Photographers' Blog

The immigrant behind the eyes

Safi, Malta

By Darrin Zammit Lupi

“Go get 13i38 from warehouse 2,” barks the army NCO to his subordinates. We know his name now, but the military personnel providing security in the detention center continue to refer to him, as with all detainees, by the reference number given to him when he arrived here.

He is Mohammed Ilmi Adam, a 17-year-old, from Mogadishu, Somalia. The piercing gaze which made him an iconic figure is gone; he’s just like so many other teenagers of his age, eyes flicking from side to side, rarely making eye contact. Slouching on a chair in a small office at the army’s Safi barracks detention center, he looks dejected, submissive, sullen, lost, and indifferent to our presence.

Mohammed arrived in Malta in the early hours of July 10, after being rescued from a tightly-packed rubber dinghy along with 67 other, mostly Somali, immigrants. He arrived hours after a political storm blew up when the Maltese government threatened to deport a group of new arrivals without giving them the opportunity to apply for asylum, only backing down at the eleventh hour when the European Court of Human Rights issued an urgent injunction to block the action.

Though he was safe, at least for the time being, from the threatened pushback, the picture of his apprehensive and piercing eyes quickly became a symbol of the uncertain future he and others like him faced. Soon after I photographed him arriving in Malta and realized the impact the picture was having on many people, I set about trying to identify him.

Visiting two detention centers on an organized media tour nine days after his arrival, I started showing his picture to a group of Somalis I came across sitting in a window. It wasn’t long before someone recognized him, and dashed off to get him. Once he appeared in the window, I immediately knew I’d found my man, though he didn’t immediately recognize himself in the picture. However, hampered by an insurmountable language barrier, and being told by guards to get a move on, meant I couldn’t actually do anything then.

The choice for Mali

Timbuktu, Mali

By Joe Penney

As Mali went to the polls July 28 for the first round of presidential elections meant to restore peace and stability in the vast, landlocked West African country, I traveled from the capital Bamako to the dusty northern city of Timbuktu.

Elections in northern cities like Timbuktu, the storied Saharan trading post and scholarly center around since the early 14th century, were always going to be difficult to organize. The city is roughly 1000 km (620 miles) by road from the capital Bamako, but it takes 20 hours along dirt tracks and extremely potholed pavements to get there. During the rainy season, flooding renders the dirt track from Douentza to Timbuktu nearly impassable.

Since French and Malian forces took back control of the city from militant Jihadists in late January, electricity has been running only five hours a day, from 7 pm to midnight, provided by aid organizations and not the Malian government. Economic activity grinds to a halt during daytime hours, when scorching temperatures reach 45° C (113° F) at midday and not a fan moves among the 70,000 residents. Drinking water becomes like drinking tea without the tea bags, but that doesn’t matter much to the population of Timbuktu, the vast majority of which is currently fasting for Ramadan.

Piercing gaze after a dangerous crossing

Marsamxett Harbour, Malta

By Darrin Zammit Lupi

I don’t know his name. He’s just another guy sitting on a police bus looking out of the window. It was the same sort of scene I’ve photographed on countless occasions over the past decade or so. But this chap was looking intently and intensely, straight at me, through my camera lens and into my mind’s eye. His piercing, haunting gaze was burrowing itself deeper into the innermost recesses of my psyche as I keep looking back at the photo.

I didn’t think much of it at the time. I knew it was an image I would probably include in my edit but it wasn’t until I was looking at the photo on my computer screen that his eyes, his expression, the texture on the dirty windows, really got to me.

GALLERY: DANGEROUS CROSSING

Sixty-eight African would-be immigrants had just disembarked from the Armed Forces of Malta patrol boat that rescued them 70 nautical miles south of the tiny island of Malta bang in the center of the Mediterranean. Many were ill, injured, exhausted and barely able to stand.

Salt caravans of the Danakil Depression

Danakil Depression, Ethiopia

By Siegfried Modola

To descend into the Danakil Depression is to step into another world.

The thick warm air, the hazy sky and the rugged empty mountains that gradually give way to the immensity of a white, shimmering salt desert all leave the traveller in awe of this cruel yet fascinating landscape. Overlapping the Afar region of northeastern Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti, this is the lowest point in Africa and one of the hottest places on Earth.

Venturing deep into this inhospitable land requires a well organized plan. Getting stuck with no back-up vehicle, no satellite communication or simply not enough water could become life threatening within a matter of hours.

