Photographers' Blog

Inside the connected food bank web

Manchester, New Hampshire

By Brian Snyder

It’s all connected. The New Hampshire Food Bank serves food to people who need meals. The people getting the meals need job and life skills to get to the point that they don’t need meals assistance. Someone needs to make the meals. Enter the culinary job training program at the Food Bank. In addition to learning kitchen skills, the students produce meals for three of the agencies of the New Hampshire Food Bank. In 2012, the kitchen produced a staggering 97,823 meals.

For course teacher and chef Jayson McCarter, whose credentials include cooking at the White House under two different administrations, it’s about giving chances and opening doors. Along with an assistant chef and other staff, he has done that for over 250 people who have come through the program since it started in May 2008.

It’s all connected. Take apples as an example. The program received a huge bin of apples — 735 pounds, equaling about 625 pounds after coring by the students (a lot of chances to practice their newly learned knife skills, essential in any kitchen job). Add about 55 pounds of water, honey and cinnamon to get to 680 pounds, or 75 gallons, of cooked applesauce which is about 2400 half cup servings of applesauce for next year’s summer feeding program.

It’s all connected. Fritza Lemintelamy, an unemployed, single mother of six, needs a job. But she also dreams of opening a Haitian restaurant. So she and two of her children are students in the latest culinary job training program. It’s an eight-week investment, and a lot of time on her feet, in learning skills to get a job and – just maybe -her own restaurant. In 2011, 68% of the graduates of the program were employed six weeks after graduation.

Fritza and her six children are living without electricity at home; it was shut off after she was unable to keep up with the bills. So they shop for a dinner that doesn’t require cooking or refrigeration – sandwiches made by flashlight. And they pray. And count pennies by candlelight to put gas into the nearly empty tank of the family car. But she says her 18-year-old son Jonathan, who according to her has an attention deficit disorder, was terribly withdrawn before the course; now he is opening up. “Now he talks,” she says.

Where do you even find 4,000 pillows?

Chicago, Illinois

By Jim Young

An attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest pillow fight was scheduled for 1 a.m., promoted by a DJ dance duo — and at a rave no less. I was a little skeptical. Originally I thought it was an afternoon event when the organizers said it would be around 1 o’clock but needed clarification when I found out it was attached to a Halloween-themed concert and was told that the effort to break the current record of 3,706 participants set in 2008 would be attempted after midnight.

As I arrived a couple of hours before the event at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, there were hundreds of people lined up around the building waiting to get in, all dressed up for Halloween. The promoters told me they were almost at their capacity of 4,800 and it was clear that there was going to be a lot of people who were not going to get in.

It was a crazy scene: a sea of people, the music thumping and the laser light show was at full throttle. Organizers brought in dozens of huge garbage bags full of pillows and threw them out into the crowd. After a couple of hours of waiting, there was a break in the music and a representative from Guinness took to the microphone to read out the rules. Basically, all they had to do was keep the pillows in their hands and fight for a full minute. The music was cranked up and the pillows became a blur. The bass from the music was so heavy, it felt like an earthquake. My whole body was shaking. As quickly as it began, it was over.

Living with “werewolf syndrome”

Dolkha District, Nepal

By Navesh Chitrakar

People have always had a certain fascination with the unknown – a fascination that has been experienced by Devi Budhathoki and three of her children, who all suffer from a rare genetic condition that causes large amounts of thick hair to grow on their bodies.

There is no medical solution available for Devi’s condition, which is known as Congenital Hypertrichosis Lanuginosa, but its symptoms can be reduced by laser hair removal. Dermatologist Dr. Dharmendra Karn has been giving this treatment to 38-year-old Devi, along with her two daughters Manjura, who is 14, Mandira, who is 7, and her son Niraj, who is 12. Dr Karn’s care has helped the family, but they need multiple sessions for it to be effective and even after finishing a course of hair removal, they need to keep returning because the hair grows back again.

The Dhulikhel hospital has been treating Devi and her children for free since its management heard from locals, the media and social workers that Devi came from a poor family. Devi is married to Nara Bahadur Budhathoki and for 23 years they have been living in their home that has one kitchen, a shared bedroom and no lavatory. The house sits on a hill in Kharay, some 190km (118 miles) from Nepal’s capital Kathmandu.

Colombian yellow is back

Barranquilla, Colombia

By Jose Miguel Gomez

An entire stadium with over 40,000 fans dressed in yellow awaited the key match between Colombia and Chile. Only a couple of thousand wore Chilean red. We photographers arrived early to set up on the field in the 40C (104F) heat and 80% humidity. Every slight movement in the sun caused a burst of sweat.

Colombia only needed a draw to qualify for Brazil 2014. It was 16 years since we last qualified for the World Cup, and the fans inside the stadium and out were in a state of triumphal optimism. This was a whole new generation of players, and those who played for European clubs carried the biggest burden of setting the stage for a nationwide fiesta.

Chile, on the other hand, did play in the last World Cup. Commentators claimed that Chile is a dangerous team, but no one imagined what would happen later.

France’s boy bullfighters

Nimes, south of France

By Jean-Paul Pelissier

Ask a young boy what he wants to be when he gets older and the reply is the usual “a fireman, soccer player, doctor or astronaut”. However, ask two young boys from southern France, Solal, aged 12 and Nimo, aged 10, and you’ll hear, “a bullfighter”.

