Photographers' Blog

Standing in JFK’s shadow

By Brian Snyder

John F. Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, and there are reminders of him all over Boston, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and New England. There’s the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum of course, but also the John F. Kennedy federal building, and many schools, streets, memorials and parks named after him. Kennedy also lived in Massachusetts, campaigned for Congress and Senate here, vacationed in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts and Newport, Rhode Island – and photographs of these events and many more are housed in his library. For the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas in 1963, I culled some photographs from the museum’s archives, and set about finding the exact same scene today. Some of these photographs were made by the relatively well known White House photographers Cecil Stoughton and Robert Knudsen, while others are by anonymous photographers.

In order to match the modern scene to the old photographs, I made line drawings of the old photographs and printed those on clear plastic that I could tape to the display on the back of my camera to overlay the scene coming through my lens.

Many of the buildings and landmarks in the old images are still standing, offering clear reference points to line up. As I worked my way around the scenes, I figured out where the photographer had stood 50 or more years ago. The line-drawing overlays allowed me to approximate the focal length of the lens used in the old images, since none of the old images were shot on a 35mm camera. Once I had figured out the camera position and focal length of the lens, I could say to myself, “Cecil Stoughton, or Robert Knudsen, stood here.”

INTERACTIVE: REVISITING ICONIC JFK IMAGES

Gaining Ben Johnson’s trust

(Editor’s note: Gary Hershorn, now Global Editor, Sports Pictures, for Reuters, has covered sport for 35 years. A Canadian, he gained the trust of compatriot Ben Johnson in the run-up to the 1988 Seoul Olympics and had special access to the sprinter’s training. Here, Hershorn, looks back at that time and at Johnson’s downfall.)

By Gary Hershorn

Standing shirtless on the training track, Ben Johnson looked at me, then dropped his running shorts. He stared at me, apparently willing me to take a picture and prove I was just another paparazzo desperate to get a sensational shot of the world’s most famous athlete ahead of the Seoul Olympics.

I stared back but did not put my camera to my face. Training over, Johnson told me everything was fine and I could come back and watch him train as often as I liked. I had, it seemed, passed the test and won his trust. Johnson, who generally distrusted the media, completely opened up that July, telling me what time he would train each day, showing up on time and taking me inside his private world, to the weight room and massage room.

On the gruesome battlefield of Gettysburg

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

By Gary Cameron

The 150th anniversary and reenactment of the U.S. Civil War battle in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was a story suggested months ago by Reuters Pictures Editor Mike Fiala. Lasting three days, it would include thousands of re-enactors dressed in blue & gray wool uniforms who would live in historically accurate camps with canvas tents, and include 400 horses for cavalry units, with over 200 cannons from both sides to effectively blast each other off the battlefield. Add thousands of rifles and side arms to the mix (all weaponry fires black powder but no shells or bullets in re-enactments), and you have the makings of one very loud display of history, carnage and destruction.

What I did not know is that NO re-enactment battles of Gettysburg would be played out on the actual “hallowed” ground of the 1863 conflict. Two separate re-enactment groups would have their own events, each with versions of the July 1, 2, and 3 battle days, on large nearby farms. Stadium seating similar to those used at professional golf tournaments would accommodate 10,000 fans and border the battlefields.

All of this would follow immediately after President Obama’s trip to Africa that fellow staff photographer Jason Reed and I were assigned to. While looking forward to the Gettysburg assignment, Africa (three countries in seven days with numerous events and time zones) would have to come first. And the temperatures experienced in Africa would break me in for the sweltering heat and humidity of 12 hour days in Pennsylvania. Not quite….

Flashback to the Bali blasts of 2002

By Beawiharta

A ceremony to remember the victims of a bomb blast that struck a busy street on a Saturday night in 2002, killing 202 people.

Today’s ceremony carried me back to 10 years ago, where shops were burned and damaged. The bomb had left a big hole in Legian Street. That Sunday morning in 2002 was bright, with good weather and a blue sky as I entered Kuta beach’s Hard Rock Hotel. It was a different atmosphere; the situation wasn’t relaxing on the resort island. It was on high alert with security personnel covering the streets. Police, local security people called “pecalang” always asked for ID. If someone didn’t have ID, they couldn’t enter the hotel area or walk the streets.

I arrived at the bomb blast site shortly after landing from Jakarta but the destroyed area was already closed off by police. Security was very tight and no one could enter the bomb blast area so I went to the hospital, to try to get access to the victims. The hospital was not a comfortable place to be, especially after the violence of the night before. There were many burned bodies lying on the floor covered with white fabric, and the smell was bad. It’s already been 10 years since that day but some of the visuals of the 2002 Bali bombing are still in my mind.

A night to remember

By Chris Helgren

The weather was calm, the stars and crescent moon shone and the water lapped gently against the hull as three wreaths were tossed into the sea above the Titanic wreck, 100 years after she went down.

