Photographers' Blog

In the spirit of a Franciscan Pope

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

By Ricardo Moraes

It was Palm Sunday in Rio’s cathedral when I found them in a small group wearing their simple, traditional robes, with short hair and beards, praying, concentrating, amidst hundreds of other Catholics.  I’m talking about the Franciscans, young followers of Saint Francis of Assisi who on some occasions I had seen roaming the city, almost invisible, helping Rio’s poor.

I knew nothing about them, but with the election of a Latin American Pope and his chosen name of Francis, I began to do some research. Apart from what I learned from the Internet and through phone calls to a monastery, there wasn’t a lot more information available. The Franciscan orders have existed for centuries around the world, but I wanted to know more about those youths who one monk had told me are the “Church’s rebels.”

I stood observing them during an important moment in the mass, with their eyes tightly shut and very serious faces. I really wanted to photograph them, but with so many people around me I didn’t want to disturb the mass. I waited, and when the mass finished I was finally able to talk to them and introduce myself. Their serious looks disappeared and with smiles they told me that I would be very welcome to visit them in their home.

It was a short conversation in which I barely explained that I wanted to do a photo essay about their lives motivated by the election of Pope Francis, and asked them how they felt about the papal choice. One of the brothers told me, “It’s a confirmation of all that we believe.”

The following week I was finally able to meet the fraternity named “O Caminho,” or “The Way,” divided into two houses, one for the sisters and one for the brothers, in Campo Grande about 50 kms (31 miles) from the center of Rio. I arrived in the early morning as they performing the first daily prayer. I was well received and allowed to photograph as they prayed. They weren’t at all bothered by me working, and never lost concentration.

A special performance

Madrid, Spain

By Susana Vera

Luismi Astorga clasps his hands as he lifts his head up to the sky. He’s waiting to take the stage at a music club in Madrid where his dance group, Fusionarte, is taking part in a charity gala.

Astorga closes his eyes and begins to pray. The click of my camera breaks his concentration and he smiles at me as he proceeds to tell me, “Waiting makes me nervous.”

It’s not the first time Astorga has faced the thrill of performing for a live audience. He has been dancing with Fusionarte since Argentine choreographer and dancer Pau Vazquez formed the group six years ago with the aim of introducing dance to people with special needs.

The blind cheering the blind

Watertown, Massachusetts

By Brian Snyder

Almost universally, when I told friends or family that I was going to cover the 67th annual Eastern Athletic Association for the Blind track and field tournament hosted at the Perkins School for the Blind, they asked some variation of “how?” Not that it couldn’t be done, but how exactly?

I had no doubt that it could be done, having covered other assignments at the Perkins School. What I found at the track meet though was a mixture of ingenuity, common sense, and some traits common to any student-athlete. Events ranged from sprints to distance races to field events such as shot put or softball throw.

Some of the student athletes were not completely blind, and could navigate a black track with bright white lane markers.

Seaside nuclear power

Omaezaki, Japan

By Toru Hanai

Chubu Electric Power Co.’s Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station in Japan is located at water level next to a beach. It is also widely reported to be one of the world’s most dangerous nuclear plants as it sits close to a major fault line – not unlike the one that caused the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

I had an offer of an exclusive tour of Chubu Nuclear Power Station where an 18-meter (60 ft) high and 1.6 km (1 mile) long tsunami defense wall has been built at a cost of $1.3 billion.

Being located beachside I immediately thought of basing the main photo for this trip on this famous “ukiyoe” print by the artist Hokusai:

My memories of a dictator

Buenos Aires, Argentina­

By Marcos Brindicci

Former Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla died on May 17 at the age of 87 inside his cell in a prison near Buenos Aires, where he was serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity. He was the first President and most emblematic figure of the military junta that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983, during the so-called “Dirty War” years. Human rights organizations claim that around 30,000 people disappeared during those years, and Videla never repented about the kidnappings and murders ordered by the state.

His death of old age got me thinking about one of my first memories of him, and also, one of my last ones.

When I was about five years old my mother took me to Iguazu Falls for a winter vacation and we ended up staying at the same hotel where Videla, as president, was staying. I was running all around the hotel and, at one point, I was stopped by members of his guard and led back downstairs. My mother later told me what was going on and that Videla was the guy I had seen on TV. It is a candid memory of someone I learned to loathe for what he had done and what he represented, as most Argentines do.

Lahore Inferno: Losing the battle with fire

WARNING: DISTURBING CONTENT

Lahore, Pakistan

By Damir Sagolj

A man wearing traditional white Pakistani clothes disappeared from the window back into the burning building. A minute later, a different man wearing black emerged from inside but it looked like someone was holding his lifeless body. The body was slowly pushed over the edge of the window and then released. Twenty seconds later the man in white came out again. He sat calmly for a few seconds in the open window with his back turned outwards and then just fell.

