Photographers' Blog

Risking life for school, again

Cilangkap village, Indonesia

By Beawiharta

This is my second picture story about students going to school.

Still in Banten province, Indonesia, around 100 kms (62 miles), or a good four hours drive from my home. These students are not like the Indiana Jones students I covered previously, who crossed the river using a broken suspension bridge, instead, they use a bamboo raft.

I received a call from a local photographer saying he had found another group of students crossing a river using unconventional means. “Why are you not taking pictures yourself?”, I asked. Cikal replied, “We need to work together, you for the international audience and me for the Indonesia reader. Because I think they need a proper bridge. Maybe the students will get lucky from our pictures.”

I recalled our success story with the suspension bridge a year ago. Maybe we could do the same thing for these students. What Yan Cikal said reminded me of one of the “photographer’s tasks”: make a change for a better life through pictures.

A few days later I drove to Lebak. I thought it would be easy to find the place but I was wrong because Cikal didn’t know the exact bridge location. So, we went around Cilangkap village asking people. Finally we found the crossing point of Ciherang River but we were too late, the students had already crossed the river to school 15 minutes earlier.

So, we waited to take pictures as they returned home. I saw a broken suspension bridge location around 50 yards from the location of the bamboo raft. Usually people use the bridge to cross the river but in January 2013 a big flood swept the bridge away. Since then, villagers have been using a bamboo raft to cross the river.

The tiger, the pig and the cage

Sumatra Island, Indonesia

By Beawiharta

Over a three-week period in February, I covered two very different animal-related assignments in Indonesia – the slaughtering of snakes in West Java and the preservation of the endangered tiger in Sumatra.

In West Java, Wakira along with his 10 workers kill hundreds of snakes each day for their skin at his slaughterhouse in Cirebon. While in Sumatra, real estate tycoon Tomy Winata saves and releases tigers into the wild at his Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation. I didn’t enjoy the snake slaughterhouse assignment because snakes are dangerous and disgusting, but I really liked visiting the tigers in Tambling.

After a nearly 90 minute flight on a Super Puma helicopter from Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, we landed at the Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation on the southern tip of Sumatra Island. The 45,000 hectare forest reserve can only be reached by boat or plane. As soon as we reached the Sumatran Tiger Rescue Centre on our golf cart, we could immediately hear the roars of the tigers. Seeing three ferocious tigers up close was shocking to me. At times, it was difficult to move and I trembled in fear as the view from my camera lens made me forget that they were actually caged up.

Too young to race?

Bima, Indonesia

By Beawiharta

The prize for a horse race in Indonesia’s Sumbawa Besar town is woven silk fabric but the prize in Bima is two cows and $100.

I covered the Bima horse races because they use child jockeys, aged between 8 to 12-years-old.

GALLERY: BETTING ON CHILD JOCKEYS

I thought they would be way too small to ride a horse. When I arrived at the race course on the outskirts of Bima, the day’s racing was finished and the jockeys were heading to the beach to wash the horses. I watched as they played happily with the horses. Even though they still looked too small for the horses, they also looked at ease. Some fell off their horses and into the water but they were still laughing. They didn’t seem to have any worries, just kids enjoying their world.

Flashback to the Bali blasts of 2002

By Beawiharta

A ceremony to remember the victims of a bomb blast that struck a busy street on a Saturday night in 2002, killing 202 people.

Today’s ceremony carried me back to 10 years ago, where shops were burned and damaged. The bomb had left a big hole in Legian Street. That Sunday morning in 2002 was bright, with good weather and a blue sky as I entered Kuta beach’s Hard Rock Hotel. It was a different atmosphere; the situation wasn’t relaxing on the resort island. It was on high alert with security personnel covering the streets. Police, local security people called “pecalang” always asked for ID. If someone didn’t have ID, they couldn’t enter the hotel area or walk the streets.

I arrived at the bomb blast site shortly after landing from Jakarta but the destroyed area was already closed off by police. Security was very tight and no one could enter the bomb blast area so I went to the hospital, to try to get access to the victims. The hospital was not a comfortable place to be, especially after the violence of the night before. There were many burned bodies lying on the floor covered with white fabric, and the smell was bad. It’s already been 10 years since that day but some of the visuals of the 2002 Bali bombing are still in my mind.

A very long wait

By Beawiharta

In the morning paper I read that thousands of trucks were lined up at the harbor to cross over to the Indonesian island of Sumatra. For three days in a row the newspaper reported that trucks were stranded at the port not far from the capital, Jakarta. Traffic jams are a daily occurrence in Jakarta but this was unusual for trucks headed to Sumatra Island. On a calm day news wise, I decided to go to the port just 120 kilometers (74 miles) away.

After driving for three hours, I arrived at the back of the truck queue. I started to walk through. Truck drivers sat on the street alongside vendors. The smell of urine stung my nose.

I wanted to show the number of trucks lined up so I thought my first photo should be an overall view from above. I started to look for high ground with my goal being on top of a truck, so I needed to talk nicely to a truck driver to get permission. I thought they would welcome me with a smile when I approached them. But my prediction was off. Instead, they looked at me suspiciously as I initiated the conversation. After I told them I was a journalist they were less suspicious. Later I discovered they thought I could have been a thief or a pickpocket.