It seemed every one of the MS Balmoral’s 1300 guests, dressed against the cool night air, was crammed onto its terraced decks aft, craning for a view of the event. And at 2:20 when the wreaths went in, all was silent. As Philip Littlejohn, the Titanic historian later noted, these details mimicked what would have been happening during the disaster itself – a black night, no light bar that of the doomed liner, and when she went under, silence.

Taking it all in was Belfast writer Susie Millar, who wept at the handrails over the stern, watching as the wreaths floated into the blackness out of sight. She told me, “I thought of people in the lifeboats as Titanic sank, who didn’t know whether they would be rescued or not. It all happened (the memorial) in real time and I thought that people wouldn’t have had time to say all their goodbyes, it happened so fast. It was a night I’ll never forget”.

Rocking and Rolling on the Titanic Memorial Cruise

By Chris Helgren

In what resembles a Trekkie convention gone through a time portal, hundreds of passengers on the Titanic Memorial Cruise, retracing the Titanic’s voyage from Southampton 100 years later, now divide their time between promenading in the latest fashions of 100 years ago and debating the true color of Titanic’s funnels. Yellow, but what kind of yellow? Model maker Kenneth Mascarenhas and painter James Allen Flood don’t see eye to eye on the subject, and it’s suggested that fellow passenger Commodore Warwick should adjudicate the issue. After all, he saw the Titanic wreck in a submersible. However, Mascarenhas fails to take into account that the ship is now rusted through and covered with Oceanic mud, its funnels probably covered in barnacles.

Actually, there are plenty of things to do on board the MS Balmoral. I missed the “fluid retention and swollen ankles seminar” on Monday, but there’s been a parade of Titanic experts on show to fill us in on everything one would want to know (except the color of funnels). Sadly, due to the inclement weather, shuffleboard has been cancelled the last two days. As has a dance show, due to health and safety concerns. Many of my fellow passengers have been sighted hunched over, unable to promenade, green with seasickness.

The big drama yesterday was the helicopter evacuation of a BBC cameraman. Tour operator Miles Morgan said that the ship would swing back 20 nautical miles towards Ireland, within range of an Irish Coast Guard chopper. The ailing man was whisked upwards in a sling and we returned on our course, hopefully not late for our anniversary date. Captain Robert Bamberg assured everyone that would be the case if we continued at a speed of 15 knots.

“As a person I am not extra interesting” – Klimt

By Herwig Prammer

When you walk through central Vienna now you get the impression there are almost no other cultural events this year besides Gustav Klimt’s 150th birthday anniversary. Posters, postcards, sketch books, scarves, curtains, neck ties and gloves, umbrellas, cups and glasses, bottles and plates, boxes and containers on every corner are covered with his paintings. Copies of “The Kiss” even beautify toilet seats!

Originally I wanted to look at how Vienna pays tribute to this important Austrian “Wiener Jugendstil” (parallel to “Art Nouveau” in France) artist. But the growth of tacky commercialization of Klimt’s art has begun to taken center stage.

I learned this is mostly because the copyright time limit for Klimt’s art has recently run out and is partly due to his trend-setting work just being simply popular.

Empty spaces

By Carlos Barria

A year ago I went to Japan to cover the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the country’s northern coast.

At the time I was shocked by the scale of the destruction and felt I needed to show the magnitude of the disaster. I tried to fill my pictures with as many elements as possible. I even took a series of panoramic-format photographs, for a wider view.

My pictures at the time showed spaces filled with pieces of houses, twisted cars and people’s belongings– the debris of daily life.

The place that adults fear

By Toru Hanai

March 11 is here again in Japan.

A year after the tsunami devastated Higashi Matsushima city in Miyagi, seven-year-old Wakana Kumagai visited the grave of her father Kazuyuki with her mother Yoshiko, brother Koki, and her grandparents.

I first met Wakana last April, just weeks after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and huge tsunami devastated Japan’s northeast Pacific coast. The school year begins in April here in Japan, and Wakana was carrying her new, shiny red school backpack as she visited her father at a temporary graveyard that housed those who died from the tsunami. She gracefully bowed to her dad, showing off her new bag and her dress she wore for the first grader’s ceremony as if she were at a ball, and told him that she just attended her school for the first time. Her graceful bow struck my heart.

The next time I saw Wakana was on September 11, half a year after the disaster. Seeing her pray at the spot where her father’s car was found, Wakana looked like she had grown up a little bit. I heard that she was writing letters to her father, saying “Daddy, I want to see you but there’s nothing I can do about it, right?”, then placing them in an urn containing her fathers’ ashes, which was still at their house because there were not enough spots for graves. Her message for her father sank into my mind.

One year from that day

By Toru Hanai

It will soon be one year from that day – March 11, 2011.

Greetings among friends who meet after a long absence begins with, “Where and what were you doing on March 11?”

On March 11, 2011, I was photographing Prime Minister Naoto Kan during a committee session at the Parliament building in Tokyo.

At 2:46 p.m. the world started to shake really slowly.

I felt fear as the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck, not only because of the intensity of the shaking but also the duration of it.

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