Photographers' Blog

Challenging gender roles in the Philippines

Manila, Philippines

By Bobby Ranoco

The Philippines economy has surged with 7%+ growth for five straight quarters but for some, jobs remain hard to come by. The answer for some people has been to look for work in an area traditionally filled by someone of the opposite gender.

I contacted the state-run Technical Educational Skills and Development Authority (TESDA) which offers training courses for ‘unisex jobs’. I met three women undertaking training courses in the traditionally male jobs of automotive repair, welding and electrician.

One of them, Vina Jane Aranas, a 17-year-old high school graduate said she dreams of finishing college. She took a nine month fixing cars vocational course which she hopes will allow her to work and support her herself through college. “I am not ashamed of what I am doing, even if people think that automotives is a job for men. Life is hard nowadays and it is difficult to get a job… I believe this is a way for me to finish college, and I dream of having my own car repair shop,” Aranas said. I started taking pictures of her fixing a car engine, lying on the floor to align car wheels. I told her that I was impressed and that she was way better than me because while I have my own car, I don’t even know how to change flat tires. We both had a good laugh.

After taking pictures of Aranas, I went to a welding course where I met Sol Edon, a 32-year-old mother of three. Edon was taking a four month welding course, which she looks at as a ticket to a high-paying job overseas. Despite the Philippines’ strong growth momentum, unemployment in the country remains stuck at around 7 percent, the highest in Southeast Asia and underemployment hovers around 20 percent. Millions of Filipinos continue to leave the country every year to work abroad, even if it means many months or years away from their families.

I also met men working as hairdressers and make-up artists. I went to a cosmetology school run by a well-known local hairdresser Ricky Reyes. There I met Edwin Manalo, 39, who is married with two children. Edwin lost his job as a salesman of sports sunglasses two years ago and looked for an alternative job which landed him in the hair-styling business. Manalo said he was not ashamed of his new job. “I don’t mind whatever people say about me, as long as I’m happy and my family too are happy about my job, that’s what matters,” said Manalo.

Fishing for a living fossil

Fonte Boa, Brazil

By Bruno Kelly

This was the second year I’ve had the chance to document the fishing of the world’s largest freshwater fish with scales, the arapaima, or pirarucu, as it’s known in the Brazilian Amazon. Last year I photographed a community that fished only at night for a few days to fill their quota, but this year it would be done in the day and the fishing would last a week.

I traveled to the Mamiraua nature reserve, some 600 km (373 miles) west of Manaus along the Solimoes river, one of the two main tributaries of the Amazon. This reserve was created in 1996 with the aim of promoting sustainable use of natural resources for the development of the river communities. The trip began with a two-hour flight from Manaus to Tefe, and from there on a fast launch to the town of Fonte Boa, affectionately known as the Land of Pirarucu by its residents.

The Mamiraua reserve is divided into nine sectors with some 200 communities. To put the reserve’s dimensions into perspective, it would take more than 24 hours to travel from one extreme of the reserve to another in one of the fast launches that are commonly used here. One of those launches became our home during this trip.

Dressing the jewel of the Greek army

Athens, Greece

By John Kolesidis

Known in Greece as Evzones, the soldiers comprising the presidential guard – a term dating back to Homer, meaning the “well-girt” men, implying an elite status – are a symbol of discipline. The unit is often referred to as “the jewel of the Greek army”, and rightly so. Their primary mission is to guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier around the clock, which may seem like a piece of cake, except it isn’t. During their watch, they have to remain completely motionless and stand at attention at all costs in all kinds of weather. During violent demonstrations, for example, plastic water bottles, oranges and Molotov cocktails keep flying over their heads. Their eyes may tear up because of the tear-gas used by police, but they remain stone-still, maintaining a show of normality. It is quite surreal to watch them stand still while a virtual war is raging around them or while little children tease and harass them, often pinching them to make sure they are alive.

