Photographers' Blog

Risking life for school

By Beawiharta

On Wednesday morning I received an image on my twitter feed (@beawiharta). It was a photo from a local newspaper that showed a student crossing a river on a collapsed bridge. The picture caught me. I needed to find out where it was so I could go there to capture it.

Shortly afterwards I arrived at the office. I had forgotten about the collapsed bridge because we were very busy. I had two assignments for the day, a breast milk courier story and a story about Indonesia’s rising investment rating. This was a big financial story because Moody’s ratings agency restored Indonesia debt to investment grade.

I went to Jakarta’s business district to find photos of middle-class workers returning to their homes. When I had finished, I realized that I had something different to shoot for the next day. I searched Google maps to find the location of the collapsed bridge but I couldn’t find the exact location. There was a blank map with only the name of the village, Sanghiang Tanjung. Surprisingly, it said the village was just 130 kms (80 miles) away from our Jakarta office – a travel time of about two hours. My estimation was it would take 4 hours.

3am Thursday morning, my friend and driver Soewarno and I headed to the village. We reached by 6am. But the difficulty was this village was just a blank area on the map. Also, we had to find the right direction that the students would take, so that I could take a pictures from the front, not from the back. We found many roads in the village but no one knew where the bridge was. With the help of my friends, we were able to get the name of the head of the village, Epi Sopian, who accompanied us to the location. Edi said the bridge collapsed during Saturday’s big flood when wood and bamboo hit the suspension bridge’s pillar.

I arrived at the location as the students were crossing. They were already in the middle of the bridge. Oh no, these could not be the children who wanted to go to school, I thought! It was more like an acrobatic show the collapsed bridge as an apparatus and without any safety device at all. They walked slowly, sometimes screaming as their shoes slipped. Suddenly the rain came. A last group of students, Sofiah and her friend, were on the bridge. Happily, all the students crossed safely. I took pictures for no more than five minutes.

The children of Dadaab: Life through the lens

Through my video “The children of Dadaab: Life through the Lens” I wanted to tell the story of the Somali children living in Kenya’s Dadaab. Living in the world’s largest refugee camp, they are the ones bearing the brunt of Africa’s worst famine in sixty years.

I wanted to see if I could tell their story through a different lens, showing their daily lives instead of just glaring down at their ribbed bodies and swollen eyes.

It was a challenging project. As one senior photographer asked, how else can we tell the story without showing images that clearly illustrate the plight of the starving millions? Few photographs cover all aspects of life in the camps.

A daughter’s last goodbye

Six-year-old Wakana Kumagai began to run from the car when she arrived at a temporary mass grave site in Higashi-Matsushima, Miyagi prefecture.

She had come to meet her father.

On that day Wakana attended an entrance ceremony for her elementary school. Afterward she went with her mother and older brother to the grave site. She showed off her dress and bright red school satchel as she described the entrance ceremony to her father. But her father, Kazuyuki, slept in the soil.

He was only 31 when he died.

On March 11, Wakana’s mother Yoshiko received a phone call from husband, Kazuyuki, just after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck at 2:46 p.m. “A tsunami is coming. Take the children and go to the elementary school (shelter). I will go later too” he told her. Yoshiko picked up her two children in the car and, as they made their way toward the elementary school, the car was swallowed up by the first wave of the tsunami. Miraculously the car doors didn’t open with the force of the tsunami and the three family members arrived at Omagari elementary school. The school was a makeshift shelter for those who had survived in the town that was now covered with seawater. The family awaited the arrival of Kazuyuki.

Street photography is like falling in love…

USA/

I was walking in downtown Los Angeles when I saw the two brothers sitting there. They were drinking soda by a hot dog stand. The symmetry struck me – their identical outfits, the two-tone wall they leaned against and the two bottles.

It was after a couple of days photographing Japanese baseball superstar Hideki Matsui’s home opener with the Los Angeles Angels. There were so many Japanese photographers that I had to leave for the stadium six hours before the start of the game in order to reserve the best shooting position.

Matsui-stalking was fun, but no-one gets into photography because they enjoy fighting for shooting positions or carrying heavy camera equipment up flights of stairs.

Life with a “Quiverfull” Family – the story behind the story

Rick Wilking is a Reuters contract photojournalist based in Denver, Colorado who has been shooting for Reuters for almost 25 years based in Europe, Washington, D.C. and now in Colorado. Rick recently developed the idea of spending time documenting the lives of a Christian “Quiverfull” family who have 15 children due to their belief that all family planning is best left in the hands of God. Rick produced the following piece of multimedia video from his time spent with the Jeub family in Colorado and tells us about the experience below. -  Jim Bourg

I am convinced that the easiest part of my job is taking pictures. Coming up with story ideas, getting access and then producing the final results are MUCH tougher! That was very true with this story. I read about Christian Quiverfull-minded folks who closely follow and live by Christian scripture and biblical verses and decided to try to find one of these families to document. I begged my way into a Quiverfull forum on the web and was met there with much skepticism about letting me in. One family in Kansas said maybe and another back east said I could come by. But neither were enthused and I knew the travel budget was too tight for a trip that distant and long.

Then I found the Jeub family, only a 90 minute drive away from my home in Colorado. They too were tentative at first but let me in after seeing stories I had done recently in their area. My work documenting the headquarters of the “Focus on the Family” organization, portraying troops returning from Iraq at a nearby military base and covering “The Purity Ball”, a Christian father-daughter event all convinced them of my fairness and the integrity of my photojournalism. They said they prayed on it hard and were led to let me into their home to tell their story through pictures and sound.

The emotional toll of covering violence

The police scanner says there was a shooting in Zone 7, very close. We arrive right behind the firemen. Two men on a motorcycle had been shot with the same bullet. Neighbors start to gather as I make a few pictures of the rescue crew loading the victims into the ambulances and rushing off to Roosevelt Hospital in Guatemala City. The neighbors are angry and start taunting the police, accusing them of incompetence.


Out of the corner of my eye I see family members arriving. You can tell who they are by their faces. Their confusion and disbelief stands out even through the dozens of people scuttling around. They are not crying yet…They still don’t know exactly what is going on. Eight-year-old Erica Estrada, dressed in shades of pink and burgundy, follows her grandmother. She draws my attention. Her hands are in her pockets and her face is twisted, but her eyes are still dry. Her grandmother screams as she realizes that her grown son, Erica’s father, was wounded badly and her husband, who was sitting on the back of the motorcycle, wasn’t expected to live.


Erica is half everyone’s size. Dropping the camera from my eye, I lower it to my waist, to her level. She is surrounded by strangers who have formed groups around her and her grandmother and who in their own horror seem to completely forget the young girl. Erica finds my eyes and stares at me in pain.