Photographers' Blog

Struggles to survive in the Amazon

Me Txanava, Brazil

By Lunae Parracho

A day of navigating along the muddy Envira River brought us to a village of the Huni Kui tribe known as Me Txanava, or village of the Singing Birds.

The moon shone bright in the starry sky over the silent village that lies in the municipality of Feijó – part of Brazil’s Acre state, which borders Peru.

The night before, a Huni Kui woman had lost her newborn daughter while giving birth in a boat on the Envira River. The mother and daughter did reach a hospital, but the baby died an hour later.

In mourning, the community gathered inside a house where a small, closed coffin illuminated by yellow candlelight held the child’s remains. Village shaman Ninawa, the father of the dead child, accepted the presence of strangers openly.

“Be happy,” he said. “You’ve come home.”

Later, while strolling in the village, I stopped in front of the largest hut and stood there for a while. The starry sky was enchanting. This was a house of prayer called a shubuã, which the Huni Kui consider a type of university, a place where they learn and share their traditional knowledge. That night it was closed in mourning for the child who never had a name.

The Tower of David – Venezuela’s “vertical slum”

Caracas, Venezuela

By Jorge Silva

I have wanted to photograph life inside Caracas’ Tower of David – also known as “the vertical slum” – for years now. At times, it became something of an obsession; it was a story I had to tackle.

The tower is an icon of modern-day Caracas. Although squats or “occupied spaces” are common downtown, the Tower of David has literally taken the phenomenon to whole new levels. The third-tallest building in the country, it was intended as a financial center but abandoned after its developer died and the financial sector crashed. Squatters have now occupied the tower for years. Its unfinished, humongous, modified skeleton can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. The stories of what happens inside have become the stuff of urban legend.

The place could be the perfect setting for what the Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa has called the “novela total” or “complete novel” – a book that encompasses the many and contradictory aspects of life. The tower is a physical example of the greatest problems faced by Venezuelan society: a great scarcity of housing, and a security crisis. It is also a symbol of what happened after the collapse of the country’s financial system in the 1990s and of the historical juncture at which Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution now finds itself.

Back on his feet

New York, United States

By Mike Segar

On a cold Wednesday morning in March 2014, I saw Errol Samuels sitting in his wheelchair before a therapy session at a New York City hospital named Mount Sinai.

 

Errol, a 22-year-old from Hollis, Queens, is paraplegic. The week before his college final exams in May 2012, he and his friends went to an off-campus party. He went out on a deck and the roof collapsed on him, crushing his spine. Errol says his doctors “didn’t need to tell me what was wrong. Once it happened, I couldn’t move my legs at all”. But remarkably, less than two years later with the help of a revolutionary new device named the “ReWalk”, Errol is back on his feet.

 

He has been using an electronic, computer-controlled exoskeleton that powers the hips and knees, helping those with lower limb disabilities to walk upright using crutches. Made by the Israeli company Argo Medical Technologies, it has allowed Errol and other spinal cord injury patients who have enrolled in a clinical trial at Mount Sinai to do something that until recently was considered almost impossible – stand up and walk.

Tainted paradise

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
By Sergio Moraes

Back in the 1960s, when I was just a kid, I remember watching swimmers in Guanabara Bay and seeing dolphins race alongside the ferries that transported people to and from the city of Niteroi and Paqueta Island. Beaches like Icarai in Niteroi and Cocota on Governor’s Island were very popular.

So I felt sad when I took a boat through the bay on an assignment recently and photographed discarded sofas, old children’s toys, rubber tires and a toilet seat among many other objects that littered the filthy water.

A sofa is seen near a fishing boat on Fundao beach in the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro March 13, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

I was born in this area when it was still called Guanabara, before it was renamed Rio de Janeiro state in 1975. I still miss that old name, which was a reference to our beautiful but now polluted bay.

Precious by name, precocious by nature

Chelsea, United States
By Brian Snyder

When I first met Precious Perez, she was with a group of blind children and adolescents who had come to meet horses performing in an acrobatic show.

