Photographers' Blog

Lost in time – the Cyprus buffer zone

Nicosia, Cyprus

By Neil Hall

If you look at a map of Cyprus, there is a line that cuts across the island like a scar. This is the buffer zone, a United Nations-controlled no-man’s land, also called the ‘Green Line’. It is a constant reminder that the country remains physically and symbolically divided.

The zone is a product of Cyprus’ turbulent history. When the island became independent from Britain in 1960, tension simmered between Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, boiling over into political disputes and violence in 1963. Soon the first peacekeeping troops were sent in and the capital was effectively partitioned.

The situation escalated in 1974 when the Cyprus National Guard, who favored union with Greece, staged a coup and Turkey responded with military action. The island was left split in two along the ceasefire line – and it remains so today.

The buffer zone is some 180 km (110 miles) long, and is controlled by United Nations peacekeepers. According to this U.N. force, the Green Line is almost seven and a half kilometers across at its widest point, and takes up about three percent of the island.

The buffer zone is most visible in Nicosia, where it is common to see streets blocked off by concrete walls, barrels and barbed wire. Outside of built-up areas the Green Line seems more symbolic. It is monitored by checkpoints and watchtowers, but is not marked by a great wall or fence. Occasionally roads will be blocked off and abandoned towns dot the route. But the area feels more like a wildlife preserve than a zone where troops operate.

After the deluge

Somerset, Britain

By Toby Melville

After a wet and windy December, in January it rained. And rained. And rained. And it kept on raining. Pretty much for the whole month in southern parts of Britain.

February was no better, bringing heavy storms and high winds. The extreme weather claimed a handful of lives, and flooded thousands of homes.

This wasn’t a disaster anywhere near the scale of the typhoon that hit the Philippines in 2013 or the Pakistan floods of 2010. It was nigh on negligible compared to the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004 where over 200,000 people died in one of the worst natural catastrophes of recent decades.

Behind bars in Central African Republic

Bangui, Central African Republic

By Siegfried Modola

Decades of poor governance in Central African Republic followed by over a year of sectarian conflict and chronic insecurity has crippled even the most basic government services in the country.

A new interim government is faced with the mammoth task of resuscitating the nation’s infrastructure while attempting to bring peace and stability, paving the way for presidential elections next year.

As the divide between Christians and Muslims in CAR grows ever deeper – with the U.N.’s head human rights official saying that atrocities are being committed with impunity – it is clear that the transitional government together with the African Union and French peacekeepers are struggling to enforce the rule of law.

Afghanistan – ten years of coverage

Kabul, Afghanistan

By Tim Wimborne

It’s now widely accepted that the latest war in Afghanistan has not gone well. As an intermittent visitor here over the past 10 years, several differences are visible to my western eyes, but I keep realising how much there still is in common with the Kabul of a decade ago.

I had not long been on staff at Reuters when I was given my first assignment in Afghanistan. That was the spring of 2004. Back then, there were perhaps more people of foot in the city and fewer cars. There were certainly not as many cell phones and Internet cafes as there are today.

Now, the country’s presidential election, which is supposed to mark the first democratic power-transfer in Afghanistan’s history, is just a few days away and heightened security ahead of the vote makes a big difference to the way Kabul looks. Security was also an issue in 2004, but the threat of violence was much less great, and I could travel outside the city without too much concern.

Struggles to survive in the Amazon

Me Txanava, Brazil

By Lunae Parracho

A day of navigating along the muddy Envira River brought us to a village of the Huni Kui tribe known as Me Txanava, or village of the Singing Birds.

The moon shone bright in the starry sky over the silent village that lies in the municipality of Feijó – part of Brazil’s Acre state, which borders Peru.

The night before, a Huni Kui woman had lost her newborn daughter while giving birth in a boat on the Envira River. The mother and daughter did reach a hospital, but the baby died an hour later.

The Tower of David – Venezuela’s “vertical slum”

Caracas, Venezuela

By Jorge Silva

I have wanted to photograph life inside Caracas’ Tower of David – also known as “the vertical slum” – for years now. At times, it became something of an obsession; it was a story I had to tackle.

