Photographers' Blog

The ghost buildings of Athens

Athens, Greece

By Yorgos Karahalis

Both as a photographer and a resident of this city, I have always wanted to explore the ghost buildings that stand semi-ruined on a central avenue of Athens, squeezed between the police headquarters and the Supreme Court, just a couple miles from the Greek parliament.

These blocks of flats, built back in the 1930s to house Greek refugees from Asia Minor, have not been taken care of for decades. They have been totally left to their fate.

The eight blocks of 228 flats, each about 160 sq feet (15 sq meters), catch your eye as you drive down Alexandras Avenue. While it’s quite simple to explain to someone what these rundown and graffiti-covered buildings are now, explaining how this place reached this point is more difficult.

The story starts when the children of the refugees began moving out some years ago, leaving behind their elderly parents who later passed away or abandoned their properties.

In 2001, the state bought almost all the apartments in the complex, and plans were laid to demolish the buildings and make use of the area differently, but these ideas were opposed by the residents. Finally, in 2008, Greece declared the buildings a heritage site worthy of protection, and all action froze. (more…)

Life of a crash test dummy

Landsberg, Germany

By Michael Dalder

Have you ever thought about the number of cars that are on the road every day?

According to research by WardsAuto, in 2010 the number of cars in operation around the globe grew to more than 1 billion for the very first time.

That’s a lot of cars. No doubt, it also means a lot of accidents every day. But I had the chance to witness the work of some engineers – along with their reticent assistants – whose job it is to help prevent these accidents from happening by researching car safety.

I spent two days at the crash-test laboratory of the German motor club ADAC in Landsberg, near Munich, photographing the “daily routine” of crash test dummies.

Morning Glory

London, Britain

By Andrew Winning

Morning Glory is the antidote to a room full of rowdy, drunken party-animals lurching out of step to booming dance music. Here, sleepy-eyed clubbers queue up quietly in the early morning, some still in their pyjamas and dressing gowns, before filing into the venue.

Others wearing fancy dress stretch and warm up as they try to generate some enthusiasm in the pre-dawn gloom. Once inside the venue, patrons pick up a coffee or a smoothie, maybe do a little yoga or have a massage before the music draws them onto the dance floor.

Though it is a Wednesday morning, everyone is smiling as party favourites are mixed together by the DJ’s. What starts as slightly sedate and sleepy dancing soon becomes full-on whooping, jumping, hands-in-the air partying.

World Cup protest – flames and fear

Sao Paulo, Brazil

By Nacho Doce

I heard a loud scream and turned to see a Volkswagen Beetle on fire just a few meters away. I was covering the year’s first demonstration against the 2014 World Cup in Sao Paulo’s Roosevelt Square. The protesters’ slogan was, “The money spent on stadiums could give the country better education and health.” There were more than 2,000 people marching, many of whom belonged to the Black Bloc.

I ran to the burning car along with other colleagues and demonstrators, and inside I saw two woman and a young girl. I managed to shoot four pictures of their expressions of fear and panic while the driver and others helped them to escape from the fire.

I continued to photograph one of the women who ran with the girl, her daughter, in her arms.

Amid the opium fields

Loimgmain, Shan state, Myanmar

By Soe Zeya Tun

Ethnic Palaung and Lisu make their homes atop mountains that rise more than 5,000 feet above sea level in Myanmar’s northern Shan state. Temperatures here can be far lower than in much of the country, with lows hovering around 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5°C) and sometimes dropping to as little as 37 (3°C) during the winter months. Tea and opium poppy plantations cover many of the surrounding hillsides.

I was one of eight Myanmar journalists who recently traveled to this remote region. Leaving Mantong township, we first took motorcycles along a dirt road only about 2 feet wide. After a day’s drive we reached a village where we spent the night. We hiked the entire next day to get to Loimgmain, a village surrounded by opium poppy fields.

Ngokhu, a 30-year-old man from the northern Shan capital of Lashio, traveled to Loimgmain to work in the poppy fields. He makes only 4,000 kyat (about $4) per day to plant and harvest. He huddles next to a fire to keep warm, wearing the same clothes he put on four months ago at the start of the cold season.

Lead in his head, love in his heart

Asuncion, Paraguay

By Jorge Adorno

There is so much sadness in some people’s lives. I felt immense sadness upon writing this, because I saw and felt the pain behind Salvador Cabañas’s eyes.

