romero

When I was a child back in Colombia I used to go to the circus every New Year’s Eve with my parents. It was always a special moment. I remember the lights, the clowns, the acrobats and the beautiful animals performing tricks that made us laugh and gaze at them in awe.

A tiger jumps through a ring of fire during a show at the Atayde Hermanos Circus in Mexico City August 8, 2014. Mexico City's government overwhelmingly passed a law on June 2014, which imposed stiff penalties of up to $60,000 on circuses in the capital that use animals such as lions, camels and horses in their performances. Circuses have one year to comply with the ruling. Picture taken August 8, 2014. REUTERS/Henry Romero (MEXICO - Tags: ANIMALS POLITICS SOCIETY)

But that was some 40 years ago and now, although I still like the acrobats and clowns at the circus, I’m not so sure about seeing the animals perform any more.  

I’ve never taken my own kids to a circus with animals. I just don’t see the point of looking at a tiger that has been coached to jump through a burning ring, or an elephant sitting like a person, or a monkey dressed in a tiny outfit. In my personal opinion, it sends the wrong message to our children about respecting animals.

Seven siblings in China

Jinhua, China

By William Hong

Even after I set out to visit his family, the story of Yang Hongnian and his seven children sounded unbelievable to me. As I stood in front of his makeshift house, which is just 20 meters square, I still wasn’t sure it could be true.

Yang Hongnian and Le Huimin's children drink outside their house in Jinhua, Zhejiang province, August 7, 2014. Migrant worker Yang, 47, his wife Le, and their seven children share a 20-square-metre makeshift  house on the outskirts of Jinhua, and live on around 3000-4000 yuan ($486.8-$649) which Yang earns from working at a construction site. Except for one daughter Le had with her ex-husband, the couple have given birth to six children in 10 years. REUTERS/William Hong (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA

The children played around as I waited for Yang to finish work so that he could be interviewed. Eventually, he walked into the dimly lit space with a tired face and a lighted cigarette. The children rushed and surrounded him. Suddenly the already cramped house was completely full.

Yang Hongnian, 47, smokes after lunch at home in Jinhua, Zhejiang province, August 7, 2014. REUTERS/William Hong

Yang and his wife Le Huimin have had six children together over the past ten years, in addition to a daughter of Le’s from a previous marriage.

A moment of stillness

Ferguson, Missouri
By Adrees Latif

A man is doused with milk and sprayed with mist after being hit by an eye irritant from security forces trying to disperse demonstrators protesting against the shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 20, 2014. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

I was on holiday and far away from Ferguson, Missouri, when 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot dead by a policeman in the town.

The killing of this unarmed black teenager on August 9 sparked huge protests, and by the time I arrived the demonstrations had been going for well over a week.

Before I got there, clashes between protesters and police had been intense, with tear gas being fired at demonstrators, some of whom let fly rocks, bottles and more. But when I got to Ferguson late evening on August 19, the unrest had started to calm down.

Brief encounter with a fleeing Yazidi

Fishkhabour, Iraq

By Youssef Boudlal

I remember the scene well. It was the day that I arrived at the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing of Fishkhabour.

With shocked, sunburnt faces, men, women and children in dirt-caked clothes were struggling in temperatures of over 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit), waiting patiently for local Kurdish aid.

At first, I focused my camera on a group of women sitting on the ground, but when I turned away I saw this little girl.

  • Editors & Key Contributors