Photographers' Blog

Peering into the Wall of Death

Athens, Greece

By John Kolesidis

I’m a huge fan of motorbikes and I’ve been riding since I was 20. I love the speed. I watch MotoGP racing religiously and I certainly don’t scare easy, either as a driver or a passenger. But I cannot say the same for the first time I saw the “Wall of Death”.

After a two-hour trip some 150 km (93 miles) northeast of the capital Athens, I arrived in Mantoudi, a small village where stuntman Akis Andreou would perform his final motorbike stunts in the “Wall of Death,” a narrow, wooden, barrel-like structure, before taking the show to Athens.

After I met him, he offered to do some rounds just for me so that I could get used to it, as he said, before taking pictures. He asked me to go to up to the stands where the audience usually sits and stressed that I should be careful and keep my hands off the barrel.

Without finding a reason for this personal show and with a slight sense of arrogance, I went up and I waited. Darkness had fallen outside and the relatively dimly lit barrel created in me a feeling of claustrophobia and of anticipation – the barrel is just 5.5 yards high and has a diameter of only 9 meters. I pulled out my camera and glued myself against the barrel. Akis turned the key and a deafening sound flooded the space. As he began whirling furiously, the barrel’s wooden planks began to shake one after the next, just like piano keys. My pulse began to rise rapidly. I leaned in and focused on a point in the middle, where I expected he would appear in the next round, so I could photograph him.

Only that never happened.

With a quick throttle, he rode almost vertically up against the barrel, found himself at the top end and, as I was looking through my lens, his front wheel filled my wide-angle. The bike was just inches away from my head and the whole barrel shook. My blood froze and I instinctively jumped backwards.

Hope turns to tragedy in quake aftermath

Cebu, Philippines

By Erik de Castro

It was a normal Tuesday morning for me that fateful day when a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the central Philippines. I was covering a Muslim Eid Al-Adha religious festival at a Manila park, after nearly a week of floods coverage brought about by Typhoon Nari. As I was driving away from the park, I received a text message from a Reuters reporter about the quake. I felt the adrenalin rush as I mentally ran through my checklist of disaster gear while hitting the accelerator to reach home quickly. After getting my manager’s approval to cover the earthquake aftermath, I rushed to the airport to catch the next flight to Cebu city. I was lucky to get on a flight minutes before the plane’s door closed. After more than an hour, I arrived in Cebu and quickly contacted a driver and rented a van to go around the city. I was checking out damaged structures near the Cebu airport when I heard from a local radio station that hospital patients were being evacuated from a quake-damaged hospital.

When I reached Cebu City medical center, I saw the adjacent basketball court filled with hospital beds and patients. I immediately took pictures of a general view of the area. As I fired my shutter, I noticed some medical personnel surrounding a baby lying on top of a small table converted into a makeshift operating table at the far end of the covered court. I moved closer and took a few pictures only as I was worried I might interrupt their work to save the baby.

I moved to other areas to continue taking photos of the evacuated patients, but I made a mental note to come back later and inquire about the status of the baby and to get more details for my caption. When I returned to that spot after about two hours, I saw a man, who turned out to be the baby’s father, pumping oxygen manually in to the baby’s mouth. He told me the baby, their first born, is a boy. He gladly told me the baby’s chances of survival were good because he was now breathing. I felt a strange joy in my heart after taking a few photos of the baby and the father. After a few minutes, I was asked by medical workers to leave the area.

Uncovering Nuclear Britain

By Suzanne Plunkett

It sounds like the road trip from hell: a journey around all Britain’s functioning nuclear power stations.

After all, when the UK has so much to offer the traveller – from the bright lights of London to the ancient ruins of Stonehenge – why would anyone go out of their way to visit the far-flung places where the country has stowed its grim industrial reactor halls?

Memories of the Fukushima and Chernobyl meltdowns don’t help. For all its green credentials, nuclear energy seems forever tainted by the consequences of its few disasters. Thoughts of abandoned cities, stark yellow and black hazard symbols and the sickening effects of leaking radiation are never far away.

Somalia’s gradual healing

Mogadishu, Somalia

By Feisal Omar

After 22 years, Somalia clearly shows signs of recuperating from the deep wounds of civil-war and insurgency.

The emergence of a recognized Somali government has positively changed life; particularly in the city which was mostly an Islamist stronghold two years ago. Somalis in the diaspora have returned for the first time and run various kinds of businesses: contemporary hotels, restaurants and shops. The arrival of Turkish companies that busily repair the ruined roads and mass construction of apartments teaches one of the rebirth of Somalia.

The court hearings and traffic police who whistle and wave police sticks to stop cars prove that there is relative law and order in the city. Although explosions can go off any moment at any place, you can still feel peace as you drive on the well-lit streets of Mogadishu as late as midnight.

‘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.

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:

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