Photographers' Blog

Scotland – a tale of two cities

Edinburgh/Kilmarnock, Scotland
By Suzanne Plunkett

I find myself waiting in a featureless hotel conference room in the Scottish town of Kilmarnock. I’m here to photograph an informal meeting about the benefits of voting for independence in the upcoming referendum on whether Scotland should break its union with the rest of the United Kingdom.

But if attendance at this gathering is anything to go by, the vote in favour of secession may be in serious trouble.

According to some observers, Kilmarnock, a down-on-its-luck manufacturing town in the west of Scotland, should be a pro-independence heartland. The economically depressed, so the theory goes, are more likely to vote for change.

Yet, here in the Fenwick hotel, 15 minutes past the time the meeting should have started, barely anyone is here. It’s so empty I can hear the tick of a wristwatch from three rows away. We all stare awkwardly at the rain sliding down the windows and wait.

Then – bang!

The door flies open and two chattering volunteers breeze in. They bustle to the front of the room and begin stacking “Yes to independence” campaign leaflets and draping a Scottish Saltire flag over a desk. They are oblivious to the settled gloom until one of them turns around and notices something is missing.

Shooting back in time

Naperville, Illinois

By Jim Young

I am not much of a history fan and definitely wouldn’t describe myself as a Civil War aficionado… I actually had to remind myself of the dates of the fighting before I went to cover a U.S. Civil War reenactment in Naperville, Illinois this month.

But as I walked up to the Naper Settlement open-air museum to photograph the event, and passed by former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln – or at least a man dressed up to look just like him – I figured I must be in the right place.

About an hour’s drive from Chicago, people were settling in for “Civil War Days,” featuring re-enacting of a battle scene from the war. Participants dressed in period costumes to fight it out as North and South and spectators came to watch.

More than a leg to stand on

Sao Paulo, Brazil

By Nacho Doce

Alexandre Toledo, age 36, plays soccer with his amateur team every Saturday in the fields around Sao Paulo. He’s one among 22 players on the pitch, but he’s the only one with just one leg.

 

Alexandre, a former professional player for a soccer club in Minas Gerais state, injured his left leg in 1996 in a motorcycle accident while vacationing on the coast. He struggled for a year to regain use of the limb, but in 1997, with the support of his father, he made the difficult decision to have it amputated.

 “My father looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Alexandre, the decision is yours and it’s not an easy one. If you decide to amputate the leg I want you to lift your head up and get out and live your life. It’s no use hanging your head and crying over it just because you still have us, because we won’t be around forever.’”

Inside Casino Royale

Monte Carlo, Monaco

By Eric Gaillard

Almost nine months after my initial request to photograph inside the Monte Carlo Casino, the gold-leaf backdrop for fictional British spy James Bond in “Casino Royale”, I was contacted for an interview to present my project and three months later received news that is was accepted.

REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Perched above the Mediterranean Sea to the east of the French Riviera, Monaco is synonymous with the glamour brought by Hollywood actress Grace Kelly, whose marriage made her Princess Grace, the roar of Formula 1 motor racing cars in the streets of the principality, luxury shops and its famous Casino, where gamblers win or lose at the turn of the roulette wheel, the luck of the cards at the blackjack tables, or with the one-armed bandits.

REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

During the Casino’s off hours, I entered a world unto itself, meeting craftsman in their workshops and employees who maintain the Belle Epoque rooms, restaurant and bar for the players. What a shock to see gambling chips and plates worth 200,000 euros displayed in a row on a gaming table of green baize. I met the doormen, parking valets, card dealers, electromechanical engineers, technicians, salon cleaners, waiters, the head chef, barmen, cashiers, a physionomist, cabinetmakers and croupiers who together form this often invisible staff who work with precision and professionalism to give the Monte Carlo Casino its worldwide reputation for excellence.

China’s sea burials

Shanghai, China

By Carlos Barria

Before Li Zhenxuan died at the age of 101, the former chief officer of a riverboat told his son he wanted to be buried at sea with his mother, who passed away in 1965, and his wife, who died in 1995.

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

On a rainy Saturday this month, his son released three bags of ashes into the wind and sea from a boat near the mouth of the Yangtze River, and Li’s final wish was granted. Faced with a growing population, soaring property prices and increasingly scarce land resources, the Chinese government has been trying for years to convince more people to break with tradition and bury loved ones at sea, like Li. The practice has been slow to catch on. Many older Chinese oppose cremation and prefer to be buried beside ancestors, according to tradition, ideally on a verdant hillside with the proper ‘feng shui’.

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Attitudes are changing as China’s urban population expands, but still the number of sea burials is a drop in the ocean. For Li, the decision was simple, said his son, who wished to remain anonymous. “He said: ‘I don’t want to leave you trouble’,” his son recalled. The family kept the ashes of his mother and wife in urns at home until he died. “He wanted to set an example, one that future generations would follow.”

