Photographers' Blog

Quietly thankful

Doubly Thankful villages, England
By Darren Staples

A view of the doubly thankful village of Arkholme, northern England January 16, 2014. REUTERS/Phil Noble

If I was expecting flags and bunting, I was wrong.

The Doubly Thankful villages – the 13 villages in England and one in Wales where every soldier, sailor, airman and WAAF who served in World Wars One and Two came home alive – do not make a song and dance about the past.

Picture shows Private Herbert Medlend (front 2nd L) from the doubly thankful village of Herodsfoot, southern England April 4, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Staples

On Remembrance Sunday, they have no war memorial on which to lay a wreath of poppies.

A stained glass window in All Saints Church celebrates the safe return of its service men and women in the doubly thankful village of Flixborough, northern England, February 14, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Staples

Instead, tucked away inside their churches you will sometimes find polished brass plaques giving grateful thanks for the life of the survivors, a seemingly subdued remembrance that this community was one of the ‘lucky’ ones – one that beat the odds.

Plaques show the names of servicemen who returned from both World Wars in the village hall of the doubly thankful village of Upper Slaughter, central England, February 27, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Staples

And what odds they were. I drove 4,000 miles from Flixborough in Lincolnshire to Herbrandston, Pembrokeshire and Herodsfoot, Cornwall and all places in between to shoot this feature. And as the miles clocked up I slowly began to understand the reality of being a ‘doubly thankful’ village.

Sheep graze near a bench in the doubly thankful village St Michael South Elmham, eastern England, January 24, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Staples

For those who came marching home – and for their loved ones – this was muted celebration. How could it be anything else? They had survived horrors that many of them would never speak about. But so many young men and women had not.

Romanian migrants build new lives in Britain

London, England
By Luiza Ilie, photos by Luke MacGregor

Poverty and a lack of jobs have driven millions of Romanian workers abroad in search of a better life, helping fuel an anti-immigration backlash in wealthier Western countries that could hurt governments in upcoming European parliament elections. Reuters interviewed immigrants in the United Kingdom and the families of those left behind in Romania.

For the main story, click here.

The following are photos and scenes of some Romanians who have built a new life in the United Kingdom, and who mostly said they faced remarkably little discrimination despite the media frenzy that marked their arrival. The UK was one of six European Union countries that lifted its restrictions on migrants from Romania and Bulgaria at the start of the year.

Father Ioan Nazarcu. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Father Ioan Nazarcu
On Sundays, Romanian migrants in the UK fill up churches for Orthodox mass. At the biggest church in downtown London, up to 400 people fill the pews. They mostly dress modestly and look tired, holding onto toddlers while girls in pink sashes chase each other.

Water, water everywhere

Moorland, Britain

By Cathal McNaughton

It’s like a scene from a Hollywood disaster movie. The Somerset village of Moorland is under five feet of water. Wading along the usually bustling main street, I am struck by how quiet it is – everything has an eerie, post-apocalyptic feel.

The only sound I can hear is coming from the now breached flood defences moving backwards and forwards in the ebb and flow of the rising waters, creaking like a sinking ship.

There is a strong chemical smell of leaking fuel as I push past the huge chunks of debris floating by in the murky waters. Cars lie abandoned with their lights left on, the houses are sandbagged and empty – their inhabitants left days ago. I see a deserted house with post still sticking out of the letterbox.

Uncovering Nuclear Britain

By Suzanne Plunkett

It sounds like the road trip from hell: a journey around all Britain’s functioning nuclear power stations.

After all, when the UK has so much to offer the traveller – from the bright lights of London to the ancient ruins of Stonehenge – why would anyone go out of their way to visit the far-flung places where the country has stowed its grim industrial reactor halls?

Memories of the Fukushima and Chernobyl meltdowns don’t help. For all its green credentials, nuclear energy seems forever tainted by the consequences of its few disasters. Thoughts of abandoned cities, stark yellow and black hazard symbols and the sickening effects of leaking radiation are never far away.

Bacon, beans and tea to go

Along Britain’s highways

By Stefan Wermuth

In a mug or take away? That’s the decision you have to make when you order a tea through the hatch in the side of a burger van, snack van, mobile kitchen, roadside cafe or tea stop – all different names for food vendors scattered around the main roads that wind across Britain.

Your first answer might be “excuse me?” because you can’t hear the question over the sound of the food van’s generator buzzing too loudly or a heavy-goods truck passing by, honking his horn five inches away from your ear. When you do manage to answer properly, “in a mug” means you will get your tea in a giant cup, often branded with the logo of a local business, along with a metal spoon shared with other travelers. Otherwise you get the tea in a polystyrene cup to take away.

Snack vans are usually located roadside in areas known locally as “lay-bys” along so-called “A-routes” – main roads not quite as big as motorways, which run all over the country. They can be trailers, little vans, caravans or even converted double-decker buses. They don’t offer a panoramic view – or let’s say that the only possible panoramic view ends at the next hedge – but every van is unique.