GALLERY: MEN FALL FROM BUILDING INFERNO

And that was it; both men were dead in less than a minute. After several long hours of fighting a raging fire (or were they short hours? Time gets twisted in extreme situations like this), this part of the story ended in the way I had feared from the beginning – the worst possible way. I shot pictures of people falling from the building to their deaths, of others crying on the ground, of desperate and helpless rescue workers.

It was supposed to be an easy pre-election day in Lahore. We did expect some heat as the campaign of the two main candidates was coming to an end but what happened that Thursday still haunts me without any signs of easing. What started as an easy day for me and poor government workers in their modern office building in Punjab’s capital ended with more deaths than in election violence across the country over the next few days.

Salt caravans of the Danakil Depression

Danakil Depression, Ethiopia

By Siegfried Modola

To descend into the Danakil Depression is to step into another world.

The thick warm air, the hazy sky and the rugged empty mountains that gradually give way to the immensity of a white, shimmering salt desert all leave the traveller in awe of this cruel yet fascinating landscape. Overlapping the Afar region of northeastern Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti, this is the lowest point in Africa and one of the hottest places on Earth.

Venturing deep into this inhospitable land requires a well organized plan. Getting stuck with no back-up vehicle, no satellite communication or simply not enough water could become life threatening within a matter of hours.

I started my trip from the city of Mekele in the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia. I had not come to explore the area as a tourist. Instead, I was there to document the caravans of thousands of camels which for centuries have descended deep into the depression to extract salt. Mekele was the place where I had to find a good 4×4 vehicle, a driver and enough water and food to be on the road for six days. Most importantly, I had to find a reliable fixer, someone who knew the region well and spoke the local language but who also had to be familiar with the salt trade and could maneuver well within complex Afar clan dynamics.

A sheep with an artificial heart – or maybe not

Tianjin municipality, China

By Petar Kujundzic

I took a trip to the port city of Tianjin after China Central Television (CCTV) reported on a sheep with an artificial heart developed at TEDA International Cardiovascular Hospital. According to CCTV, the hospital recently unveiled a new artificial heart, which was implanted in a sheep two months ago. The sheep lived healthily for more than 62 days, a new record among similar experiments in the country.

This sounded like a very good reason to leave Beijing for a day and report about such an extraordinary achievement. Upon arrival we met the hospital’s administration director who told us that this was not really an artificial heart but a ventricular assistant device (VAD), which is basically a mechanical pump that’s used to support the heart’s function and blood flow in people who have weakened hearts. He didn’t know why CCTV had reported differently.

After being disappointed for a couple of minutes we decided not to go back empty-handed, so they took us to a low-rise building next to the hospital where the star of the experiment was located, a ram nicknamed Tianjiu (Everlasting). The three-year-old ram carried a VAD, which was designed by the hospital to enhance cardiac pumping by using magnetic suspension technologies from state-of-the-art aerospace science.

A front row seat to aviation history

The Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Virginia

By Jason Reed

Any news photographer that has been in the business for a decent length of time may say to you that he or she has “seen it all and done it all” or that “there is nothing new that hasn’t been shot already.” Until this week, you could also paint me with that same brush.

But for a moment in time on May 14, 2013, I was a wide-eyed kid again, thankful that my job as a photographer afforded me access to witness a world-first. The U.S. Navy made aviation history by catapulting an unmanned jet off an aircraft carrier for the first time, testing a long-range, stealthy, bat-winged plane that represents a jump forward in drone technology.

Gathering at sunrise in Norfolk, a handful of press ranging from military industry reporters to network TV crews received a safety briefing that detailed, among other things, how to exit our crashed helicopter in the event of a water landing (a little unnerving) to wearing double ear protection, helmets and goggles at all times during our 45 minute flight out onto the deck of the U.S.S. George H. W. Bush, a nuclear-powered Nimitz-class supercarrier in the Atlantic Ocean. Upon first sight, that 103,600 ton ship was just a small dot on the horizon, the full reality of its might only realized when we touched down on the deck over three football fields in length.

Along the deadly Southern border

Along the U.S./Mexico border

By Eric Thayer

I’m running through the desert outside a tiny town called Encino with a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter flying above me. As I move through trees and bushes, the sand is soft and every step is an effort. It feels like I am running on the spot as I hold my cameras close so they don’t swing into my sides. Border Patrol agents are all around me and the only noises are the helicopter above, my own labored breathing and the sound of footsteps in the sand.

GALLERY: SCENES FROM THE BORDER

In south Texas, the Rio Grande River separates the U.S. from Mexico. It is a brown river that varies between 50 to 100 yards across. On the surface, the water looks calm as it meanders through the brush, but it hides swirling currents – just one of the many hazards faced by those who cross. The line between the two countries is imaginary here, but if you could see it as it appears on a map, it would be right in the middle of the river.

At this moment, the border is about 60 miles south. I’m with the U.S. Border Patrol after a report from a local rancher of a group of people crossing over his land. If they make it across the river, through the brush and past the Border Patrol there are vehicles that will take them north. From this part of Texas, there is basically just one checkpoint left, called Falfurrias. If they are able to bypass that, they can move up into other parts of the state and to the rest of the country.