Photographers' Blog

‘Till the cows come home

Gruyeres, western Switzerland

By Denis Balibouse

In summer, some go to the seaside or countryside, visit a new city or country, but some choose to live a different way. The Murith family will not have a day off: they will work 15 hours a day, seven days a week from mid-May to mid-October.

I’ve known the Muriths for more than 10 years. Last December I called them to discuss the idea that I would photograph them over the 2013 summer. We met for lunch and over a meal I found out that Jacques, who is turning 65 (the official retirement age in Switzerland) was in the process of handing down his farm and its cheese-making business to the sixth generation: his 23-year-old son Alexandre. I was intrigued by this news, as I’ve been thinking a lot about agriculture in Switzerland, and how it faces a somewhat uncertain future, partly because the country is surrounded by EU nations with lower production and land costs, making it a tough way to earn a living. Despite this, exports have grown over the last 10 years and production has focused on quality.

I was struck by the intense concentration required during the six hour process. Because they’re working with what is essentially a living thing, every second counts: one minute too long and the cheese may be unsuitable for maturation, ruining hours of hard work. Every element, such as the temperature of the milk in the morning and the weather add a different combination of factors. Jacques’ senses were on alert: touch, sight, smell and taste especially. All the knowledge of the craftsman came in to play as he made the cheese. It’s not something you can learn in a book.

Jacques never actually studied cheese-making — he learned on the job. Each wheel of cheese weighs between 25 to 40 kilograms (55 to 88 lbs). Depending on the time of year one or two wheels can be produced per day. It takes a minimum of six months to mature but can last as long as 18 months depending on the quality required. The Murith family produce around 200 wheels each year from the unpasteurized milk from their herd of cows. It is not exported but can be bought directly from them.

INDUSTRY FACTBOX

• 35 % of the milk produced in Switzerland in 2012 was transformed into 450 different types of cheese, only 4.58% of which was exported
• Switzerland’s 8 million inhabitants ate 21.4 kg of cheese per capita in 2011, which is almost twice as much as the chocolate consumed
• 11 types of cheese are protected by a controlled denomination of origin (AOC) label. Gruyère cheese is gaining in popularity, compared to Emmenthal (commonly known as Swiss) cheese
• In 2012 exports increased by 3.7 % compared to 2011 figures and have increased every year since the start of liberalization of export duties with EU countries in 2005
• 70.4 % of Switzerland’s exported cheese was sent to neighboring countries (Germany, France and Italy)
• Some 6000 jobs depend directly on the Gruyère industry.

Stateless in their own country

La Romana, Dominican Republic

By Ricardo Rojas

“I have no country. What will become of me?” said Dominican-born Blemi Igsema, 27, standing with relatives outside the family’s wooden shack in Batey La Higuera, near La Romana, the heart of the Dominican Republic’s sugar cane industry.

Blemi’s grandparents were Haitian immigrants who came to cut sugar cane decades ago.

“We are Dominicans – we have never been to Haiti. We were born and raised here. We don’t even speak Creole,” she said, referring to Haiti’s native tongue.

Tea with a Nobel prize winner

California

By Lucy Nicholson

One of the unexpected pleasures of being a news photographer is when complete strangers invite you into their lives.

In the early hours of the morning yesterday, I arrived at the home of Nobel chemistry prize winner Arieh Warshel, in a quiet residential neighborhood of Los Angeles. I was encouraged to see lights on in the upstairs window.

I rang the bell, and Warshel’s daughter Yael came to the door. She seemed surprised to see me. I explained that Reuters always likes to photograph Nobel winners at their homes after they win. She said her father hadn’t got dressed yet, but if I waited on the porch for five minutes, I could come in.

Little gladiators: China’s cricket fighting

Beijing, China

By Kim Kyung-hoon

On a late summer day in Beijing while roaming through the narrow alleyways of an old pet market I heard the chirping of insects. It was such a refreshing sound on a stiflingly hot day. At one point, the chirping grew louder and louder, and my curiosity led me into one alley. There, I found countless little insects in bird cages and small jars on sale and waiting for their new owners.

According to a cricket expert, keeping crickets as singing pets is an old Chinese tradition which dates back more than 3,200 years. Unlike in some countries, where people treat crickets with disdain and repel them with bug spray, in China the chirping of crickets traditionally has been regarded as beautiful music. Even more interesting than the singing crickets in small cages was the men observing hundreds of small jars with very serious faces.

The creatures in these small jars were small brown crickets, and the men were looking for little gladiators to bring them the glory of victory in cricket fights. Cricket fight lovers claim that this sport has more than 1,000 years of history in China and that there are many Chinese who still enjoy this ancient tradition every year in August through October.

Escaping to the Gaza shore

Gaza City

By Mohammed Salem

Growing up in Gaza City, I used to go to the sea with my family in the summer time, escaping the heat of Sheikh Rudwan neighborhood where we lived.

