Photographers' Blog

Piercing gaze after a dangerous crossing

Marsamxett Harbour, Malta

By Darrin Zammit Lupi

I don’t know his name. He’s just another guy sitting on a police bus looking out of the window. It was the same sort of scene I’ve photographed on countless occasions over the past decade or so. But this chap was looking intently and intensely, straight at me, through my camera lens and into my mind’s eye. His piercing, haunting gaze was burrowing itself deeper into the innermost recesses of my psyche as I keep looking back at the photo.

I didn’t think much of it at the time. I knew it was an image I would probably include in my edit but it wasn’t until I was looking at the photo on my computer screen that his eyes, his expression, the texture on the dirty windows, really got to me.

GALLERY: DANGEROUS CROSSING

Sixty-eight African would-be immigrants had just disembarked from the Armed Forces of Malta patrol boat that rescued them 70 nautical miles south of the tiny island of Malta bang in the center of the Mediterranean. Many were ill, injured, exhausted and barely able to stand.

The youngest was a day old, born out at sea to a Somali woman who must have been unimaginably desperate to attempt what is such a dangerous crossing from Libya to Europe. Over the past decade, thousands have died in the graveyard that the central Mediterranean has become.

The previous day, the Maltese government had threatened to immediately repatriate a group of new arrivals back to Libya without due process, drawing the ire of many NGOs who work in the immigration field, and leading to the European Court of Human Rights to issue an urgent interim order blocking the deportation at the eleventh hour. NGOs protesting outside the police headquarters where the immigrants were being held incommunicado had listened to their radios with bated breathe which turned to great relief as Prime Minister Joseph Muscat made a statement in parliament that he would respect the court’s decision. Sadly though, his threatened pushback, even if only a bluff to get the rest of the European Union to take notice of the problem Malta faces, has unwittingly fanned the flames of xenophobia and racism to a degree not evident before.

My day with the Naked Cowboy

New York City, NY

By Darren Ornitz

Having lived in New York for eight years, Times Square is nowhere near the top of my list of places to photograph. In fact, it’s probably close to dead last. Just the other day however, I got an assignment to roam the chaotic streets trying to find a feature story. Walking through the revolving doors of the Thomson Reuters building, I wondered where I would even begin. While something exciting could happen at any moment, the chances of running into Elmo getting arrested seemed improbable.

After only a few blocks I found myself wedged between a family trying to take photographs of the apparently fascinating Nasdaq building and a bunch of men screaming at me while waving pamphlets in my face about how much fun I’d have sitting on top of a red bus in the middle of bumper to bumper traffic touring the city.

Among the throngs of people I spotted in the middle of the road was an African American man wearing white briefs, cowboy hat, boots, and a guitar. It was a “Naked Cowboy!” Everyone has heard about the original Naked Cowboy, but I had never seen this particular cowboy before. He was a young guy, rocking out on his guitar in the middle of the road, with a grin on his face and a little swag to his strut. I decided to follow him around a bit. At the very least I could snap a few fun photos of him interacting with tourists, all the while getting a little humorous entertainment.

Chasing the rich and (some) not-so-famous

Sun Valley, Idaho

By Rick Wilking

In between covering tornadoes and forest fires this year I have covered several business conferences and related stories. Starting with the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, to the SALT hedge fund conference, to the Wal-Mart annual meeting I’m now at the big kahuna, the Allen and Company conference in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Never heard of the Allen and Co. conference? Well maybe that’s because most of the attendees are people you’ve never heard of either. Even though they are millionaires and billionaires, huge investors and big-time global CEOs, most of the people here stay far off the radar. Even if you have heard of their companies you probably haven’t heard of their leaders, let alone seen a picture of them.

But then there’s the “A-Listers” of technology and media companies attending. Many people have heard of Mark Zuckerberg (founder and CEO of Facebook) or Tim Cook (the new CEO of Apple, replacing the late Steve Jobs) or the venerable Warren Buffet. But have you heard of Philippe Dauman? (CEO of Viacom, the company behind networks like MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central and movie studio Paramount.)

A farewell message to the telegram

New Delhi, India

By Mansi Thapliyal

At 10 p.m. on July 14, India will send its final telegram before the service shuts the following day, signaling the end of a service that has been going for over 160 years. It is the latest means of communication to be killed off by the mobile Internet age.

From families waiting to hear from their children who migrated to India’s cities for work, to soldiers in remote areas for whom the telegram was the only way to stay in touch with relatives, the telegraph service has been used to connect millions of people across this vast country since the mid-19th Century.

Charged per word, some messages went on and on, while others chose to write single words like “love” – a simple message to express how they felt.

Turning trash into dreams

Asuncion, Paraguay

By Jorge Adorno

Throughout my life I have always been struck by how music, as a part of culture, is a white flag in many circumstances of life, especially in times of conflict. Even the Germans found time to attend concerts during war.

The other day I went to the education center in the Asuncion neighborhood of Cateura called Vy’a Renda, meaning Place of Joy in the Guaraní language, where I found youths building their future in a place of extreme poverty. It’s a school with curtains drawn over broken windows, but which houses diamonds in the rough in the form of children studying music and playing in an orchestra. Their instruments are built of material recycled from trash, giving the orchestra its name, the Orchestra of Recycled Instruments of Cateura.

