Photographers' Blog

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.

But other things haven’t changed. Although there’s more barbed wire and a 3G service has become available, overall infrastructure problems don’t appear to have reduced. As Kabul’s population has boomed, the roads and water supply don’t seem to have advanced at all.

Speaking to locals this week, they talk of the same problems they did back then too: corruption, lack of quality healthcare, and problems finding good schools and jobs for their children. Many still wish to emigrate to Western countries.

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.

Afghan refugees – Seeking sanctuary

Brussels, Belgium

By Francois Lenoir

It was a cold, wet morning when I passed through the doors of the Church of Saint John the Baptist at the Beguinage, a grand 17th century building in the center of Brussels.

Inside, children were playing and shouting in the large, dark hall, which was lined with rows and rows of tents. I had not just entered a church – I was inside people’s homes. The building had become a very private space.

Saint John the Baptist’s is occupied by a group of Afghan migrants, who have been living there for more than three months. Their first asylum request was refused by the authorities and they were told to leave Belgium, but some ended up travelling around the county aimlessly and were left squatting in unoccupied buildings.

Learning to walk again after Afghanistan

San Antonio, Texas

By Jim Urquhart

With each step he learns to take he is that much closer to achieving independence. All he wants is to once again be able to be a soldier in the infantry.

Sergeant (Sgt.) Matt Krumwiede has endured about 40 surgeries since June 12th, 2012, when he stepped on a IED while on patrol in Afghanistan.

GALLERY: AFTER AFGHANISTAN

During that time he has fought hard to regain his mobility since the pressure plate unleashed about 15 pounds of explosives that tore away both his legs above the knees, ripped muscle and bone from his left arm, taking parts of a finger and a whole finger and ripped his abdominal cavity wide open.

Helpless in an explosion’s wake

Kabul, Afghanistan

By Omar Sobhani

Last Friday was a public holiday here in Afghanistan but I was on call and had gone for lunch in Kabul with my friends. Our relaxing day was interrupted by a huge explosion.

It took little time to figure out what was going on. As on most days, working or not, I carry my cameras so I jumped in my car and rushed towards the noise. My colleague Mohammad Ismail, who was enjoying a day off also, heard the explosion and called me as I headed towards the scene saying that he was coming to help cover the story. I spoke to my text and TV colleagues at Reuters bureau although the sound of the attack was too loud to hear easily but they were well aware of the incident.

As a safety measure I kept colleagues in the bureau informed of our plans and movements.

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.

Christmas in Afghanistan

Baghlan, Afghanistan

By Fabrizio Bensch

There are thousands of miles that separate the German soldiers in Afghanistan from home.  For up to one year, they may be stationed in Afghanistan, but for most of them no more than four to five months.

The lead up to Christmas in Germany has a very long tradition and the arriving season is dominated by beautifully decorated shop windows in department stores and the smell of gingerbread and cinnamon. Christmas trees are festively illuminated in the streets with Christmas decoration and Christmas markets and Santa Claus are in every city.

But for the German armed forces Bundeswehr soldiers far away, each of them tries to maintain a little bit of these traditions and so everywhere in the camps are signs of Christmas.

The boy in blue

By Lucas Jackson

One of the ubiquitous presences when traveling through Afghanistan on an embed with U.S. soldiers is that of scores of children either watching the soldiers passing in convoys or patrolling their villages. It is not uncommon for dozens of faces to be staring at you, often while standing mere feet away from the obvious out-of-towners.

The soldiers do their best to either ignore these multitudes of staring eyes or to interact with them but most often the children react shyly when confronted or when someone tries to talk to them. As a photographer traveling with these soldiers I also stand out, even more so than the soldiers which they are at least used to seeing. I am dressed differently and instead of a rifle I carry something they see far less often – cameras. For me these trips are as frustrating as they are interesting. I try to catch moments when these children are interacting to the presence of the military in their town or with each other. But I often find that as soon as I point the camera, I either become the center of attention or my young subjects turn and run away.

A young girl carrying a baby, as she went to the town’s well to get water, kept a watchful eye on my camera, while pumping water as her friend stared. Groups of children, earlier pointing and laughing, immediately turned and hid behind a lamp post as soon as my camera was raised to my eye. The children waiting to pick up the spent bullet casings after a small firefight were not at all shy of the noise of machine guns and sniper rifles, but they instantly look down or cover their faces when a camera appears. It is a fascinating fact of life here; these children understand better and are more comfortable with guns than with a camera.

Keeping vampire’s hours

By Tim Wimborne

Photography is capturing light reflecting off things to make pictures. I shoot a lot after sundown over here. That just seems to be the nature of this war. Soldiers I have been embedded with have technology that gives them an upper hand at night and so they tend to be fairly active in the dark.

Shooting at Combat Outpost Pirtle-King takes this to a record level. Soldiers here describe working on this base as “sitting in a fish bowl”. There are steep slopes above on three sides providing enemy gunmen ample concealed fighting positions from which to fire down. There seemed to be one particularly active sniper in the area at present.

To mitigate the risk from up high, soldiers just stay indoors, behind protective earth-filled Hesco walls. Most soldiers not working on guard duty during the day sleep, read or watch movies. They work after the sun sets and carry out their outdoor tasks within the beam of a head-torch.

Into the night: Covert travel with President Obama

By Kevin Lamarque

First there is the phone call. It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon in Washington when the phone rings. “Can you be at the White House for a meeting in four hours? I can’t tell you why, but we need you to be there.”

Hmmm … I’ve seen this show before, and I pretty much know what the deal is. President Obama is going to be traveling somewhere unsavory and everything about it will be Top Secret until he lands at his mystery destination.

A beautiful weekend here in the D.C. area is instantly transformed from worrying about my son’s soccer games to worrying about where I am going, how long I will be gone and what preparations must I make before departure? The wheels are already churning before the White House meeting that evening.