Quietly thankful

Doubly Thankful villages, England
By Darren Staples

A view of the doubly thankful village of Arkholme, northern England January 16, 2014. REUTERS/Phil Noble

If I was expecting flags and bunting, I was wrong.

The Doubly Thankful villages – the 13 villages in England and one in Wales where every soldier, sailor, airman and WAAF who served in World Wars One and Two came home alive – do not make a song and dance about the past.

Picture shows Private Herbert Medlend (front 2nd L) from the doubly thankful village of Herodsfoot, southern England April 4, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Staples

On Remembrance Sunday, they have no war memorial on which to lay a wreath of poppies.

A stained glass window in All Saints Church celebrates the safe return of its service men and women in the doubly thankful village of Flixborough, northern England, February 14, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Staples

Instead, tucked away inside their churches you will sometimes find polished brass plaques giving grateful thanks for the life of the survivors, a seemingly subdued remembrance that this community was one of the ‘lucky’ ones – one that beat the odds.

When the news hits home

Caracas, Venezuela

By Jorge Silva

We came back home today, Monday, after four nights out, and my almost two-year-old daughter doesn’t understand why her toys and her teddy bears are not in her room.

Last Thursday, when I was awakened suddenly by  the sound of screaming and people banging on frying pans at 3:30 am, I knew it was going to be a complicated day. Another one, in the -so far- 3 months of protests.

The banging of pans and the screaming were a warning that the National Guard was arriving by surprise to break up a camp of protesters who oppose the government. They were camping one block and a half away from my house. I notified my coworkers.

The bun myth

Cheung Chau, Hong Kong
By Bobby Yip

A baker poses with a bun with the Chinese characters "Ping An", meaning peaceful and safe, inside a bakery at Hong Kong's Cheung Chau island April 30, 2014, six days before the Bun Festival. Each bun is sold for HK$8 (US$1.02). The annual festival celebrates the islanders' deliverance from famine many centuries ago and is meant to placate ghosts and restless spirits.  REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Cheung Chau, or “Long Island”, with a population of around 30,000, is famous not only for its seafood and snacks, and as a small resort for local tourists, but most of all for its buns.

A couple walks along a beach at Hong Kong's Cheung Chau, or "Long Island", where the annual Bun Festival is held, April 28, 2014. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

The Bun Festival is the annual highlight of this former fishing village. Tens of thousands of visitors flock to attend the ritual, jamming the narrow streets of this quiet island.

What makes Cheung Chau’s bun special? The two Chinese characters stamped on it says it all: “Ping An”, meaning “peaceful” and “safe”. The $1 USD bun is in great demand not just during the festival but throughout the year. Initially, villagers made them to pray for safety from plague and pirates, who were active in the 18th century.

Romanian migrants build new lives in Britain

London, England
By Luiza Ilie, photos by Luke MacGregor

Poverty and a lack of jobs have driven millions of Romanian workers abroad in search of a better life, helping fuel an anti-immigration backlash in wealthier Western countries that could hurt governments in upcoming European parliament elections. Reuters interviewed immigrants in the United Kingdom and the families of those left behind in Romania.

For the main story, click here.

The following are photos and scenes of some Romanians who have built a new life in the United Kingdom, and who mostly said they faced remarkably little discrimination despite the media frenzy that marked their arrival. The UK was one of six European Union countries that lifted its restrictions on migrants from Romania and Bulgaria at the start of the year.

Father Ioan Nazarcu. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Father Ioan Nazarcu
On Sundays, Romanian migrants in the UK fill up churches for Orthodox mass. At the biggest church in downtown London, up to 400 people fill the pews. They mostly dress modestly and look tired, holding onto toddlers while girls in pink sashes chase each other.

Finding resilience after a tornado

Vilonia, Arkansas
By Carlo Allegri

A U.S. flag sticks out the window of a damaged hot rod car in a suburban area after a tornado near Vilonia, Arkansas April 28, 2014.REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The phone rang past midnight. It was my editor asking if I was available to jump on a plane at 6 a.m. to cover the devastating tornado that had raged across central Arkansas just north of Little Rock.

An upturned truck lies under a tree that has lost most of its branches, following a tornado near Vilonia, Arkansas, at sunset April 28, 2014.  REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

On a layover in Dallas, I found out our editors had arranged an aerial photo flight so we could get pictures out to our clients early the next day. When I landed in Little Rock, a shuttle was waiting to take me to the private side of the airport for my charter. This pre-planning meant there was no wasted time.

After about an hour of the roughest, most turbulent flight I’ve ever had over the hardest-hit areas of utter devastation, we turned around and headed back to the airport.