Photographers' Blog

Dispatch from Taksim Square

Istanbul, Turkey

By Murad Sezer

Taksim Square is the heart of Istanbul. It’s the meeting point for lovers, tourists and protesters.

On the weekends if you stroll around the square and crowded Istiklal street, a hub for shopping and bars, you can witness various political demonstrations. Women protest against domestic violence, soccer fans gather, anti-government far leftists groups rally and on Saturdays mothers demand to know the fate of their missing relatives. Riot police are never far away, so it’s no big surprise if you smell tear gas all of a sudden in the middle of Taksim.

This time-lapse video shows demonstrators at Taksim Square, Istanbul, over a 24-hour period on June 5, 2013.

Nowadays Taksim smells of tear gas all the time. A peaceful sit-in-protest to save Gezi park at the side of the square turned into a week-long riot between police and anti-government demonstrators. Now everybody in Taksim, from shopkeepers to taxi drives have grown accustomed to tear gas and barricades which block main streets to the square.

As a news photographer it became routine for me to cover protests in the city center and deal with short-lasting waves of tear gas. But it’s not that easy to cover riots in Taksim anymore. After three days of clashes, protesters occupied the square and police now stand far away. Both sides rest during the day and fight from midnight to dawn.

A country armed to the teeth

Jihana, Yemen

By Khaled Abdullah

If you are looking for an AK-47, a sniper rifle or even an anti-aircraft gun, it takes only half-an-hour of shopping around in this arms market, one of Yemen’s biggest weapons markets, to find one.
The market is located in Jihana, a village some 30 kilometers (18 miles) southeast of the Yemeni capital Sanaa.

Yemen is one of the countries most heavily armed with deadly weapons.

Although this is mainly a tribal society where tribes are armed to the teeth, there are still too many guns for sale in the country’s robust arms markets, as if the entire population must be armed. “Here, you can get fully armed as you can be,” Jihana arms dealer Mohammad Sharaf said. An AK-47 can cost between $700 and $1,700 depending on age, make and quality. The only man shop owners do not welcome is a photojournalist. Many of them believe that the more publicity their market gets the more government crackdown they receive.

“Please go away!” shouted one trader in Jihana. “We don’t need more problems because of you mediamen!” shouted another. But some were happy to display their goods; machine guns, assault rifles and pistols to the camera.

Garbage recycling: Chinese style

Beijing, China

By Kim Kyung-Hoon

When I heard that the rate of recycling PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic bottles in China is almost 90%, I was surprised. Because I have noticed since moving to Beijing that the Chinese have no real concept of separating trash for recycling.

So, how do they accomplish it?

The first place I visited in tracking down the recycling process of PET bottles was Asia’s largest recycling factory, INCOM Resources Recovery in Beijing, which processes 50,000 tons of used PET bottles every year. In this factory, abandoned plastic bottles are transformed into clean PET plastic material for making new bottles. But what struck me the most was neither its automated machinery nor its huge piles of compressed plastic bottles stacked almost to the height of a two-story building. The more remarkable fact was that this high-end facility relies on thousands of garbage collectors rummaging through trash cans for more than one third of its supplies

The important role of this cheap labor in China’s recycling industry was apparent when I visited one of the estimated 20,000 small recycling depots on the outskirts of the capital. Different types of plastic garbage turned in by refuse collectors is sold to the recycling centers where it is converted into money after backbreaking work by the workers in the centers. Sitting next to the mountain of plastic bottles, the low-paid laborers are too busy to find time to breathe while removing labels from the bottles and separating them according to type of material.

A Zeppelin flashback

By Larry Downing and Jason Reed

Moments after musicians Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham stepped onto the creaky stage inside the old Boston Garden forty-four years ago it was obvious 16,000 teenaged baby boomers were witnessing the infancy of one of rock and roll’s greatest acts.

“Led Zeppelin” opened 1969’s “Tribal Rock Festival” with a throbbing, “Good Times Bad Times,” and the world changed forever for those inside; most of whom had been schooled under the shadows of strict, conservative innocence in the 1950’s and early 60’s. The band played with such primal passions and steady bass rhythms it generated enough vibration to free decades of tired dust from the tops of the aging rafters; waterfalls of filth drifted below and continued during the entire performance.

None of those New England fans would ever see, or hear, music the same after those loud layers of complex notes and vigorous lyrics were let out of the genie’s bottle and took possession of every happy toe-tapper inside that ancient structure built back in 1928.

