Photographers' Blog

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.”

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

From 1991, the ashes of more than 28,000 people had been scattered at sea in Shanghai, helping to save 8.3 hectares (20 acres) of land, the China Daily newspaper reported in April. This year, the Shanghai Funeral Services Center from the Civil Affairs Bureau is planning to conduct 33 group burials at sea, 10 more that last year. Each trip to the heavily trafficked confluence of the Yangtze and the Pacific Ocean can accommodate around 250 people on a converted ferryboat. Organizers allow a maximum of six family members to accompany each urn.

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

“Concepts are changing. Land is limited, the population is increasing, and so the capacity of land will be exceeded. This saves resources for the future,” said Yu Yijun, who was scattering the ashes of his deceased grandmother. “Old generations still care about traditions. But young people may no longer think they’re important.”

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.

How to make a wax statue

Paris, France

By Philippe Wojazer

When I was very young, my parents took me to Paris’ famed Grevin Wax Museum. I can still recall wandering amongst the important figures of the time, historical heroes and rock stars. I remember how impressed I was by those strange, still people and being frightened by the way they seemed to stare back at you. It was as if a magician had cast a spell on those famous people.

Paris' Grevin Wax Museum hairdresser Virginie Dahan puts the final touches to Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger wax statue in the Grevin Wax Museum in Prague

Years passed, and recently I went back there and asked if I could spend some time in their workshop and see how this spell was cast. When I told them the story of my childhood visits they granted me access to the “magical tower” of the museum’s workshop in order to shoot some pictures for Reuters.

REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Paris' Grevin Wax Museum staff work around the wax statue of late French singer Edith Piaf in their workshop in Paris

Gallery: How to make a wax statue

A few weeks later, the press attaché called me to say that they were about to make 70 statues for their new museum in Prague and I would be welcome in their workshop. But I had to promise not to disclose its address to anyone. I felt like Harry Potter trying to find platform 9 3/4 to take the train to Hogwarts.

Playing ‘naked’ soccer in Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

By Sergio Moraes

Why do we Brazilians refer to our neighborhood soccer matches as ‘peladas’? A search on the web brings up many answers, but not one is really definitive. In English ‘pelada’ means ‘naked’ in the feminine gender, but none of the answers I found has to do with playing the sport with no clothes on.

One version talks of street soccer where everyone plays barefoot, or with ‘naked’ feet, running after the ball without a referee or any regard for rules.

Players battle for the ball during a Sunday "pelada" soccer match in the Borel favela of Rio de Janeiro, a World Cup host city, May 4, 2014. Sunday soccer is a decades-old tradition when Brazilians of all walks of life play on the beaches, in the slums, and on the streets matches that are known as "peladas" or "naked". Pelada can refer to a street match where everyone plays barefoot with ÒnakedÓ feet, or a match on a grassless ÒnakedÓ field, or a match with a ball so worn that it is Ònaked.Ó With the 2014 World Cup just one month away, people of all walks of life in the host cities are spending their Sundays practicing the sport for which their country is about to become the global stage. The tournament will take place in Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Natal, Fortaleza, Salvador, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Cuiaba, Manaus, and Recife. Picture taken May 4, 2014.  REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes (BRAZIL)

The version that strikes me as most coherent is in reference to the fields where weekend matches are played – most of them are grassless, or ‘naked’, as the description fits.

Truth or Consequences – Spaceport

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
By Lucy Nicholson

Spaceport America's Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space Building is seen near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Having just trundled past cattle and tumbleweed through the high desert red plains of southern New Mexico, Elizabeth Mixon stepped off a tour bus to face the future.

A tourist photographs Spaceport Operations Center at Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

She breathed in the dry air at the edge of Spaceport America and imagined the adventure of the first tourists destined to launch from the nearly quarter-billion-dollar facility.

“If you got up there, it would just be you and God,” she exclaimed with a smile on her face. “Wouldn’t that be cool?”

Pakistan’s beasts of burden

Choa Saidan Shah, Pakistan
By Sara Farid

A donkey carrying sacks of coal walks through the narrow tunnels of a coal mine, in Choa Saidan Shah in Punjab province April 29, 2014. REUTERS/Sara Farid

The miners call their donkeys their “biggest treasure”, an animal whose strength and patience lets them work in some of the world’s most dangerous mines. But life in Pakistan’s mines is dangerous for everyone – there’s a constant risk of cave-ins, and the black dust floating in the air slowly fills up the lungs of both man and beast.

A young miner leads his team of donkeys back to the coal face to collect more coal underground in Choa Saidan Shah in Punjab province April 29, 2014. REUTERS/Sara Farid

The donkeys make twenty trips a day from the depths of the mine to the storage site where they dump the coal. For each trip, they are loaded up with coal sacks weighing 20 kg (44 lbs) each. The teams of four to six animals are guided to the surface, unloaded, then obediently turn and walk again towards the black hole.

A young miner rushes his donkeys back into the coal mine to fetch another load of coal in Choa Saidan Shah in Punjab Province May 5, 2014. REUTERS/Sara Farid

A miner with a stick in his hand walks his donkeys into the depths of a coal mine in Choa Saidan Shah in Punjab province April 29, 2014. REUTERS/Sara Farid

The workers have made a choice to be down here, I think, even if it’s a bad choice made by poor people with few options. The donkeys haven’t chosen this life, but nevertheless they trudge trustingly up and down the tunnels, wounds on their backs and faces covered with coal dust. Why no bandages? I asked the miners. They laughed. Life inside the mines is hard for everyone.

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