Photographers' Blog

Meeting the hungry of Caracas

Caracas, Venezuela

By Carlos Garcia Rawlins

For a year or so now, we photographers have been illustrating Venezuela’s economic crisis with photos of empty shelves and queues forming outside supermarkets. But now I wanted to do something different.

Jose Rodriguez, 43, poses for a picture at the Mother Teresa of Calcutta eating center in Caracas March 21, 2014. Jose lives on street and he used to work patching up tires. He has eaten at the eating center for over 2 years, because he has no money for nothing. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

In search of a more intimate perspective on the story, I found out about a eating center in Caracas that has been caring for homeless people for the last 14 years. At first, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find it. The only directions I had were: “it’s in San Martin district, under a bridge next to some tyres”.

But even though there was no one on the phone who could help me pinpoint the centre’s exact location, when I arrived in the area a strong smell of vegetable soup wafting from behind a closed door let me know I was on the right track. Sure enough, there it was: The Mother Teresa of Calcutta eating centre.

In a dishevelled back street of central Caracas, under a bridge, the centre houses a number of long, concrete tables and benches. It has faded indigo-blue walls and bears marks from the floods that occur regularly during the rainy season, with just a couple of lightbulbs to complement the faint stream of light from the only window in the place. Willy, the shelter’s resident cat, helps keep the floor clean of scraps.

Everson Rodriguez, 22, eats lunch at the Mother Teresa of Calcutta eating center in Caracas March 19, 2014. Everson  lives on street and he used to work as a construction worker. He has eaten at the eating center for over 6 months, because although he makes some money watching cars on street, all he wins on that, he spent it on drugs. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The center’s Venezuelan version of Mother Teresa is Fernanda, a warm and smiling lady, who for over a decade has been carefully preparing soup in a gigantic pot. When someone makes a special donation or the budget stretches far enough, she provides a meat dish. The food is always free, and no questions are asked of the people who come in to eat it.

15 seconds

Sderot, Israel

By Finbarr O’Reilly

“If you want to learn about a city, look at its walls.”

-Greek graffiti artist iNO

In springtime, the fields around Sderot are carpeted with red and yellow flowers swaying in the breeze. Yet the pastoral setting is at odds with drab concrete tenements rising up from the impoverished Israeli city under constant threat of attack.

Nowhere in Israel has been as heavily bombarded as Sderot. More than 8,600 rockets fired from Gaza, the Palestinian territory controlled by the Islamist group Hamas, have landed in and around the city since 2001 according to the local media center. Ten people have been killed by rocket fire in Sderot since June 2005 and dozens more have been injured. Psychological stress also takes its toll.

With just over a kilometer of fields separating it from the Gaza Strip, Sderot is an obvious target for Palestinian militants whose stated aim is to destroy Israel. The most intense bombardments came during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, when Israel launched an attack on Gaza, beginning with a week of air strikes and shelling, followed by a land invasion. Hamas and its allies responded by firing rockets and mortars into Israel during the three-week conflict, which killed an estimated 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

Bissau: fashion, flair and hip-hop

Bissau, Guinea-Bissau

By Joe Penney

If you drive through the Mistra neighborhood of Bissau – the charming, ramshackle capital of Guinea-Bissau – signs of peoples’ love for American hip-hop are everywhere.

The local football pitch is named “California” after Tupac’s song “California Love.” Clothes reading “50 Cent” or “Thug Life” are commonplace, and Rihanna’s latest hits blare out from rusty radios beneath the mango trees.

While a fondness for American hip-hop is shared throughout West Africa (Tupac is nearly everyone’s favorite rapper), Guinea-Bissau’s unique cultural influences give it its own distinctive style.

Nevada showdown

Bunkerville, Nevada

By Jim Urquhart

“I’ve got a clear shot at four of them,” the man with a rifle beside me said, as he aimed his weapon in the direction of U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officers.

We were on a bridge in southern Nevada in the midst of a tense standoff between the BLM and a group of angry ranchers, milita-members and gun-rights activists. It seemed as if we were a hair’s breadth away from Americans killing Americans right in front of me.

