Photographers' Blog

From the White House to the Mad House

Bali, Indonesia

By Jason Reed

Just a couple of months ago I was swirling in a perpetual bubble, a privileged circle of photographers whose job it is to photograph one man – the President of the United States.

I did it for ten years and mostly enjoyed every minute. Over that period of time there comes a predictable familiarity to the role, in which you can pre-write all your captions hours and sometimes days in advance and plan your coverage down to the last detail. It is a safe and cosy existence. Due to the nature of the subject, it needs to be.

Behind the velvet rope, boundaries are respected and the president’s handlers and the Secret Service ensure you are no closer to him than you need to be. Your bread-and-butter lens is most often the 70-200mm telephoto zoom variety and getting an exclusive image is almost impossible. Subtlety and nuance in your edit is the biggest differentiator between your work and the person that just shot the same thing over your shoulder.

I enjoyed the experience and learnt a heck of a lot from some great photographers at the top of their game. This was my life for a decade, but my feet were getting itchy and it was time for a change of environment. Well, be careful what you wish for!

I started a new role based in Australia, and barely a month in I knew working life would be different. I enjoy new challenges, but the contrast between working environments was about to prove as extreme as they come…

Nights with the Bangkok protesters

Bangkok, Thailand

By Athit Perawongmetha

Thai anti-government protests have been going on for some three months and during weeks of political unrest my attention has been focused on the action of the daily news.

The protesters’ takeover of major intersections in the city harks back to a tumultuous April and May of 2010, when supporters of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra took to the streets. I now find myself in the same location near Bangkok’s central Lumphini Park where violent street battles between protesters and government security forces took place.

Today’s protesters are opponents, rather than supporters, of Thaksin and they are against his sister, the current Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. They mostly hail from the south of Thailand and from Bangkok, whereas Thaksin and Yingluck’s supporters are mostly poor, rural voters from the north and northeast. But despite that, the scene does not look dissimilar to 2010: tents and barricades abound, and I am shooting pictures in the same spot.

Prayers during wartime

Midyat, Turkey

By Umit Bektas

Sunday mass has just begun in Mort Shmuni Syriac Orthodox Church. It is seven o’clock in the morning and the streets of Midyat, where the majority of the population is Muslim Kurdish, are empty.

But despite the calm outside, the historical church is overcrowded with a community of three hundred people, mostly children. Candles are lit, hymns are sung and prayers are made.

The reason that the mass is so crowded today is not because it is the festival of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. It is because for over two years now, Syriac Christian families escaping the bloody war in Syria just across the border have been joining the congregation, adding to the Turkish Christian citizens of Midyat.

A taste for music

Haguenau, France

By Vincent Kessler

I love cooking and I have a passion for music. What then could please me more than an orchestra that plays music with instruments made out of vegetables?

I cannot remember when I first heard about the Vegetable Orchestra. But when I realized that they were planning to hold a concert some 40 kilometers from my home, I got in touch and was given the opportunity to watch them prepare for a performance.

Based in Vienna, Austria, the orchestra was created in 1998 by artists from a range of backgrounds, from musicians to people in visual fields like painting and design. Their website describes their sound as: “influenced by experimental contemporary, electronic music, musique concrete, noise, improvised music [and] pop music”.

Life on the margins in Pakistan

Islamabad, Pakistan

By Zohra Bensemra

There are so many slums in Pakistan, and they can be home to all sorts of communities – Christians, Shi’ites, Afghan refugees, or Pakistanis fleeing violence or seeking jobs.

But whatever their background, they all face the same struggles in their daily lives. The divisions of religion and nationality are less important than finding clean water, a space to study, or a battered toy for a young child to play with.

Working in these areas requires great respect for the residents, and the photographer must be aware of cultural taboos.

Slip slidin’ away

New York, New York

By Andrew Kelly

When an editor reaches out to you with: “Want an assignment that involves biking, drinking, Vikings and shopping carts?” there’s only one answer. And with that, I was Reuters’ assigned photographer for Idiotarod 2014.

The Idiotarod’s website describes it as: “an urban spoof of the Alaskan dog sled race”, namely, the Iditarod, which takes place around the same time.

The Alaskan race involves a grueling multi-day trek by dog sled across the Tundra, compared to the New York version, which consists of drunk hipsters pushing decorated shopping carts from bar to bar over a 5 mile route.

The ghost buildings of Athens

Athens, Greece

By Yorgos Karahalis

Both as a photographer and a resident of this city, I have always wanted to explore the ghost buildings that stand semi-ruined on a central avenue of Athens, squeezed between the police headquarters and the Supreme Court, just a couple miles from the Greek parliament.

These blocks of flats, built back in the 1930s to house Greek refugees from Asia Minor, have not been taken care of for decades. They have been totally left to their fate.

The eight blocks of 228 flats, each about 160 sq feet (15 sq meters), catch your eye as you drive down Alexandras Avenue. While it’s quite simple to explain to someone what these rundown and graffiti-covered buildings are now, explaining how this place reached this point is more difficult.

Life of a crash test dummy

Landsberg, Germany

By Michael Dalder

Have you ever thought about the number of cars that are on the road every day?

According to research by WardsAuto, in 2010 the number of cars in operation around the globe grew to more than 1 billion for the very first time.

That’s a lot of cars. No doubt, it also means a lot of accidents every day. But I had the chance to witness the work of some engineers – along with their reticent assistants – whose job it is to help prevent these accidents from happening by researching car safety.

I spent two days at the crash-test laboratory of the German motor club ADAC in Landsberg, near Munich, photographing the “daily routine” of crash test dummies.

Morning Glory

London, Britain

By Andrew Winning

Morning Glory is the antidote to a room full of rowdy, drunken party-animals lurching out of step to booming dance music. Here, sleepy-eyed clubbers queue up quietly in the early morning, some still in their pyjamas and dressing gowns, before filing into the venue.

Others wearing fancy dress stretch and warm up as they try to generate some enthusiasm in the pre-dawn gloom. Once inside the venue, patrons pick up a coffee or a smoothie, maybe do a little yoga or have a massage before the music draws them onto the dance floor.

Though it is a Wednesday morning, everyone is smiling as party favourites are mixed together by the DJ’s. What starts as slightly sedate and sleepy dancing soon becomes full-on whooping, jumping, hands-in-the air partying.

World Cup protest – flames and fear

Sao Paulo, Brazil

By Nacho Doce

I heard a loud scream and turned to see a Volkswagen Beetle on fire just a few meters away. I was covering the year’s first demonstration against the 2014 World Cup in Sao Paulo’s Roosevelt Square. The protesters’ slogan was, “The money spent on stadiums could give the country better education and health.” There were more than 2,000 people marching, many of whom belonged to the Black Bloc.

I ran to the burning car along with other colleagues and demonstrators, and inside I saw two woman and a young girl. I managed to shoot four pictures of their expressions of fear and panic while the driver and others helped them to escape from the fire.

I continued to photograph one of the women who ran with the girl, her daughter, in her arms.