It’s not easy to join the presidential guard. There is a minimum height requirement of 6.1″, and the soldier has to be in top physical and mental health. A series of exercises and drills are necessary to establish their unparalleled level of discipline. Upon waking up in their camp, which is identical to the rest of the army camps, the Evzones perform an extended program of marching and lining up drills, as well as endurance training and stretching exercises at the National Garden. Their target is to learn how to raise their legs to shoulder height and get used to standing on their feet for more than 100 hours per month.

Next to their discipline, the most striking thing about them is their handmade uniforms, mirroring the lengthy national struggles. The white kilt comprises of 400 pleats, representing the 400 years under Ottoman occupation. The red leather clogs weighing more than seven pounds bear around 60 nails, depending on the size, which would hook to the rocky ground of the mountains where the Greek people fought at the time. Getting dressed is no simple mission either. Putting on the uniform is a ritual in itself, demanding the presence of two people. One helps the other, as the various items have to be placed carefully, and the uniform has to remain crisp.

NBA goes up in smoke in Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico

By Edgard Garrido

I was to photograph an extraordinary basketball game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the San Antonio Spurs as part of the NBA Global Games schedule for the 2013-14 season.

The day before, the players met with children from the indigenous Triquis tribe and played a game barefoot in the tradition of the young Triquis’ team. It was a fantastic moment and I have no doubt that the journalists and everyone present, enjoyed it as much as the young Triqui players. It was a delightful opening to a grand game to be played the next day.

On game day everything looked perfect. A temporary court had been set up; benches, bleachers, baskets and scoreboards were in place. A press room for 200 accredited journalists had been prepared with high quality wi-fi and hundreds of ethernet terminals. There was a plan with our designated positions courtside and in the bleachers marked with stickers pinned to the floor. There were chairs and tables exclusively for the press, plenty of printed information on the players and the teams, signalized access to all points, antennas, remote cameras and cables, cables and more cables. Everything was impeccably set up for us to enjoy the occasion, an event worth millions, where people had paid between 160 to 5600 Pesos ($12 to $430) to watch elite players compete or at least catch a glimpse of the beautiful cheerleaders jump and fly through the air.

Marching to Sousa’s drum beat

Washington, D.C.

By Jonathan Ernst

One of the great things about Washington is historic Capitol Hill, where there’s a lot of life beyond the headlines and punch lines about the U.S. Congress. I like to describe it as a small town attached to the city. We know our neighbors. We walk our dogs.

Sure, our neighbors include senators and congressmen, and every once in a while at the grocery store you’ll find yourself in line behind a woman who happens to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services holding the bouquet of flowers she’s picked out, or a guy who happens to be the director of the CIA as he’s making a selection at the olive bar. But at that moment, they’re just neighbors. They probably walk their dogs too. While a security detail in a large black SUV watches from a discreet distance.

Another great thing about Washington is the Marine Band, nicknamed the President’s Own. They happen to live on Capitol Hill too, in the oldest post in the Corps, known simply as the Marine Barracks Washington — or known even more simply to neighbors by it’s street corner: “8th and I.” If you happen to be driving near 8th and I streets on your way home from the market, it’s not uncommon to see the band’s bus loading up for an event at the White House, a concert across town, or one of their tours around the country. The Marine Band does not mess around. They look great, they sound great and they’re Marines. So when they walk their dogs around Capitol Hill, the other dogs make way.

Bureaucrats in a conflict zone

Bangui, Central African Republic

By Joe Penney

On Thursday, the volatile Central African Republic was host to a bloodbath. Hours of fighting between the former “Seleka” rebels that took power in a March coup d’etat and local militia and fighters loyal to the deposed president, Francois Bozize, killed over a hundred. As the situation continues to deteriorate, France is set to take a bigger role in its former colony’s security, sending hundreds of troops in the coming days.