Trekking to the Sukhoi crash site

By Beawiharta

I think this has been my hardest assignment to get photos since I began working for Reuters.

Wednesday
Wednesday afternoon at the office I received news that a Russian Sukhoi Superjet 100 passenger plane with 46 people on board had lost contact with air traffic control at Jakarta’s Halim Perdana Kusuma airport during their demonstration flight over Mount Salak. After more than four hours of no contact, it meant the aircraft was lost, crashed or had made an emergency landing. I decided to spend the night at the office to figure out the fastest options for covering the Sukhoi news, and to prepare all the camera equipment in the pictures vehicle. After a discussion with Heru Asprihanto from TV and Indonesia bureau chief Matthew Bigg, we decided to wait until morning to head to the the nearby location Mount Salak.

Thursday
After taking photos in the morning of volunteers preparing to climb Salak Mountain, I received information that the Sukhoi aircraft had crashed after hitting a slope atop Mount Salak. For Indonesians, it is common for aircraft to hit the mountain. Since 2004, four aircraft have crashed there, the worst an Indonesian air force aircraft in 2008 that killed 18 soldiers on board.

Revisiting the ghosts of Aceh

By Beawiharta

I remember well the 2004 tsunami in Aceh. I stayed for more than six weeks in Banda Aceh and then flew back to Jakarta to recover. In Jakarta, I cried everywhere when nobody was around me; at the office, at home, on the street, I was always crying. The situation was embarrassing, but I couldn’t stop the tears. They were automatic.

My brain couldn’t run from the images that I took of the tsunami aftermath. The counselor told me that I must go back to Aceh to take different pictures; positive pictures. Like people building their houses or shop stalls, children going back to school or singing songs happily.

Last week, I flew back to Aceh to cover the 8.6 magnitude earthquake. When I heard confirmation that there was no resulting tsunami, I was happy because I would not be taking pictures of sadness again here, in Aceh.

Risking life for school

By Beawiharta

On Wednesday morning I received an image on my twitter feed (@beawiharta). It was a photo from a local newspaper that showed a student crossing a river on a collapsed bridge. The picture caught me. I needed to find out where it was so I could go there to capture it.

Shortly afterwards I arrived at the office. I had forgotten about the collapsed bridge because we were very busy. I had two assignments for the day, a breast milk courier story and a story about Indonesia’s rising investment rating. This was a big financial story because Moody’s ratings agency restored Indonesia debt to investment grade.

I went to Jakarta’s business district to find photos of middle-class workers returning to their homes. When I had finished, I realized that I had something different to shoot for the next day. I searched Google maps to find the location of the collapsed bridge but I couldn’t find the exact location. There was a blank map with only the name of the village, Sanghiang Tanjung. Surprisingly, it said the village was just 130 kms (80 miles) away from our Jakarta office – a travel time of about two hours. My estimation was it would take 4 hours.

What to wear for an Indonesian royal wedding

By Beawiharta

Walking with two cameras, a small bag and a ladder is a daily activity for me. But today, I have a different assignment. I must change into a different kind of clothing to cover the marriage of GKR Bendara (youngest daughter of Yogyakarta King Sultan Hamengkubuwono X) to her husband KPH Yudanegara.

Since it’s not an ordinary assignment, today I will need more help in dressing for the wedding ceremony. Usually I wear something simple, but now I need something more traditional. Out of respect to the old traditions of my country, I figure I must dress the part or else I won’t be able to take pictures inside the palace.

The wedding ceremonies don’t happen in just one day, but over the course of three days. Sultan Hamengkubuwono X spread out the 4,000 invitations across two receptions in two different palaces, as well as stationed around 200 street food vendors to serve people out in the streets.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A week in pictures 14 August 2011

This week Pakistan marked its day of independence from British rule with parades, parties, face painting and bombs.  Two pictures of faces covered in colour, one paint, the other blood, seems to sum up all there needs to be said about the national pride Pakistan feels while facing so many challenges. Visually the complementary colours of green and red (colours on opposite sides of the colour spectrum) make the pictures jump out of the page especially when put side by side. The angry eye staring out of the face of green in Mohsin Raza's picture engages the viewer full on while in Amir Hussain's picture the man seems oblivious of his wound as blood covers his face, again more opposites, this time not in colour but mood. India too is preparing to celebrate its independence and Dehli-based photographer Parivartan Sharma's picture of festival preparations came to mind after I put together the red-and-green combination picture from Pakistan.  

 

(top left) A man, with his face painted depicting the colours of the Pakistan national flag, attends a ceremony to mark the country's Independence Day at the Wagah border crossing with India on the outskirts of Lahore August 14, 2011. Pakistan gained independence from British rule in 1947. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza

A man, his face bloodied by a head injury, is held by a resident as he waits to be evacuated from the site of a bomb blast in Dara Allah Yar, located in the Jaffarabad district of Pakistan's Balochistan province, August 14, 2011. A bomb ripped through the two-story building in Pakistan's restive southwest on Sunday, killing at least 11 people and wounding nearly 20, police said. REUTERS/Amir Hussain