Photographers' Blog

Rich and poor in the Philippines

Manila, Philippines

By Erik De Castro

Taking photos of poor people is nothing unusual for me, as the poor comprise more than a fourth of the Philippine population of nearly 97 million. They are also the most vulnerable during disasters such as typhoons, landslides and fires that frequently dominate the headlines in the country.

Late last month, the Secretary General of the state agency National Statistical Coordination Board wrote in an article that the gap between the country’s rich and poor is widening, with the country’s strong growth, the fastest in Asia so far this year, benefiting high-income earners more than those from the middle- and low-income classes. The article said the rich were enjoying significantly faster growth in incomes compared with people from lower income classes.

That helped me build the idea to juxtapose the lifestyles of the rich and poor in the country through images. I thought in the beginning that it was easy to document the rich and poor divide, but I found out as I was doing my picture story that it was a complex matter. I spent more than three weeks doing a picture story concentrating on two families with similar age brackets but from different income classes. I followed each of the two families as they went about doing their daily activities, spending lots of time with them even during ungodly hours of the day.

I first observed the family of Arnold Bolata, a 38-year-old father of four who works as a driver of a motorcycle taxi or tricycle and his 33-year-old wife Nancy, a street food vendor and a part-time cook at a small soft drinks company. They own a two-bedroom shanty at a squatter colony in suburban Quezon city, north of the capital Manila. Arnold and Nancy met in the same neighborhood 11 years ago. All their four children study at a public school, where they pay only 100 pesos ($2.3) for each child annually as a required school contribution. Arnold works 16 hours a day with only Sunday as his rest day, and plies the streets even during rainy days. Nancy sells sweet banana snack which she herself cooks. They earn a combined income of about 20,000 pesos a month ($462), just enough to put food on the table three times a day and pay for their household expenses.

I immediately noticed upon entering the house of the Bolato family that at least more than a dozen school achievement medals of their children were prominently displayed on their plywood walls. “We live a hand-to-mouth existence daily,” Arnold said, “I only pray my wife and I don’t get sick.” Arnold said he is looking forward to finally paying off the loan he got for the motorcycle he is using, as that would lift a big burden on his family’s finances. “That is progress for us,” he said. “We are still not losing hope.”

The Labor Pains of Royal Photography

London, England

By Suzanne Plunkett

The last occasion I spent any amount of time at St Mary’s hospital in London, I was giving birth to my own child. And I can honestly say that experience was a lot less painful than covering the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s newborn son.

A photocall for a baby might not seem like that tough an assignment — and for many of the endless days of waiting in the run up to the birth, the only challenge was boredom — but when the time came, the physical and mental stress gave even the most severe labor contractions a run for their money.

GALLERY: ROYAL BABY BOY

First there was the planning — far more meticulous than for a birth when most couples simply have to pack an overnight bag, work out the quickest way to hospital and, for reasons we will never truly understand, prepare a relaxing CD of whale sounds. For the photographers, this was more of a forensic exercise in which every detail was scrutinized minutely and agonized over.

A Hollywood timelapse

Hollywood, California

By Mario Anzuoni

The timelapse: One GoPro, one magic arm, one plate, one phone GoPro app.

During my usual coverage of entertainment events, I come across a few that are a little bit more unique. Whether that may be the unveiling of a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, a celebrity leaving hand and footprints in cement for eternity, or the world premiere of a blockbuster movie. Events such as these are hyped by the fans, attract large crowds and hundreds of members of the media and are often held in the heart of Hollywood.

My idea for this project was to give a much wider look of the whole scene before, during and after. Therefore not focusing solely on the celebrity but instead placing it into context and giving the viewer a closer idea to exactly what happens during big entertainment events such as these.

I knew that my GoPro camera would be ideal; it was wide enough, it offered me minimal set-up (practically anywhere a magic arm could be attached), just like I did for the Backstreet Boys star where I ended up latching it onto a pipe by the sidewalk.