Homeless in Greece

Athens, Greece

By Yannis Behrakis

Marialena’s tears ran down her face onto the dirty mattress where she and her boyfriend Dimitrios have been sleeping day in, day out, for over a year, under a bridge in one of Athens’ most run-down neighborhoods.

Marialena, 42, is a homeless AIDS patient and a former drug addict on a Methadone rehab program.

Athens is full of sad stories like hers – of once ordinary people with a job and family who have found themselves on the fringes of society after the country’s economic crisis began in 2009. Up until a few years ago, homelessness was relatively unusual in this country of close family ties, but nowadays stories like Marialena’s are increasingly common.

Food Bank SOS

Bronisze, Poland

By Kacper Pempel

When I started working on a story about food waste, I was shocked by the estimates provided by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization that 1.3 billion tonnes of food – equivalent to the amount produced by the whole of sub-Saharan Africa – is wasted every year.

That is why I started thinking of ways to prevent such waste and it’s what led me to a food bank organization and to a volunteer who works for them in Bronisze agricultural market, not far from Warsaw.

Wanda is a 71-year-old volunteer who collects food, mostly vegetables, for Food Bank SOS, which then distributes it to charity organizations. I’d met her twice at Bronisze market, where she was walking around and pushing her cart between farmers, asking them if they had any goods for charity.

The new soulless Maracana

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

By Sergio Moraes

Last Sunday, June 2, I returned to Maracana to cover Brazil and England playing a friendly soccer match that was also the re-inauguration of this iconic stadium. The first sensation I felt when entering the building was nostalgia for the old Maracana. The new one is beautiful and modern with fantastic lighting, but it didn’t move me. The truth is, it’s no longer Maracana, but rather a different stadium built for the 2014 World Cup. Even the acoustics are different.

It is no longer, as legendary player Nilton Santos called it in the 50’s, “an enormous pressure cooker.”

My first experience with Maracana was when I was 6 years old. That was in 1968, a magic year for a boy who just began to become passionate about soccer and with the Botafogo club, known in Rio as “O Glorioso,” or The Glorious One. That year I witnessed Botafogo being crowned champion of the state championship, and winning the Brazil Cup the following year.

Georgia’s one student school

Makarta, Georgia

By David Mdzinarishvili

Bacho Tsiklauri is a normal nine-year-old boy, no different from any other child his age, and he wouldn’t stand out in a schoolyard among other third-grade students. But in his school he does stick out because there are no others: Bacho is the only child at elementary school in the Georgian village of Makarta.

I heard about Bacho by chance, and I wanted to meet him to find out what it is like to be the only kid in the classroom and the only one in the school.

The journey from Georgia’s capital Tbilisi to Makarta is 100 kilometers (62 miles), including 80 kilometers (50 miles) on one of Georgia’s main roads. The remaining 20 kilometers (12 miles) is on a dirt track through the Gudamakari gorge, and covering this leg of the trip took me about the same amount of time as the first stretch. This is the road that separates Makarta from the rest of the country.

Pierced by a mother’s grief

Gujrat, Islamabad

By Faisal Mahmood

It was my day off, but for some reason I’d woken up early. As I was about to have breakfast with my wife and children the phone rang. It was my picture editor. A school bus had caught fire in Gujrat, 100 miles from Islamabad. Seventeen children were dead.

As I gathered my cameras, I could not stop thinking about how the parents must have sent their children to school after sharing the same kind of breakfast we’d just been having at home. I was dreading what I would find.

It took three hours to reach Gujrat. A large crowd had gathered near the charred remains of the bus. I saw three lunch boxes discarded on the ground. I couldn’t help but think about my own children’s lunch boxes, which I sometimes prepare before dropping them off at school.

Portugal’s love affair with canned fish

Lisbon, Portugal

By Jose Manuel Ribeiro

Canned fish: poor people’s food, gourmet cuisine, souvenir or just healthy fast food?

It was late when I arrived home, tired and starving. I opened the kitchen cupboard looking for some late-night lazy-man food, and there, they were: my friendly and colorful fish cans.

My oldest memory of canned fish brings me back to primary school when both children and teachers were asked to bring basic food that could be packed in boxes to send to starving people in the south of Nigeria during the Biafra war in the late sixties. I had not seen that many cans of fish together in my life since that day, until I visited a factory.

  • Editors & Key Contributors