The tower is an icon of modern-day Caracas. Although squats or “occupied spaces” are common downtown, the Tower of David has literally taken the phenomenon to whole new levels. The third-tallest building in the country, it was intended as a financial center but abandoned after its developer died and the financial sector crashed. Squatters have now occupied the tower for years. Its unfinished, humongous, modified skeleton can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. The stories of what happens inside have become the stuff of urban legend.

The place could be the perfect setting for what the Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa has called the “novela total” or “complete novel” – a book that encompasses the many and contradictory aspects of life. The tower is a physical example of the greatest problems faced by Venezuelan society: a great scarcity of housing, and a security crisis. It is also a symbol of what happened after the collapse of the country’s financial system in the 1990s and of the historical juncture at which Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution now finds itself.

Back on his feet

New York, United States

By Mike Segar

On a cold Wednesday morning in March 2014, I saw Errol Samuels sitting in his wheelchair before a therapy session at a New York City hospital named Mount Sinai.

 

Errol, a 22-year-old from Hollis, Queens, is paraplegic. The week before his college final exams in May 2012, he and his friends went to an off-campus party. He went out on a deck and the roof collapsed on him, crushing his spine. Errol says his doctors “didn’t need to tell me what was wrong. Once it happened, I couldn’t move my legs at all”. But remarkably, less than two years later with the help of a revolutionary new device named the “ReWalk”, Errol is back on his feet.

 

He has been using an electronic, computer-controlled exoskeleton that powers the hips and knees, helping those with lower limb disabilities to walk upright using crutches. Made by the Israeli company Argo Medical Technologies, it has allowed Errol and other spinal cord injury patients who have enrolled in a clinical trial at Mount Sinai to do something that until recently was considered almost impossible – stand up and walk.

Tainted paradise

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
By Sergio Moraes

Back in the 1960s, when I was just a kid, I remember watching swimmers in Guanabara Bay and seeing dolphins race alongside the ferries that transported people to and from the city of Niteroi and Paqueta Island. Beaches like Icarai in Niteroi and Cocota on Governor’s Island were very popular.

So I felt sad when I took a boat through the bay on an assignment recently and photographed discarded sofas, old children’s toys, rubber tires and a toilet seat among many other objects that littered the filthy water.

A sofa is seen near a fishing boat on Fundao beach in the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro March 13, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

I was born in this area when it was still called Guanabara, before it was renamed Rio de Janeiro state in 1975. I still miss that old name, which was a reference to our beautiful but now polluted bay.

Precious by name, precocious by nature

Chelsea, United States
By Brian Snyder

When I first met Precious Perez, she was with a group of blind children and adolescents who had come to meet horses performing in an acrobatic show.

The kids stood with their chaperones in the middle of a practice tent, taking in the sounds, smells and vibrations as riders rode horses around them in circles. Afterwards, Perez went up to one of the animals and softly sang the Taylor Swift songs “Love Story” and “Safe and Sound” to him.

Precious Perez hugs one of the horses from Cavalia's Odysseo in Somerville, Massachusetts September 11, 2013, during a "Blind Touch Tour" arranged by the show with the Carroll Center for the Blind. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Perez has been blind since birth. She lives in Chelsea, Massachusetts, a working-class city right by Boston. Her life is both like and unlike that of many of her contemporaries, blind or sighted. She walks with a friend to their public high school in the morning, takes voice lessons, plays goalball, Tweets and follows her friends on Facebook.

Hip, young and in Kabul

Kabul, Afghanistan
By Morteza Nikoubazl

Kabul is a bustling city, full of people who want to see their country become less violent and more stable.

As I documented life in the capital this month, I met lots of young people who shared their thoughts about the future of Afghanistan: painters, actors, musicians, even a rapper.

Afghan music students looks on as they participate a music training session in a cultural and educational center in Kabul, March 7, 2014. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

Many had once lived as refugees in my home country, Iran, and some were even born there. But now they were back in their troubled homeland, Afghanistan.

  • Editors & Key Contributors