A child’s autistic world

Havana, Cuba

By Enrique de la Osa

When I arrived early at the Dora Alonso School, Julio came over, shook my hand and gave me the latest weather report. He did it with such precision that I didn’t know what to say. Julio is 24 years old and a die-hard meteorology aficionado. But instead of working as an expert predictor of the weather, he was making a living sweeping the school’s patios. Julio is also a patient at the school – he suffers from autism.

The Dora Alonso School specializes in treating children who suffer from autism spectrum disorders. The building housing the school was a military facility before the Revolution, and it was inaugurated as a school for children with special needs ten years ago by Cuba’s former President Fidel Castro. The school is surrounded by a lush green garden and there is no outside noise. It is extremely peaceful. More than 40 children, ranging from the age of four to six spend their days at the school with a group of therapists, doctors, physiotherapists and psychologists who not only work with the children but prepare parents and teachers as well.

The disorders can range from severe mental retardation with a profound inability to communicate, to relatively mild symptoms combined with some high levels of function such as those seen in people with Asperger’s. When I saw the students I found they looked physically normal, but seemed apathetic. They live in a world different from others. In Cuba we are used to children running around, laughing, crying, and doing everything with lots of noise and bravado; they wear their emotions on their sleeves. But these children were quiet and detached. They were completely unfazed by my presence and the camera, showing no curiosity.

Commuting from the West Bank

By Ammar Awad

There are two ways for Palestinian workers to cross into Israel every day. Those with work permits can pass through a military checkpoint. Those without a permit have to find a way through the controversial Israeli barrier, and sneak across the border. Both ways are time consuming. Neither is pleasant.

Gallery: Commuting from the West Bank

“I have no other choice,” said Tayser Sherif Abu Khader, a 57-year-old Palestinian from Qalqiliya who for two decades has been making the commute. “If I don’t work in Israel, I will die from hunger.” I met Abu Khader in line with hundreds of other Palestinians who were waiting to cross through the Eyal checkpoint in the northern West Bank. He told me that about 7,000 Palestinians cross daily through the checkpoint. He had gotten there before dawn to make sure he would be at the front of the line and make it to his job on time. You can never tell how long the wait will be, he said. There are fingerprint scans, x-ray machines for their bags, and sometimes workers are delayed for additional questioning. But the hassle is, at the end of the day, worth it. The work opportunities are better in Israel than in the West Bank, where the economy is struggling.

Abu Khader works in construction in the area of Tel Aviv and was one of the few willing to talk to me. He is considered one of the veterans of the group and is in charge of a small group of volunteers who every morning make sure people stay in line. It is common for workers to try to cut the line, and that could quickly cause a scuffle. When things go well, Abu Khader returns home at night with 300 shekels. That’s at least four times the average salary in the West Bank, Abu Khader said. But if there are delays, or if for some reason he misses his ride to the construction site, he loses a day’s pay.

Flying with man’s best friend

Salt Lake City, Utah

By Jim Urquhart

Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz once said, “All his life he tried to be a good person. Many times, however, he failed. For after all, he was only human. He wasn’t a dog.”

For me there is a simple truth in that statement. I have many failings and weaknesses that I am continually trying to learn from. Some I am just learning to accept, new ones get pointed out daily by others. That is just me. But I have the privilege of owning and caring for a dog.

GALLERY: FLYING DOG

Spending time with most dogs you will probably find they want nothing more than to be close to you and be at your side as you experience the world. Food, water and loving attention is all you need to provide to win a dog’s heart. It is a simple price. But the admission into their hearts is worth more than their weight in gold.

Kids in camo

By Pichi Chuang

The Albert kindergarten and day care center in the central Taiwan city of Taichung is as joyful and vibrant as any other, with its colorful plastic slides and trampolines, but what makes it different is the children. From five to nine years old wearing camouflage uniforms they practice crawling and handstands on foam cushions in the front yard, copying the training of army special forces frogmen.

