Photographers' Blog

School on Wheels

In a corner of Western Avenue Elementary School’s yard, a dozen children excitedly circle Charles Evans at the end of their day.

Regional coordinator Charles Evans (C) picks up children from school to take them to an after-school program at South Los Angeles Learning Center in Los Angeles, California March 16, 2011. The center is run by School on Wheels, which uses volunteers to tutor homeless children in shelters, parks, motels, and two centers. There has been a surge in the number of homeless children in Los Angeles in the last five years, due to persistent unemployment and mounting foreclosures. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

One child bounces a ball, another picks a handful of play slime out of a jar as the others chirp with enthusiasm.

While other children have gone home for the day, Evans rounds up this group who have no homes. He leads them down the street to South Los Angeles Learning Center, where he runs an after-school program for homeless children.

Jayla (L) gathers her books for her weekly tutoring at the shelter where she lives with her mother Rosonia (R) in Los Angeles, California March 16, 2011.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Almost 13,500 students out of around 680,000 in the LA Unified School District were homeless in the 2009-10 school year, a more than 50% increase from five years ago, due largely to unemployment and foreclosures.

The center run by School on Wheels used to open one day a week, but Evans now collects the kids daily after school for two hours, until their shelters open. The program got its name from the tutors who visit children such as Jayla weekly, in shelters, parks and libraries.

Shooting the perfect dunk

Kids playing streetball or millionaires performing in a highly choreographed show? Sport or showbiz? Welcome to the NBA All-Star weekend slam dunk contest.

Singer Rihanna performs during half-time of the NBA All-Star basketball game in Los Angeles February 20, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

One of the most satisfying moves to watch in basketball, and one of the easiest to photograph is the dunk, as the player soars above the rim and jams the ball through the net.

West All Star Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks during the NBA All-Star game in Los Angeles, February 20, 2011.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

The contest pits some of the most athletic NBA players against each other as they compete to execute the flashiest, most difficult, or original dunk.

Beachside politics

U.S. Election Day has its recurring motifs: red, white and blue vote signs, corrugated plastic voting booths, ballot boxes, stars and stripes. Voting photos quickly become repetitive, even before the sun rises on the West Coast.

An election worker puts up signs as the sun rises at a polling station on Venice Beach in Los Angeles, California, November 2, 2010.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Quirky polling stations such as laundromats, beauty salons and churches are hard to find, buried among hundreds of voting places listed only by address.

Hoping to portray something uniquely Californian, I woke before dawn and headed to the lifeguard headquarters on Venice Beach. During Obama fever in 2008, a long line of waiting voters cast shadows on the wall outside.

Homegirl cafe

Homegirl from Lucy Nicholson on Vimeo.

It was Stephanie Lane’s first day on the job as a waitress at Homegirl Café and the last thing she wanted to do was wait on the police.

The restaurant, staffed by female gang members trying to leave their past behind, is part of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention program – and one of the most successful – in the U.S.

Quitting a life of drug dealing, fighting and stealing cars on the streets of South Los Angeles, where she followed her father and mother into the Crips gang, is not easy and now Lane faced the first of many tests: the police chief and top brass were growing impatient waiting for service.

Standing room only

They’ve wrested food, free alcohol, and peanuts from you. They’ve made you pay for luggage and lavatories.

Just when you thought there was nothing left for the airlines to squeeze, comes Italian company Aviointeriors’ new aircraft ‘SkyRider’ standing seat.

Melvyn Koh (C) tries out Italian company Aviointeriors' new aircraft 'standing seat' which has 23 inches of legroom, instead of the current economy class average of 30 inches, at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Long Beach, California, September 15, 2010.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Gone is all that unnecessary space between your stomach and the seat in front of you.

Five minutes with Hugh Hefner inside the Playboy mansion

The Playboy mansion was hidden behind huge gates and a thick hedge on the hilly roads below Sunset Boulevard.

Two men ogled for a closer view outside and one pointed his camera towards the gate. I drove up the winding driveway and a voice from a speaker hidden in a rock asked what I wanted.

Hugh Hefner, of course. I was promised five minutes to photograph the playboy of all playboys. “Hef gets impatient when having his photo taken,” his publicist said. The fans stepped back as the gates parted.

Street photography is like falling in love…

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I was walking in downtown Los Angeles when I saw the two brothers sitting there. They were drinking soda by a hot dog stand. The symmetry struck me – their identical outfits, the two-tone wall they leaned against and the two bottles.

It was after a couple of days photographing Japanese baseball superstar Hideki Matsui’s home opener with the Los Angeles Angels. There were so many Japanese photographers that I had to leave for the stadium six hours before the start of the game in order to reserve the best shooting position.

Matsui-stalking was fun, but no-one gets into photography because they enjoy fighting for shooting positions or carrying heavy camera equipment up flights of stairs.

Women’s refuge in Afghanistan

Patooni Muhanna, who works at a women’s shelter in Kabul, speaks about women’s rights since the fall of the Taliban. Patooni says that despite some positive changes, domestic violence and self-immolation are still concerns.

Follow news from the Afghan election here.

On the Afghan election trail

Soviet helicopters, pick-up truck racing, Kalashnikov-carrying security guards, banquet lunches.  Photographing Afghan presidential candidates as they traverse the country before the election on August 20, is campaign travel at its quirkiest.

Flying with Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah to a campaign rally in Samangan province.  Photo: Tyler Hicks

In Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan one week before the vote, the traveling press piled into the back of pick-up trucks following Abdullah Abdullah, Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s main rival, from the airport to the Shrine of Hazrat Ali.

Photographing the Beijing Olympics

Lucy Nicholson presents a multimedia blog on Reuters’ coverage of the Beijing Olympics.

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