At the start of the story, bullfighting was familiar to me, but full of unknowns. Familiar because living in southern France, the traditional Ferias of Nimes and Arles are well-known yearly popular festivals, attracting revellers for two or three days to the Roman arenas and parades with many dressed in local costumes. On occasion I attended bullfights with friends, followed by partying in the streets at the outdoor bars or “bodegas”.

Following the two boys I learned the language of the bullfighter, mostly Spanish in origin, that the “aficionados”, the dedicated fans use. The studied cape movements by the toreador, and the charges by the fighting bull, make for a charged confrontation between man and animal where spectators react with animated emotions.

Home is where the Beetle is

Monterrey, Mexico

By Daniel Becerril

The need to find a place and make it your own is sometimes the only way to cope in a life full of surprises, hardship, sorrow and joy. It’s unbelievable how humans are capable of accommodating themselves in any space and under any circumstances.

I first heard of Oscar Almaguer, or Don Oscar, on a local TV program. It was the story of an 83-year-old man who had been living in a battered VW Beetle for the last 10 years. Don Oscar’s story was the perfect one to show life’s full range of social complexities and I thought it would definitively make an interesting picture story.

In these times of economic hardship it’s not that uncommon for people to live in their cars after falling on hard times but Don Oscar’s story is a little bit different. He and his wife got divorced 10 years ago and sold everything in order to split it in equal parts. Instead of leaving Don Oscar with half, she disappeared with everything, or almost everything. What she did leave him was their 1967 VW Beetle, known here by the Mexican nickname “Vocho.”

Revisited – A new life in Germany

By Marcelo del Pozo

Over a year ago now, I was looking for a way to put a human face to the story of Spain’s unemployment crisis – a crisis that is still affecting the country today, with around one in four workers without a job.

GALLERY: A new life with 250 euros

I sent messages to lots of my friends, asking them if they knew any Spaniards thinking of emigrating to find employment. At last, I met Jose Manuel Abel, a former salesman from southern Spain, who, after being unemployed for two years, decided to learn some German and move to Munich for a job to help support his family.

Jose Manuel Abel (C), 46, has lunch with his wife Oliva Santos (L), 45, daughter Claudia (2nd L), 13, son Jose Manuel (R), 16 and mother Carmen Herrera, 71, in Chipiona in this June 28, 2012 file photograph. REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo/Files

Jose Manuel Abel, 46, walks to his flight at San Pablo airport in Seville in this June 29, 2012 file photograph. REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo/Files

I took pictures as Jose Manuel said goodbye to his wife and children, got on the plane and started work in a restaurant owned by a friend of his.

Everyone has a dark side

Bottrop, Germany

By Ina Fassbender

I really don’t like splatter films, not even the films of ‘Saw’. But for this job I had to look at a sequence from Saw 1 on YouTube and after six minutes of this, I was curious about my performer Yvonne Nagel who wanted to perform as the Amanda Young character, who wakes up in a room with a “reverse bear trap” around her mouth and the key to her escape is in the stomach of her dead cellmate. Nice. Movie Park Germany engages every year some hundreds of people who run through the park to frighten visitors during the Halloween season.

So I met Yvonne, or ‘Amanda’, in person at the Movie Park.  It is her fourth season as a Halloween performer there. She was excited about my idea to picture her out of character, so we decided that I could visit her, at her office where she works as project manager, at Lenovo-Medion AG in Essen. When I arrived at the entrance of her company, I looked around and couldn’t see her. Then from a distance a business woman with somber black suit and high heels called my name. It was Yvonne. What a change. She looked like you and me. Dressed casually. Flowing long hair and very likeable.

We went to an exhibit room to take pictures. Wonderful, the contrast between her job and her performance for Halloween couldn’t be larger. Next, I visited her at home. Because they changed their house, it looked a little bit provincial.

Preparing for the worst

Oakland, California

By Stephen Lam

When the sounds of the first simulation went off in the distance and victims started screaming, it was game on.

While at a wedding rehearsal last week, I received a call from my editor to cover Urban Shield, a large-scale, 48-hour preparedness exercise for first responders. With participants and observers attending from various states and countries, Urban Shield is in a sense the Super Bowl of preparedness exercise.

I knew I wanted to document the event when I heard that parts of it will be held at the recently closed eastern span of the former San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. So after a week of planning and anticipation, I was escorted first to an elementary school in Castro Valley to photograph an active shooter scenario. In a matter of minutes, a tranquil elementary school was transformed into a disaster scene with people role playing as victims, hostages and terrorists ran all over as SWAT team moved in to secure the area.

At home with a hermit

South of Russia’s Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk

By Ilya Naymushin

Viktor is a hermit who, for the last ten years, has lived all alone in the wild Siberian forest by the banks of the Yenisei River.

I first heard about him in September, when I went out sailing with some yachting buddies of mine, looking for beautiful autumn scenes to photograph. One of my yachtsmen friends suddenly asked: “Do you know that there’s a hermit who lives near here, completely alone? Do you want to visit him and take his picture?” “I don’t know. Yeah, sure, I’d like to,” I replied.

After that conversation, the day eventually came when I went out with my brother Alexey in his boat to meet the hermit. In a distant corner of a deep cove, hidden from view, we spotted a shabby wooden hut. We were in luck, the hermit was at home.