Photographers' Blog

Different congress, different picture

Beijing, China

By Kim Kyung-hoon

In China, where the Constitution says “All power in the People’s Republic of China belongs to the People”, the National People’s Congress (NPC) is one of the most important political events in the country.

Over 2,000 various delegates including political leaders, military generals, CEOs, celebrities and even Tibetan monks gathered in the Great Hall of the People to represent their districts and discuss how to shape the future of 1.35 billion Chinese people. In theory, the NPC is the great lawmaking power in China and plays a similar role to the parliaments of its neighboring countries, Japan and South Korea, where I have worked as a Reuters photographer for the last 11 years.

Instead what I saw at this year’s two-week-long NPC in China was very different from what I witnessed in the neighboring countries, even though these three North Asian countries have been closely connected geographically, historically, economically and culturally for thousands of years.

In South Korea and Japan, demonstrators speak out with flashy banners and loudspeakers around the Parliament building. What you will encounter around the NPC is not people speaking out but instead the watchful eyes of hundreds of security officers and surveillance cameras gazing upon you on full alert.

Even though this congress is held for the people, access by ordinary people to the fortress-like venue is strictly controlled. Under heightened security carried out by paramilitary police, SWAT teams, plain-clothed police and surveillance cameras, it is clearly out of the question to hold even a small-sized rally. Inside the venue is no different from the outside. Countless security officers in the same black suits and short hairstyle stand guard like motionless robots and are seen throughout the hall.

The day Saddam fell

By Goran Tomasevic

Why did I go to Iraq? Because it was a big story.

I was there in 2002 for the presidential referendum where Saddam was the only candidate.

I knew there would be a war. I’d begun my post in Jerusalem but I didn’t go there – instead I went to Iraq. As a Serbian national I didn’t need a visa to enter Iraq. I also had experience covering Kosovo and the Balkan war. I arrived at the end of January 2003, and spent three months there.

This was my first big conflict after covering the former Yugoslavia. For me, it was very important to prove myself on the international stage.

Our hometown Pope

Buenos Aires, Argentina

By Enrique Marcarian

Used to covering news with headlines like hyper-inflation, devaluation, coup d’etat, protest, bond default, election, poverty, earthquake, and even papal visit, I never imagined what it would be like to cover the papal conclave in the new Pope’s country of origin. What made it even more baffling was the fact that the winner was someone we never dreamed it would be.

The day the conclave began was one when all the elements around me seemed to confirm that there was no chance of an Argentine Pope. I went to the Metropolitan Cathedral to take pictures of the optimistic worshippers, and found just one nun praying in a nearly empty church.

The next day, a phone call from a colleague shook me up. He told me that a journalist, who is notorious for always being wrong in his predictions, had said, “Bergoglio won’t be elected for many reasons.” That was when we decided we should go to the Cathedral.

Falkland Islanders take on an Argentine Pope

By Marcos Brindicci

Port Stanley, Falkland Islands

Czech journalist Jeri Hasek appeared in the hotel lobby saying to some of us Argentines, “You have a Pope! An Argentine Pope!”

The truth is, here in the Falkland Islands some swearing was heard after the news. I have to admit that, no matter what your opinion on the church and religious matters are, it is kind of exciting to learn that someone from your country gets to be Pope. But as an Argentine, I know this will boost our ego, and that can’t be good.

I left the hotel to find my co-workers from Reuters TV to tell them the news and I ran into Patrick Watts, a Falkland Islands journalist. Patrick told me, “Well, you can’t have the Falklands, but at least you got yourselves a Pope.”

Racing greyhounds fall between the cracks

West Yorkshire, England

By Chris Helgren

I met Alice at a rescue center in West Yorkshire. She was skin and bones, flea-ridden, and half the weight of the dog she should have been. Alice was a greyhound bred for racing, who was picked up wandering the busy Doncaster Road, the victim of an uncaring owner who had dumped her rather than continue feeding her. She was brought to Tia Greyhound & Lurcher Rescue center, a sanctuary sited on the edge of a moor near Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.

Tia was borne of the need to house dogs which were either abandoned or whose owners or trainers could not find space at regular welfare kennels. The Retired Greyhound Trust is doing an admirable job in housing and arranging for homes for about 4,000 dogs per year through their 72 branches, but their space is limited to about 800 kennels. Also, kennels charge up to 300 pounds for a new dog to be admitted. What happens in the cases seen by Rothery in Yorkshire is that if a greyhound owner cannot place their dog in one of these kennels, the pressure is on to move it out of their care in other ways, such as by advertising via websites Gumtree or Preloved. These new onward owners are not vetted, and there is no return policy if it doesn’t work out.

Debra Rothery, who runs the Tia center, said that at any given time they house 80 dogs which would “otherwise be dead”. The animals coming into her care are from a region surrounding the center, where there are six regulated and non-regulated racetracks. She said that about 50% of her greyhounds were abandoned, the remainder brought in by owners and trainers. Rothery said that the operating costs of Tia, which run at £1000 per day, are met by donations.

YES

Port Stanley, Falkland Islands

By Marcos Brindicci

YES.

That’s the word in the Falkland Islands these days.

Islanders held a referendum to stay under British rule and almost unanimously (98.8 percent) voted YES, with 92 percent of voter attendance. YES was also the first picture I took upon arriving in Port Stanley, the word formed with vehicles up on a hillside.