Yet while security is what is grabbing the headlines at the moment, CAR’s problems lie much deeper. Already an unstable state in the run-up to the coup, the Central African government is now in tatters and just going through the motions. During the coup, most ministry buildings were looted for cash, computers and anything hungry rebels could get their hands on. Little has since been replaced.

The Seleka rebels stole a computer from a state laboratory containing vital information on HIV patients’ medication. They even stole the minister of commerce’s car.

Michelle Obama’s unscripted moment

Washington, D.C.

By Jason Reed

“Never work with children or animals” is a famous show business adage once attributed to the comedian W. C. Fields. Those words may well have crossed the mind of U.S. first lady Michelle Obama this week during an unscripted moment at the White House.

Hosting the annual unveiling of the White House Holiday decorations, the first lady was the center of attention, as she is any time that she is in public view. At this time of year all of the historical rooms on the ground floor of the White House are decorated with trees, tinsel and a gingerbread house, which all become fodder for the press cameras as we are led on a carefully stage-managed guided tour of the “State Floor” by staff and volunteers. It is something that the regular White House press corps mark on their calendars long in advance so that we don’t miss it and the resulting pictures are usually pretty.

In the last moments of this year’s event, Michelle Obama introduced to the young children of U.S. military service members the Obama family’s new pet Sunny, a female Portuguese Water dog. With the combination of children, animals and a world-recognized public figure now set, it was just a matter of time before an unscripted moment presented itself, a split second where little Ashtyn Gardner, all of two years old, lost her balance over another child’s walker and fell to the floor. Dozens of camera shutters fired at up to 10 frames per second, capturing a moment so far off script that the first lady’s facial expression said it all. To her credit the little girl popped right back up, didn’t shed a tear and carried on.

Wildlife of Farne

Farne Islands

By Nigel Roddis

The Farne Islands, a cluster of rocky outcrops in the windswept ocean off the northeastern English coast, might not sound like a particularly welcoming destination. But although they are a harsh environment for humans, they are a haven for wildlife, from grey seals to some 23 types of seabird.

I had been to the islands many times before to go diving, but this time I wanted to shoot an extended story about the many species that live there. Over the course of the project, which ran from May to November 2013, I spent seven days both on the islands themselves and under the sea that surrounds them, photographing the teeming wildlife.

This was a fascinating year to document one of the Farne Islands’ most distinctive inhabitants: puffins. Every five years, UK conservation charity the National Trust conducts a census of this strange-looking seabird, with its black-and-white body and colorful bill. The latest one began in May this year.

Dreaming of the next Messi

Bariloche, Argentina

By Chiwi Gianbirtone

When I went to see Claudio Nancufil, he looked like any other 8-year old kid, keen to play with his friends but not very communicative. Before playing a match they did a training session, kicking the ball to the coach and Claudio was waiting patiently for his turn without saying much.

Finally, they started playing and during the match he was constantly going for the ball and shots on goal. He dribbled swiftly past bigger boys, kicked the ball with his left and passed accurately. He kept on asking secretly for the ball so his opponents wouldn’t notice. He played well, like a grown-up player. He was quiet but went directly to the referee if some of the other players kicked him. At the end of the match it came down to penalties. Claudio always got the ball into the goal but the goalie was not bad either.

GALLERY: THE NEXT MESSI

They played on a dirt pitch in windy conditions with remnants of volcanic ash everywhere. I found myself wondering how much better he would fare on a real grass field.

Fishing and firearms on Lake Turkana

Lake Turkana, Kenya

By Siegfried Modola

When Simon Choko goes out fishing on Kenya’s lake Turkana, he brings a gun as well as a net.

In the drought-stricken corner of northwestern Kenya, the native Turkana community to which Choko belongs is involved in deadly conflict with rivals from across the border in neighboring Ethiopia, as the poor populations compete for dwindling food.

“I have been a fisherman since I was a boy and I have never experienced such a tense and dangerous period as the one we are living now. Everyone has a gun these days to protect themselves against attacks,” said Choko.