I first spoke to the great soccer player on January 24, four years and a day since he was on the threshold of death.

In Paraguay they call him the Mariscal (Marshal in English), while in Mexico he is known as “Chava,” a common nickname for Salvador. In both places, they were dazzled by his soccer genius.

Singapore – Gateway to Asia

Singapore

By Edgar Su

Singapore’s port is one of the busiest in the world and has long been a key part of the island’s economy. I took some time last year to document the shipping hub, and was surprised to see how closely life in Singapore is linked to it.

Walking along the coast on a fine day, you’ll see countless ships anchored in the sea around the city-state. At East Coast Park, where many leisure activities take place, I saw a group of school girls conducting soccer training as tankers lined up to make a call at the port. It was quite a peculiar scene – in the foreground daily life was going on, but in the backdrop a massive industry was working around the clock to get cargo shipped or vessels refueled.

Even from atop Singapore’s iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel – a modern landmark that houses some of the most lavish entertainment for visitors spending top dollar – you have a full view of vessels waiting silently for their turn to enter the port.

Family, soccer and God

by Rickey Rogers

It was around the time that Brazil was beginning construction projects to host the 2014 World Cup four years ago, that a massive earthquake devastated Haiti’s capital. The quake killed over 200,000 people and left few Haitians unaffected in some way. That disaster, coupled with the attraction of a World Cup country and the fact that Brazilians were already familiar to Haitians as UN peacekeepers patrolling their streets, initiated a new route south for migrants trying to escape the difficult situation. That route starts in Haiti passing overland to the Dominican Republic, by plane to Ecuador or Peru, and overland to the Peru-Brazil border where even today there are hundreds of Haitians awaiting visas.

Photographer Bruno Kelly was on an assignment to photograph the dozen or so Haitians working at the Arena Amazonia stadium in Brazil’s Amazonian capital, Manaus, when he met immigrant Milice Norassaint. Milice’s story touched Bruno, and they became friends as Bruno photographed him at work and in his daily life. Bruno asked Milice for his wife’s phone back in Haiti, and Bruno gave it to colleague Marie Arago in Port-au-Prince.

What resulted is a story about a family divided by need, but united through their faith.

Searching for Circassians

Sochi, Russia

By Tom Peter

It is not easy to find Circassians in historical Circassia, a densely vegetated land of rolling hills and mountain slopes soaring to snowy heights along the northeastern coast of the Black Sea. The region of Greater Sochi used to be the homeland of the Circassian people before their expulsion by the Russian army in the 19th century. Modern Sochi has an ethnic make-up of staggering diversity; besides Russians, there are people from numerous other Caucasus nations, as well as Armenians, Georgians, Cossacks, Jews and Ukrainians.

But the people who resisted Russia’s expansion into the land of their fathers for some forty years are largely gone. The last Circassian forces surrendered to the Russian army in 1864 on a glade in the mountains above Sochi, later named Krasnaya Polyana. In a matter of weeks it will be the site where athletes compete for Olympic gold in the skiing events.

The highlanders’ defeat heralded a campaign of forced eviction on a massive scale. “Perhaps as many as 300,000 Circassians died from hunger, violence, drowning and disease when Russia expelled them from their lands,” writes journalist and author Oliver Bullough in his book about the Caucasus, “Let Our Fame Be Great”. Circassian groups have called for the killings to be recognized as genocide.

The practice of breast-ironing

Douala, Cameroon

By Joe Penney

Every Friday afternoon, Julie Ndjessa, 28, invites the teenage girls in her neighborhood in Douala over to her house on a dirt road where she lives with her mother, father and cousin. Giggling, they play clapping games and chat loudly with each other about the week’s escapades. Then Julie got down to business: educating the young women in her community about the many dangers they face before reaching adulthood.

Over the past few years, one of the main topics she discusses is called “breast-ironing,” a practice used by some mothers in Cameroon to flatten their pubescent daughters’ growing breasts. Done with the goal of protecting young women from early pregnancy by making them less attractive to men, breast ironing is extremely painful and has dangerous long-term health consequences.

There are few people more qualified to speak to young women about this practice than Julie, whose mother Genevieve took a hot stone to her chest when she was 16. She said she harbors no bad feelings toward her mother, who she said did it to try to protect her from the prying eyes of men as she became a woman.