Photographers' Blog

Water, water everywhere

Moorland, Britain

By Cathal McNaughton

It’s like a scene from a Hollywood disaster movie. The Somerset village of Moorland is under five feet of water. Wading along the usually bustling main street, I am struck by how quiet it is – everything has an eerie, post-apocalyptic feel.

The only sound I can hear is coming from the now breached flood defences moving backwards and forwards in the ebb and flow of the rising waters, creaking like a sinking ship.

There is a strong chemical smell of leaking fuel as I push past the huge chunks of debris floating by in the murky waters. Cars lie abandoned with their lights left on, the houses are sandbagged and empty – their inhabitants left days ago. I see a deserted house with post still sticking out of the letterbox.

In the distance, I hear a faint rumble, which continues to grow until around the corner comes a large, ex-military amphibious vehicle. It’s the type of thing you might more usually see on fun city tours, which plunge into the river to the delight of the passengers. But here these vehicles are being used by amateur rescuers keen to do their bit.

It stops and I’m offered a lift through the village to the other side, where a few remaining villagers battle to keep the floods at bay. Others are simply hoping that the waters don’t rise any more. This is the case at the Vize family farm, where the living room is already under several inches of water. It starts to rain again.

Fast and fearless: photographing at Sochi’s Sanki Sliding Center

Rosa Khutor, Russia

By Fabrizio Bensch

It must take a lot of courage for bobsleigh, skeleton and luge competitors to hurl themselves at mega speeds down the 1,365-meter ice track at the Sanki Sliding Center. It looks crazy – would you do it?

Sanki is one of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic venues, where some of the world’s best athletes compete for glory. The venue is some 60 km (37 miles) northeast of Sochi in the “mountain cluster” of Olympic venues.

Throughout the Games, my photography colleagues Arnd Wiegmann from Switzerland, Murad Sezer from Turkey and myself have been getting up in the early hours of the morning to start what is normally a 14-hour day. We travel to the venue using a cable car and cover everything from the training sessions in the morning to the competitions in the evening.

Manhunt for wildcat gold miners

Jacareacanga, Para (Brazil)

By Lunaé Parracho

“We’re asking you not to go,” one of the Munduruku Indians said to me while standing in a circle of ten other warriors.

They feared that I would slow them down if I accompanied them on another six-hour hike through the forest to a wildcat gold mine operated by intruders in their territory. This was to be the fifth mine dismantled by the Mundurukus, who live in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest in the western state of Para. This region is rich in natural resources and has been called the country’s new frontier of economic expansion.

Another warrior, sensing my reaction at being considered a drag on the group, approached me and tried to allay my disappointment. “We will photograph for you,” he said, pointing to two young Indians holding compact cameras. “If you want you can give them your camera.”

Football in the land of futebol

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

By Sergio Moraes

Sports and I have always had an intense relationship. Ever since I was very young, I played street soccer, here called futebol, with friends. I was influenced by my father, a newspaper photographer who covered a lot of soccer and who made me want to do the same.

In my 33 years of taking all kinds of pictures, my greatest experiences were while covering sports, especially the Olympic Games. The Olympics are special to me because they give me the opportunity to photograph and experience sports that aren’t normally played in Brazil. But even after several Olympics, I still haven’t had the chance to cover American sports like NFL football, NBA basketball, and MLB baseball. I’ve watched some of those leagues during visits to the U.S., and that only made me want to photograph them even more. I’m fascinated by their level of organization, their grandeur, and their marketing.

So last February 8th, 33 years into my career, I finally got a chance to photograph a game of American football. It was, of all places, on a beach in Rio de Janeiro. The game was the Ipanema Tatuis, or “Armadillos”, versus the Copacabana Pirates and it was loads of fun. The players were all Brazilian, but they knew enough of the game to follow a few of the American traditions, such as handing the game ball to the day’s best player. It was a game of many touchdowns for the winning Armadillos, played against the backdrop of Rio’s famous Sugarloaf Mountain.