The kids stood with their chaperones in the middle of a practice tent, taking in the sounds, smells and vibrations as riders rode horses around them in circles. Afterwards, Perez went up to one of the animals and softly sang the Taylor Swift songs “Love Story” and “Safe and Sound” to him.

Precious Perez hugs one of the horses from Cavalia's Odysseo in Somerville, Massachusetts September 11, 2013, during a "Blind Touch Tour" arranged by the show with the Carroll Center for the Blind. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Perez has been blind since birth. She lives in Chelsea, Massachusetts, a working-class city right by Boston. Her life is both like and unlike that of many of her contemporaries, blind or sighted. She walks with a friend to their public high school in the morning, takes voice lessons, plays goalball, Tweets and follows her friends on Facebook.

Hip, young and in Kabul

Kabul, Afghanistan
By Morteza Nikoubazl

Kabul is a bustling city, full of people who want to see their country become less violent and more stable.

As I documented life in the capital this month, I met lots of young people who shared their thoughts about the future of Afghanistan: painters, actors, musicians, even a rapper.

Afghan music students looks on as they participate a music training session in a cultural and educational center in Kabul, March 7, 2014. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

Many had once lived as refugees in my home country, Iran, and some were even born there. But now they were back in their troubled homeland, Afghanistan.

Yoga, butt naked

New York, United States

By Shannon Stapleton

When I was assigned to photograph a naked yoga session my first thought was: how am I going to illustrate this in a way that people will actually be able to publish?

I had to take pictures of a room full of naked people without showing any frontal nudity, and I wanted to do the job in the most artistic way possible without allowing the images to become voyeuristic. 

When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to find both the yoga students and the instructor were totally open to what I was doing. They didn’t seem to have any inhibitions about being photographed while naked – and while participating in a very strenuous yoga session at that.

Inside Nollywood

Lagos, Nigeria
By Akintunde Akinleye

I wasn’t sure if my pictures of Nigeria’s film industry, or “Nollywood” as it is fondly called, would ever make it to publication.

As I spent time stringing the project together, I met barrier after barrier. Lots of my appointments with producers and other contacts fell through. In cases where it seemed like I would be given the green light to take pictures, the location of shootings would change without notice. Getting access to the new luxurious cinemas in the metropolis of Lagos was hellish. But slowly, I managed to make headway.

Long before I started working on this assignment, I had thought about exploring the story of Nollywood. I first hit on the idea at the beginning of 2008 when a friend, who is a model and actress, suggested taking a trip to India to shoot a collaborative movie between Nigerian and Bollywood actors on location. Unfortunately, the trip never happened.

News photography – going wider

London, Britain

By Russell Boyce

Global Editor, News Projects, Reuters Pictures

Sometimes apparently unconnected events turn out to be related in some abstract way, and they get me thinking.

My friend Jennifer O’Neill, the guitarist with a young band named “Bleech” posted a picture on Facebook recently. It read: “a musician is someone who puts £5,000 worth of gear into a car worth £500 to drive 100 miles to earn £50.” It’s a sentiment many young photographers can also relate to in the changing landscape of professional news photography.

A catch-up drink with some of my (now retired) mentors, colleagues and competitors from the AP and UK national newspapers revealed stories of gloom and decline. A respected photographer was selling his gear to pursue a career in baking since news pictures could no longer provide a viable livelihood. We heard a tale of young photographers waiting to be assigned jobs, knowing that if their pictures did not get published they would not get paid, even if they had invested time and money to produce the images. And of course we heard predictions that media companies would soon start to drop some of their newswire services to cut costs.

Where the wild things race

Nome, Alaska

By Nathaniel Wilder

The Iditarod is a nearly 1,000-mile-long sled-dog race that pits mushers against each other and the elements as they cross much of Alaska to become the first team to Nome, on the shores of the Bering Sea.

It’s Alaska’s biggest sporting event and brings thousands of spectators, volunteers, handlers, media and mushers – as dog sled racers are known – to downtown Anchorage for the “ceremonial start” of the race.

The following day they gather again at the official restart in the town of Willow – the point from which teams set out for the north in earnest. I’ve photographed these two starts for Reuters four times, but this year was the first time that I travelled to Nome for the finish.

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