Beachside at Blackpool

Blackpool, Northern England

By Phil Noble

I can remember vividly as a child trailing after several suitcases pulled by my parents or trying to squeeze into my uncle’s luggage-laden car as my brother and I began the journey to our annual family holiday by the beach.

This was the late 1970s or early 1980s, and foreign holidays were out of the reach of the Noble household at that point, so the bright lights of a British resort such as Llandudno or Blackpool was our usual destination.

Over the years these seaside resorts and others like them have undergone a rollercoaster ride (excuse the pun), seemingly lurching from popularity to poverty and back again.

Shrovetide: a rough and tumble game

Ashbourne, central England

By Darren Staples

There are rules – even if there is no referee to enforce them. One of the ancient ones is said to be: ‘committing murder or manslaughter is prohibited’. Royal Shrovetide Football is not for the faint-hearted, either for players or the spectators who can quickly become caught up in the scrum.

On the face of it, the game played in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday each year will sound familiar to anyone who knows what happens at any English Premiership venue on a Saturday afternoon.

There is one ball, two teams – the Up’ards and the Down’ards – and the goal is to score goals. In these parts, it’s like Manchester United playing Manchester City, with all the passion and pride that comes with it.

Britain’s pigeon fanciers

By Nigel Roddis

All those years ago when Paul Julius von Reuter was just starting out his news agency, he used homing pigeons to plug a gap in the information link between the bourses of Paris and Berlin. The operation only lasted a year, until the final telegraph line was laid, but the fact that pigeons carried stock market price reports remains an anecdote on resourcefulness.

SLIDESHOW: PIGEONS TAKE FLIGHT

Fast forward to 2012, where the world is connected by fiber optics and satellite beams, one may be surprised to learn that aficionados still train, keep and race pigeons for sport. Although the membership of Britain’s Royal Pigeon Racing Association (RPRA) has been declining over the past few decades, tens of thousands remain.

This year the 40th annual British Homing World Show of the Year in Blackpool had 2,500 pigeon entries from around the world including the U.S. and China, and its 25,000 visitors make it the largest single event at the seaside resort. Pigeon fancier Norman Perry of Port Talbot won the title of Supreme Champion in the Winter Gardens, a venue better known for ballroom dancing.

The conflict turns 30

By Enrique Marcarian

When Argentina invaded the Falklands in 1982, I tried to reach there on an Argentine Air Force plane from the continental mainland, but due to restrictions imposed by the military government I only reached a port on the Patagonian coast. I was stuck there for a week, but as I was there I managed to photograph what I still remember as one of the saddest moments in the story of that conflict – the return of the ARA Alferez Sobral, the Navy’s rescue tug that had been attacked by British helicopters. On board the boat were survivors with their uniforms torn and trembling in the South Atlantic cold, and eight dead crew members in coffins.

It was only 23 years later, in 2005, that I finally did manage to reach the islands in one of the weekly commercial flights leaving from Chile. That was to be my first coverage of life in the Islands. I was anxious to see how the locals would react to an Argentine photographer taking pictures of them.

My first stop was at a major dart tournament. I entered cautiously trying to be unnoticed, which worked at first while everyone was focused on the dartboards and beer drinking. Once I had a few beers and took a few pictures, a couple of schoolteachers took notice of my nationality. To my surprise, instead of throwing me out they asked me about my country, and complimented me on then-Foreign Minister Guido di Tella for having sent Christmas presents to Falklands children.

It’s as British as fish and chips

By Eddie Keogh

It’s been our national dish for over a 100 years now and although it’s seen some strong opposition from lasagne and chicken tikka masala, it’s as popular now as it ever was. As a young boy, I have fond memories of Dad rushing in the door with parcels of fish and chips wrapped up in last weeks newspaper. Crispy battered fish with chips covered in salt and vinegar – comfort food at it’s best.

I’ve just spent three days traveling around London’s high streets and back streets looking for Fish and Chip shops. From The Codfather in Northolt to The Rock and Sole Plaice in Covent Garden. I’ve met every nationality working behind the counter and queuing in front of the counter, which confirms it’s broad appeal. Back in 1995, British people were demolishing an incredible 300 million portions of fish and chips every year!

The birth of fish and chips has an interesting international story. We hadn’t even clapped eyes on a potato until they were bought back from South America by the conquistadors in the 17th century. It was the French who invented the chip and the Jews who brought deep fried fish to Britain. There are differing opinions but it’s claimed that the first combined fish and chip shop was opened by a Jewish immigrant, Joseph Malin, within the sound of Bow Bells in East London around 1860. The importance of this national dish was never clearer than during World War II when the British government made sure fish and chips were one of the few foods that was never rationed.