In a spiral of violence

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

Bangui, Central African Republic

By Siegfried Modola

I landed in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, for what was going to be the most intense four weeks of my career. I would be covering a sectarian conflict that has left thousands dead and around a million people displaced.

Nothing could have prepared me for the extent of this crisis. I witnessed the cold reality of people fleeing, losing their belongings and being killed because they belonged to a certain religion and found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As soon as we touched the runway at Bangui’s Mpoko International Airport, it was obvious that something was wrong. From the windows of the plane, we had a view of plastic sheets set up as shelters by the United Nations Refugee Agency – an image synonymous with conflict around the world.

From the White House to the Mad House

Bali, Indonesia

By Jason Reed

Just a couple of months ago I was swirling in a perpetual bubble, a privileged circle of photographers whose job it is to photograph one man – the President of the United States.

I did it for ten years and mostly enjoyed every minute. Over that period of time there comes a predictable familiarity to the role, in which you can pre-write all your captions hours and sometimes days in advance and plan your coverage down to the last detail. It is a safe and cosy existence. Due to the nature of the subject, it needs to be.

Behind the velvet rope, boundaries are respected and the president’s handlers and the Secret Service ensure you are no closer to him than you need to be. Your bread-and-butter lens is most often the 70-200mm telephoto zoom variety and getting an exclusive image is almost impossible. Subtlety and nuance in your edit is the biggest differentiator between your work and the person that just shot the same thing over your shoulder.

Nights with the Bangkok protesters

Bangkok, Thailand

By Athit Perawongmetha

Thai anti-government protests have been going on for some three months and during weeks of political unrest my attention has been focused on the action of the daily news.

The protesters’ takeover of major intersections in the city harks back to a tumultuous April and May of 2010, when supporters of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra took to the streets. I now find myself in the same location near Bangkok’s central Lumphini Park where violent street battles between protesters and government security forces took place.

Today’s protesters are opponents, rather than supporters, of Thaksin and they are against his sister, the current Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. They mostly hail from the south of Thailand and from Bangkok, whereas Thaksin and Yingluck’s supporters are mostly poor, rural voters from the north and northeast. But despite that, the scene does not look dissimilar to 2010: tents and barricades abound, and I am shooting pictures in the same spot.

Prayers during wartime

Midyat, Turkey

By Umit Bektas

Sunday mass has just begun in Mort Shmuni Syriac Orthodox Church. It is seven o’clock in the morning and the streets of Midyat, where the majority of the population is Muslim Kurdish, are empty.

But despite the calm outside, the historical church is overcrowded with a community of three hundred people, mostly children. Candles are lit, hymns are sung and prayers are made.

The reason that the mass is so crowded today is not because it is the festival of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. It is because for over two years now, Syriac Christian families escaping the bloody war in Syria just across the border have been joining the congregation, adding to the Turkish Christian citizens of Midyat.

A taste for music

Haguenau, France

By Vincent Kessler

I love cooking and I have a passion for music. What then could please me more than an orchestra that plays music with instruments made out of vegetables?

I cannot remember when I first heard about the Vegetable Orchestra. But when I realized that they were planning to hold a concert some 40 kilometers from my home, I got in touch and was given the opportunity to watch them prepare for a performance.

Based in Vienna, Austria, the orchestra was created in 1998 by artists from a range of backgrounds, from musicians to people in visual fields like painting and design. Their website describes their sound as: “influenced by experimental contemporary, electronic music, musique concrete, noise, improvised music [and] pop music”.

Life on the margins in Pakistan

Islamabad, Pakistan

By Zohra Bensemra

There are so many slums in Pakistan, and they can be home to all sorts of communities – Christians, Shi’ites, Afghan refugees, or Pakistanis fleeing violence or seeking jobs.

But whatever their background, they all face the same struggles in their daily lives. The divisions of religion and nationality are less important than finding clean water, a space to study, or a battered toy for a young child to play with.

Working in these areas requires great respect for the residents, and the photographer must be aware of cultural taboos.