Principal Fong Yun said “I think most Taiwanese children lack confidence compared with kids from other countries.” Inspired by U.S. physical therapist Glenn Doman’s theories, 15 years ago she created a series of exercises that combine military drills and gymnastics, believing that they would help children develop physical and mental strength.

“All our children have had a hard time practicing the exercises. When they encounter obstacles in the course of their life, such as college entrance exams, job hunting, or even marriage, the experience they gain here by practicing very hard and finding a way to do it perfectly is very helpful,” said Fong, adding that the exercises help develop digestive systems and the brain’s language center as well as courage and strength.

The toughest foot race on earth

Death Valley, California

By Lucy Nicholson

Park Sukhee, 46, had been running and walking for more than 35 hours when he approached the base of Mount Whitney. His friend handed him a South Korean flag and he broke into a jog and a smile. Running ahead of him to take photos, and realizing I was his only other spectator, I lowered my camera to applaud his achievement.

Park had just run 135 miles (217 km) from the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, Death Valley, to the trailhead to Mount Whitney, climbing a total of 13,000 feet (4,000m) over the course, in temperatures that blazed to about 120 degrees Fahrenheit (around 49 degrees Celsius).

GALLERY: DEATH VALLEY’S ULTRAMARATHON

The Badwater Ultramarathon bills itself as the world’s toughest foot race. Competitors run, walk and hobble through one or two nights to finish the grueling course within the 48-hour limit.

Documenting a graphic goring

Pamplona, Spain

By Susana Vera

There are two types of bull run photographers, those who happen to be where the gorings take place and those who don’t. I used to belong to the second group, but that changed on July 12 when a 31-year-old man from Castellon, eastern Spain, was gored three times almost underneath the balcony where I was shooting from during Pamplona’s world-famous San Fermin festival.

I had slept pretty badly the previous night. I never get much sleep throughout the festival anyhow, because I end up going to bed late and waking up very early to grab a spot along the route of the bull run. There are tons of photographers, both local and foreign, at every post of the fence and it’s not easy to find a good place after 6.30 a.m. even if the bull run doesn’t start for another 90 minutes. Luckily that day I was in no hurry, though. I had arranged with my cousin Amalia to shoot the running of the bulls from my uncle’s dentist clinic. Its highly coveted balconies face Estafeta street, a prime spot to see the runners sprint alongside the bulls during the morning “encierro”, which takes place at 8 a.m. every day from July 7th until July 14th.

I was born in Pamplona and even though I moved away at the age of 22, most of my family still reside there. My mother was born and raised in the same building where her father had his dental practice and where my uncle has his nowadays. They both grew up watching the bull runs from the same balcony from which I took the photo of Diego Miralles getting gored by an El Pilar fighting bull named “Langostero”. I have been going to that very same balcony once every San Fermin festival since 2005, when I first started photographing the running of the bulls, but I had never documented such a terrifying moment before.

Embedded with the Light Foot Militia

Priest River, Idaho

By Matt Mills McKnight

On a piece of public land near Priest River, Idaho, designated in 1911 as the Priest River Experimental Forest and used over the years by the Conservation Corps., a growing group of like-minded individuals gather to prepare for the worst and express their right to bear arms.

This wasn’t the first time I met members of the Light Foot Militia, but it was the largest gathering of them I had seen in the few years I have been documenting their story. We have kept in touch, and when they contacted me about attending their third annual gathering, I jumped at the opportunity. In years past they were less enthusiastic about having me around for this event, so I was thankful for the access. We first met when I was living in Sandpoint, Idaho, a beautiful mountain lake community about 45 minutes north of Couer d’Alene, Idaho. Jeff Stankiewicz, a welding manager, started assembling a local unit shortly after President Obama was inaugurated in 2009, and it has been growing since.

GALLERY: IDAHO’S MILITIA TRAINING

Enter camp and it’s separated by battalions from various counties of northern Idaho and eastern Washington, an American flag strewn up a makeshift wooden flagpole in the center of it all. Men, women and children mill about and prepare their little corner of the camp.