The sea has always been our refuge from the difficult day-to-day life in the Gaza Strip. Like many youths in Gaza, home to 1.8 million people, I rarely left my town before I joined Reuters. A visit to the beach, a swim in the sea or a picnic with my friends was the best form of enjoyment we could have.

GALLERY: THE GAZA SHORE

After I became a photographer I discovered many new faces to life next to the sea. I took notice of those whose lives were dependent on fishing and the limitations imposed by Israel that they needed to cope with. I have joined fishermen on their trips to the sea, and spent many hours with them. I saw their dismay when they lost a catch, and their disappointment when they faced an empty net after a long journey. I was also witness to their joy when they made good catches on lucky days. I recall one time I saw the most sincere smiles I have ever seen on the faces of some fishermen returning from a successful expedition.

Hernandez: From Patriot to suspect

Fall River, Massachusetts

By Brian Snyder

Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was in court again yesterday, charged with murder in the death of his friend and semi professional football player Odin Lloyd and facing a maximum sentence of life in prison if found guilty.

Hernandez was questioned by the judge in the case during his October 9 pre-trial hearing. When asked his profession, Hernandez replied: “I played football.”

In court, its hard not to marvel at how quickly Hernandez went from this to this:

The horses of Portugal

Queluz, Portugal

By Jose Manuel Ribeiro

They look like the last aristocrats.
They are treated with the most respect and tenderness.
They have the best diets and food.
They have fancy shampoo baths before showing up.
They have the best shoemakers.

They have healthcare 24/7.
They dress the way their forefathers did in the 18th century.
They have gentlemen’s hairdressers.

They are all males living at the Royal Palace of Queluz, 20 kms (12 miles) north of Lisbon, the same palace that received past Kings, Queens and Presidents during their state visits to Portugal.
They have care takers and horsemen all around, proud to be a part of the Equestrian Art Portuguese School.

Nobel prize winner in exclusive photos

Brussels, Belgium

By Yves Herman

The announcement of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics was due at 0945 GMT. Belgian physicist Francois Englert was among the potential winners for this year. Englert, together with Britain’s Peter Higgs, were nominated for predicting the existence of the Higgs boson – the particle key to explaining why elementary matter has mass.

Together with Reuters television, who were looking to film exclusive reaction of the winner, we decided to research where Englert might be at the time of the announcement. Aided by our colleague Francois Lenoir, who photographed him at his home last year, we finally found Englert’s family apartment in Uccle, southern Brussels. We decided to take a chance to meet him as soon as possible to capture his initial reaction, if it happened that the Higgs boson won the prestigious prize.

We were almost certain that he would be at home but upon arriving in Uccle, we tried to meet him for an interview but were not successful. He was indeed at home but did not want to make any comment before the announcement by the Nobel Prize committee.

Section 60 stripped of mementos

Arlington, Virginia

By Kevin Lamarque

In March of 2013 I walked through Arlington National Cemetery’s Section 60, the burial site for soldiers from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unlike most of the nearly 400,000 orderly and somber graves over Arlington’s 612 acres, the newer graves in Section 60 carried fresh reminders of lives cut too short and of too many loved ones left behind bearing unspeakable sorrow. There were immensely sad graveside moments of girlfriends, wives, children, mothers and fathers sitting, kneeling, laying beside a grave, often touching, holding or kissing the headstone of their fallen loved one. These loved ones would often leave behind mementos of all kinds, a way to keep their connection to those who departed too soon.

At that time, I documented many of these graveside mementos in a photo story for Reuters. Some of the images brought tears to my eyes…

Recently, it was brought to my attention that Arlington National Cemetery was enforcing a policy that forbids the placing of these graveside mementos. In short time, these headstones have been stripped of these expressions of love and loss. Some are saved by the cemetery, some discarded. I took a walk though Section 60 this week to witness the changes and I was saddened to see these elements of humanity swept away. Section 60 suddenly looks like every other section of the cemetery, save for the freshness of the graves. Evidence of open wounds, healing and reflection are no more.

Aboard the crumbling cable cars

Chiatura, Georgia

By David Mdzinarishvili

Before stepping inside I looked once more at the rust spots on the metal cabin with the cracked glass. Many times repainted and patched, it slowly swung on the massive cable, ready for its next flight.

Once it had been the first passenger cable car in the Soviet Union. Built in 1953 the cars still run without any holdups and haven’t required any major repair 60 years later. During soviet times 21 passenger cable cars routes were built. Fifteen of those, with a total length of 6579 meters (yards), are still working today.

Due to the mountain relief of the town of Chiatura, population 20,000, the cable cars are the quickest and most convenient way of getting around, and despite their advanced years, still the safest.
The main reason for the cable system is Chiatura manganese mining industry, they were built for this in Soviet times.