I started my trip from the city of Mekele in the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia. I had not come to explore the area as a tourist. Instead, I was there to document the caravans of thousands of camels which for centuries have descended deep into the depression to extract salt. Mekele was the place where I had to find a good 4×4 vehicle, a driver and enough water and food to be on the road for six days. Most importantly, I had to find a reliable fixer, someone who knew the region well and spoke the local language but who also had to be familiar with the salt trade and could maneuver well within complex Afar clan dynamics.

Guinea-Bissau: The weight of history

Gabu, Guinea-Bissau

By Joe Penney

When Guinea-Bissau is in the news, it’s almost always for the wrong reasons: coups d’état, assassinations, drug smuggling and extreme poverty.

Journalists like to cite the fact that since the tiny West African country switched to a multi-party system in 1995, no president has completed a full term. The country is often labeled a “narco-state” because of South American drug cartels using its islands and mainland as a waypoint for trafficking cocaine to Europe, even though its neighbors are dealing with the same problems.

But this reputation is rarely put into its historical context. After the Portuguese created what is modern-day Guinea-Bissau in 1890 when European powers divided the African continent at the Berlin Conference, they fought a 49-year-war of pacification against the local African communities resisting their rule.

Me and the man with the iPad

By Barry Malone

I never know how to behave when I go to write about hungry people.

I usually bring just a notebook and a pen because it seems somehow more subtle than a recorder. I drain bottled water or hide it before I get out of the car or the plane. In Ethiopia a few years ago I was telling a funny story to some other journalists as our car pulled up near a church where we had been told people were arriving looking for food.

We got out and began walking towards the place, me still telling the tale, shouting my mouth off, struggling to get to the punch line through my laughter and everybody else’s.

Then there was this sound, a low rumbling thing that came to meet us.

I could feel it roll across the ground and up through my boots. I stopped talking, my laughter died, I grabbed the arm of the person beside me: “What is that?” And I realized. It was the sound of children crying. There were enough children crying that — I’ll say it again — I could feel it in my boots. I was shamed by my laughter.

AUDIO SLIDESHOW: Two Decades, One Somalia

In the 20 years since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled, Somalia has faced hunger, flooding, fighting, suicide attacks, piracy and insurgency.

Prevailing violent conflict inside Somalia makes it difficult if not impossible for aid agencies to reach people.

AlertNet brings you special coverage of the country which has struggled without a strong central government ever since.

No turning back as Africa’s hour arrives

A local child carries a ball while playing soccer at a dirt field in Soweto, Johannesburg June 7, 2010. The 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup kicks off on June 11.          REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

The 2010 World Cup has been a memorable and momentous occasion not only for me, but for South Africa, the African continent and the rest of the world.

It has indeed been incredible. It has been a unifying factor, with people beginning to appreciate the importance of their national symbols such as flags.

Ghana's Samuel Inkoom runs with the South African flag after the team's victory over the United States in a 2010 World Cup second round match at Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg June 26, 2010.        REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

As a photographer for an institution such as Reuters, one can say that I have been privileged to be a part of this historic occasion. It was indeed a privilege to be among hordes of international media covering the event. I was here during the Confederations Cup, but the feeling of covering the World Cup is enormous – it is part of history.

Hardship deepens for South Africa’s Poor Whites

SAFRICA-WHITES
Children walk through a squatter camp for poor white South Africans at Coronation Park in Krugersdorp, March 6, 2010. REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly

Sitting in a deck chair at a white South African squatter camp, Ann le Roux, 60, holds a yellowing photo from her daughter’s wedding day.

Taken not long after Nelson Mandela became the country’s first black president in 1994, it shows Le Roux standing with her Afrikaans husband and their daughter outside their home in Melville, an upmarket Johannesburg neighborhood.

from Africa News blog:

PHOTOBLOG: Children in Kenya and Haiti forced to grow up fast, if they survive

I had a flashback the other day when I was looking at photographs from Haiti of 15-year-old Fabianne Geismar, shot dead in the head after stealing wall hangings from a Port-au-Prince store, crushed in the Jan. 12 earthquake.

The image of Fabianne sprawled on the ground, blood trailing over the paintings she'd grabbed, took me back to my own childhood in Nairobi and the sight of a 7- or 8-year-old-boy - probably the same age as me at the time - who was caught stealing sweets from a street vendor and was beaten and burnt with rubber tyres. They called it mob justice.

REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

To this day, I'll never understand why that poor boy had to die such a violent and senseless death for something so trivial. I feel the same way about Fabianne - she survived one of the most catastrophic events in living memory, only to be shot in the head for petty theft. And for stealing wall hangings where there are no walls.

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