This showdown had come after the BLM started rounding up cattle belonging to rancher Cliven Bundy, who had been letting his animals graze illegally on federal land for over 20 years.

Times of protest

Caracas, Venezuela

By Jorge Silva

April 12 marked two months since the first people died in a wave of unrest that hit Venezuela this year. The day sat between the April 11th anniversary of the 2002 coup against then-President Hugo Chavez, and April 13th – the day that he managed to return to office. Those dates still serve as a reminder of the political division and sense of confrontation that has long existed in this country.

Last year I was part of a team covering protests that erupted following the 2013 presidential election, which was called after Chavez’s death. The clashes finally subsided and we put away our riot gear – gas masks, flak vests and helmets – confident that we wouldn’t need it again so soon.

But this year demonstrations started up again, initially as regular as any stage performance. Protesters, police and journalists would all arrive in the upscale neighborhood of Altamira at the same sort of time, in the same place, each afternoon.

A different kind of field trip

Stavropol, Russia

By Eduard Korniyenko

Students at the General Yermolov Cadet School take all the same classes as their contemporaries would in any other Russian middle school. But there is a difference – pupils here are also given a military education.  

The state-run school is based in the southern Russian city of Stavropol, some 150 miles from the Olympic resort of Sochi. It is named in honour of Alexei Yermolov, the famous Russian imperial general, and the institution itself is as military-influenced as its name.

A highlight for lots of these youngsters are the trips they go on for field training. During the outings, they spend time at a base, undergo physical drills and practice using weapons.

Pilgrims in the Holy Land

Jerusalem

By Ronen Zvulun

Walking through the narrow alleys of Jerusalem’s Old City and visiting its myriad holy sites at this time of year is an even more vibrant and colorful experience than usual.

Born and raised in Jerusalem, I know these streets by heart. But around the time of Holy Week and Easter they take on a different tone, as people from all over the world converge on the walled city to visit its many points of pilgrimage.

As the crowds pour through the streets, often moving in compact groups of regimented tour parties, I find myself observing the individuals. In this project, I wanted my photographs to reveal the separate people who can so easily get lost amongst the hordes that arrive in the run-up to Easter.

Lost dogs of Romania

 Bucharest, Romania

By Bogdan Cristel

I love dogs. I grew up with them around me all the time and I remember always having one with me when I played in my grandpa’s yard as a child.

Our dogs, just like thousands of others in Bucharest, were kept in the family garden. But everything changed in the city after former Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu began a project to erase old houses with backyards and replace them with huge high-rise blocks.

As a result of the mass demolitions, many dogs were turned out on the streets and the number of strays increased year after year. Some 60,000 dogs roam the capital according to local authorities.

Remembering Verdun

Verdun, France

By Charles Platiau

Verdun was the site of one of World War I’s bloodiest battles. Hundreds of thousands of French and German soldiers lost their lives in this north-eastern corner of France, where fighting raged for months in 1916.

Yesterday’s enemies are now united on the battleground. Members of French and German historical associations, all keenly interested in the First World War and all passionate about historical re-enactments, gather in Verdun every year to take part in a commemorative march.

One sunny Saturday in March, I joined up with four historical associations who took part in the event: “Le Poilu de la Marne” – from France, and “Darstellungsgruppe Suddeutches Militar”, “IG 18” and “Verein Historische Uniformen”- from Germany.

Keeping it snappy

Mexico City, Mexico

By Henry Romero

When I saw him walking in his baby blue suit, I immediately recognized the dancer in him – the Mambo move in his hips, his Danzon step, his sense of swing as he walked amongst the hundreds of people rushing past.

Pachuco Nereidas and I had agreed to meet after I encountered him in the Los Angeles dance hall of Mexico City. I was intrigued by the sub-culture of men like him, who are known as “Pachucos”. Their elegant attire, their passion for dancing, and their gentlemanly behavior reminded me of myself when I was a teenager back in Cali, Colombia.

Dancing is part of everyday life, especially in Cali. We would get dressed in tailor-made flares and shirts, and go to a dance hall every Saturday night with a group of friends.

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