The orchestra’s director, Favio Chavez, was an amateur musician apart from being an environmental engineer at the Cateura municipal garbage dump. In 2006 he decided to help the children of the dozens of garbage pickers by forming a music school with the five instruments he managed to acquire.

On the gruesome battlefield of Gettysburg

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

By Gary Cameron

The 150th anniversary and reenactment of the U.S. Civil War battle in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was a story suggested months ago by Reuters Pictures Editor Mike Fiala. Lasting three days, it would include thousands of re-enactors dressed in blue & gray wool uniforms who would live in historically accurate camps with canvas tents, and include 400 horses for cavalry units, with over 200 cannons from both sides to effectively blast each other off the battlefield. Add thousands of rifles and side arms to the mix (all weaponry fires black powder but no shells or bullets in re-enactments), and you have the makings of one very loud display of history, carnage and destruction.

What I did not know is that NO re-enactment battles of Gettysburg would be played out on the actual “hallowed” ground of the 1863 conflict. Two separate re-enactment groups would have their own events, each with versions of the July 1, 2, and 3 battle days, on large nearby farms. Stadium seating similar to those used at professional golf tournaments would accommodate 10,000 fans and border the battlefields.

All of this would follow immediately after President Obama’s trip to Africa that fellow staff photographer Jason Reed and I were assigned to. While looking forward to the Gettysburg assignment, Africa (three countries in seven days with numerous events and time zones) would have to come first. And the temperatures experienced in Africa would break me in for the sweltering heat and humidity of 12 hour days in Pennsylvania. Not quite….

Is it him, or is it not?

Havana, Cuba

By Desmond Boylan

Yesterday, a strong rumor that a delayed flight from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport due to land in Havana could be carrying fugitive former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, sent dozens of reporters scrambling to the airport. Since June 23, this has happened many times already.

As I watched passengers gather in the arrival hall, the gentleman in the picture below, with the blue shirt, grabbed my attention. Could he be the fugitive?

In the midst of the Snowden story, how would clients from all over the world perceive this picture if they received it, even with a caption simply stating that they were passengers arriving in Havana from Moscow? Would it raise questions? It’s difficult to find an answer to these questions as my ethics told me that it was not right, and I decided not to move this or any of these pictures. Once I got a full view of the man’s face it was clear that he was not Snowden.

Reasoning amid riots

Fortaleza, Brazil

By Paulo Whitaker

If the FIFA Confederations Cup is supposed to be about soccer, the latest edition in Brazil was really about so much else. Brazilians are passionate about the sport, but with all the public spending on stadiums for that and the 2014 World Cup, the people inaugurated the Confederations Cup with protests against poor public schools, hospitals and transportation. The protests began over a sudden increase in bus fares, but that was only the catalyst for a wave of protests that swept the country, especially near the stadiums where the world was watching soccer.

They were ten days of steady protests and riots, leading up to the semi-final between Spain and Italy in Fortaleza. I had the information that protests were planned near the stadium, and because of past experience covering I went earlier this time with colleague Kai Pfaffenbach to the stadium. But police had kept the demonstrations far from the stadium in a slum area dangerous to walk in with photo gear.

After leaving the hotel we passed in front of a university where some 300 students were already barricading the main road to the stadium. It was clear that clashes would be inevitable that day.

One winner at the Palio

Siena, Italy

By Stefano Rellandini

Count only who gets up the “Nerbo!” Nerbo is the traditional riding whip used by jockeys at the Palio of Siena during the three laps around the square that will crown the lady of Siena until the next Palio. The Palio of Siena is an absolutely atypical race from everything that one can imagine. Horses must do three laps of the main square and the animal who arrives first with or without a jockey wins. There is no second nor third place, no podium.

I spent two days in the parish. To best understand the meaning behind Palio you have to live in the parish for all three days of the event. The two days before the race are used by jockeys to ride bareback doing trials. Horses are assigned through a raffle drawn in Piazza del Campo then each parish must recruit the best jockey around.

In the evening each parish’s alleys are filled with tables set up for dinner. All the people who belong to a parish take part. The only subject of conversation that you can hear between the tables refers to what will happen on race day. Each horse is cared for in the stable of his own parish by a groom who stays with the animal night and day without leaving, even for a minute. It’s forbidden to walk near the stable, where the horse is not to disturb.

Musical recovery

Caracas, Venezuela

By Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Crisvan Reyes suffers a type of bone cancer and has undergone unimaginable medical treatment at his young age of 11, including the amputation of his right arm. In spite of that, smiling and laughing, he makes jokes and teases other kids as he plays the drums during a rehearsal of the orchestra sponsored by the Alma Llanera Hospital Care Program. This is the last rehearsal before the program’s first anniversary concert.

The Alma Llanera Program is one of the most recent initiatives of Venezuela’s musical education program known as El Sistema, whose most famous alumnus is Gustavo Dudamel.

Barely a year old, the Alma Llanera Program is specifically for children who are going through medical treatment and are hospital-bound. It teaches them to play a musical instrument for the length of their stay, and allows them to continue afterward at one of El Sistema’s regular orchestras.

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