I first came to the Islands exactly one year ago, but the feeling now is different. It feels like the word YES is also in the spirit of its residents, as they seem much more positive towards foreigners and Argentines in general; I get the sense that they separate Argentine people from the Argentine government’s position.

A year ago, it was difficult for me just to talk to some of the islanders. Many Argentine war veterans were coming to visit the islands and they were not at ease about it. But now, they’re receiving journalists from all over, and the attention that they wanted to get, which is the main goal of the referendum. I knew that it was going to be different this time but I was not expecting to witness such a show of their patriotism.

Church, faith and rock’n'roll

Saltillo, Mexico

By Daniel Becerril

When I first heard of Adolfo Huerta, or Father Gofo as everybody calls him, I thought it was a joke. I thought he just liked to drive a motorcycle and to wear his hear long and that he wasn’t even a priest, just a guy who liked to pretend to be one.

He was packing his things the day I met him as he was moving to another parish. They were sending him off to a neighborhood with social problems, or a “hot” area as it’s generally called. I looked around Adolfo’s room while chatting with him – it looked more like the room of a teenager. I saw heavy metal and alternative rock CDs, books piled high on different topics, all had his nickname “Gofo” written on them. A poster of Che Guevara adorned the wall, another of the latest Batman movie and a double-spread picture of a lovely young lady showing her assets “au naturel”.

FULL FOCUS GALLERY: ROCK’N'ROLL PRIEST

Adolfo discovered God and the priesthood while studying philosophy at the Pontifical University of Mexico City, and working with HIV-positive patients and sex workers as an activist for social causes. But he seems to break the mold of a Catholic priest, he likes rock music, dyes the ends of his hair red, dresses in black, and likes to ride his motorcycle. He is a member of a motorcycle club called the “Black Wings”, he goes to bars, drinks beer, smokes, swears and tells jokes while officiating mass. He likes pictures of naked women. Although his female friends complain about the posters, he says he is an admirer of the female body, its beauty and its ability to give birth. No filthy or profane thoughts behind it, he said, in order to live a chaste life.

Gone, but never forgotten

Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia

By Kevin Lamarque

From a distance, the graves at Arlington National Cemetery are all seemingly uniform, precise rows of white headstones as far as the eye can see. However, a visit to Section 60, burial site of those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, shows how fresh the wounds of these wars are. Many of these graves are adorned with photos, trinkets, stones, messages, keepsakes and other mementos placed atop or around the headstone. These items help form a bond to the deceased, a reminder that they are sorely missed and will never be forgotten. For each headstone in Section 60, there is the painful story of a life that ended far too soon. It is also the story of those left behind who must bear this insufferable loss. These headstones help tell a small part of this story, a story of profound sadness.

“I will show you the Pope”

Rome, Italy

By Alessandro Bianchi

After what seemed like a lifetime of standing in the rain, “Habemus Papam” (We have a Pope!).

I woke up after basically not sleeping at all. Another day and now what? We had no idea what Pope Francis would do. Nobody knew. Only that he was due to attend a small prayer at the Santa Maria Maggiore – a basilica in central Rome. So, fellow photographer Stefano Rellandini and I got on our scooters and went to take a look. When we got there, there was a lot of people – media, tourists (the basilica is right next to the main train station), curious bystanders, and a big wall which surrounds the basilica. Stefano stayed with the pack outside the main entrance and I went for a little wander. How could I see above this wall? The only way was to go into a local school. I walked in, looked for the principle and said “Come with me I have something to show you. I will show you the Pope.” He smiled and said “Okay let’s see.” I said, “I have to have this picture, or my boss will be very unhappy…”

We entered into a class of school kids, around 15 years old (to tell the truth I wasn’t really paying attention to them). Then came one of the longest moments of my life as I walked through the class and saw that from their window I could see into the courtyard of the basilica. I saw cars, police and a couple of priests. This was it. Seconds later he appeared at the doorway and I started taking pictures. I said to the kids “It’s the Pope, it’s the pope. He’s here, say something,” but they were a little star-struck and I had to say “Yes, it really is him – say something.” So the kids all shouted “Viva il Papa, viva papa.” Then one of his close cardinals tapped him on the shoulder and pointed at the kids (or more importantly me). Then the Pope waved and smiled and finally I could relax.

Inside Guantanamo Bay

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

By Bob Strong

My visit to the U.S. naval station in Guantanamo Bay Cuba began much like any other military embed. I sent an application to the Press Affairs Office (PAO) explaining who I worked for and the reason for my visit, and a couple of weeks later the trip was approved. The base is divided into two sections, the naval station which has been in existence since 1903, and the Joint Task Force (JTF GTMO) which is where the detainees are held. A special ID is needed to access the JTF section of the base and most residents of the naval station never go there. My visit request was directed at the JTF side, but I was able to work on the naval section as well.

GALLERY: INSIDE GUANTANAMO

I was met at the airport by two Sergeants, who would be my escorts for the entire trip. Although technically I could walk around the naval base unescorted, taking pictures on any military installation often attracts attention, and I ended up doing all of my work while accompanied by PAO personnel. After I arrived I was briefed on what could and could not be photographed, and reminded that all photographs and videos had to be reviewed and approved by military censors. This generally took place at the end of the day and was referred to as the OPSEC (operational security) review.

There is a long list of items not to photograph but ironically, I was permitted to take pictures of the NO PHOTOGRAPHY signs posted everywhere. When I mentioned that every inch of the base was easily identified on Google Earth, everyone in the office nodded their heads and sighed.