Photographers' Blog

The sky of Beijing

Beijing, China

By Wei Yao

This past winter, Beijing and the entire northern part of China were repeatedly blanketed by thick haze, raising serious concerns among citizens and the government. Air quality in Beijing has mostly stayed above “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” levels. Therefore, how to clean up the sky became one of the most important subjects for the delegates at China’s annual National People’s Congress (NPC). As a photojournalist based in Beijing, the moment I was told I would be able to cover the NPC, I decided to shoot a series of photographs to illustrate this matter.

The first thing that came to mind was placing my camera at the same position to objectively document the sky of Beijing throughout the two weeks of the NPC. I immediately thought of the Tiananmen Gate with the giant portrait of China’s Late Chairman Mao Zedong, because for Chinese or foreigners, nothing says more about China and Beijing than Tiananmen Gate.

It puzzled me for a while on how to present the set of pictures to highlight the differences of each day’s air quality. All of a sudden, I remembered a combination of images of the midnight sun in Northern Europe that I saw a few years ago, and decided to combine my pictures in a similar way.

VIEW AN INTERACTIVE ON THE POLLUTION PROBLEM

Having the idea of how to do my project, I encountered some difficulties. Unlike the midnight sun in which shooting only lasted for a day, I had to reset my camera everyday at Tiananmen Square. I originally planned to shoot a picture from the same position at the same time of day, but in the meantime, I also needed to cover many other NPC assignments for my papers. Being in a rush all the time, I wasn’t able to get the same position or angle throughout the two weeks. Fortunately, after spending a long time editing, I still managed to create what I needed.

The combination picture was posted on Sina Weibo (microblog) at noon after the closing ceremony of the NPC. Within one day it was reposted over 25,000 times. It was ranked as the second hottest microblog on Sina Weibo that day, outranking all the other subjects related to the NPC. From the reposts and comments, I could see more and more people showing concern and attention to the air quality in China, and I am more than happy to see my project achieve a greater success than my expectations.

Different congress, different picture

Beijing, China

By Kim Kyung-hoon

In China, where the Constitution says “All power in the People’s Republic of China belongs to the People”, the National People’s Congress (NPC) is one of the most important political events in the country.

Over 2,000 various delegates including political leaders, military generals, CEOs, celebrities and even Tibetan monks gathered in the Great Hall of the People to represent their districts and discuss how to shape the future of 1.35 billion Chinese people. In theory, the NPC is the great lawmaking power in China and plays a similar role to the parliaments of its neighboring countries, Japan and South Korea, where I have worked as a Reuters photographer for the last 11 years.

Instead what I saw at this year’s two-week-long NPC in China was very different from what I witnessed in the neighboring countries, even though these three North Asian countries have been closely connected geographically, historically, economically and culturally for thousands of years.

Uneasy life of China’s migrants

Shanghai, China

By Aly Song

Living in the metropolis of Shanghai for over 10 years, it makes sense to me that all the luxury malls, high-end goods and soaring skyscrapers are made by the hands of migrant workers. As a result, I pay extra attention to the migrant worker community.

Shortly after the Spring Festival holiday, I had a chance to photograph dozens of migrant workers traveling from home to job interviews at an underwear factory in Shanghai. They were all recruited by an employment agency, a popular business nowadays especially on the coastal area where the labor shortage situation has reached a worsening level.

The interview was the simplest I had ever seen, the only requirement by the factory was “good health”, followed by several questions which altogether lasted about 5 minutes. Afterwards the workers were divided into two groups – experienced and “whiteboard” (without any work experience). The experienced workers were asked to start working right away, while the whiteboard workers needed to attend a training course – by observing the production line and following a veteran for one or two days.

The year of the snake

Beijing, China

By Barry Huang

With the year of the dragon coming to an end, Chinese people will embrace the year of the snake. The snake, the sixth sign of the 12 Chinese Zodiac animals, is also called “junior dragon” due to its Chinese dragon-like appearance. According to ancient Chinese belief, the snake is the form of the dragon before it obtained divinity and learn to fly.

Studies show that people born in the year of the snake share certain characteristics. Like the snake, they are keen and determined and know how to maneuver themselves to their own destinations. They are also sophisticated and calm and not outwardly emotional; however, many of them also have an ounce of paranoia that runs in their blood. One of the most well-known people born in the year of the snake is China’s late Chairman Mao Zedong.

Although the universal perception of the snake is mainly that of a poisonous and evil guise, it has long been worshiped in China as a divine creature. According to Chinese mythology, the well-known creators of mankind, the “Chinese Adam and Eve” — Fu Xi (also known as the first of the Three Sovereigns of ancient China) and his sister and/or wife Nüwa, were described as “half human, half snake”. In many parts of northern China, in the past having a snake living in the house meant good fortune. People regarded the house snake as a guardian god, and if a mischievous child ever beat it or scared it away, terrible things would happen to the family.

The long trip home

Shanghai, China

By Carlos Barria

There was not much emotion left after crossing central China on a 50-hour train and bus journey. Just a soft touch on the face and a forced hug was all that Li Jiangzhon and his sister Li Jiangchun got from their parents after a long year of absence.

They are just one story among millions of Chinese migrant workers, who have to leave their loved ones behind to look for a better future for themselves and their families.

Every year millions of migrant workers travel to their hometowns during the Chinese Spring Festival, a massive movement of people that is considered the biggest migration in the world in such a short period of time. Public transportation authorities expected to accommodate about 3.41 billion travelers nationwide during the holiday, including 225 million railway passengers, according to Xinhua news agency.

Coffin therapy

By Sheng Li

After many days trying to set-up an interview at the Ruoshui Mental Health Clinic, which resides within a commercial apartment building in Shenyang, China, I finally received a call from the owner on December 12 who granted me the access and opportunity to photograph one of their “death experience therapy” patients.

An hour later, I found myself in the so-called “death experience room”, a 10-square-metre room with nothing but a coffin on the floor. On the wall there was a poster of Jesus holding a newborn baby illuminated with gloomy blue lights. My first impression? Quite intimidating.

According to 50-year-old therapist Mr. Tang Yulong, the clinic opened in 2009 and since then there have been more than a thousand people who have done the death experience therapy. The therapy costs 2000 yuan ($320) and usually lasts 4 to 5 hours, during the duration of which the patient is required to lie in a coffin while his/her relatives read “epitaphs” or give speeches nearby. The patient also needs to write down his/her feelings and share with therapists and family. Mr. Tang said that many of them burst into tears when they are “resurrected.” He believes it is an extreme but efficient method to make people realize the value of their lives.

China’s next “top” model?

Guangzhou, China

By Tyrone Siu

It was hard to imagine that Liu Qianpina was related to the word “model” when I first met him. To me, the 72-year-old former farmer looked no different from those typical types of grandfathers you see sitting in the park every day, usually playing chess with a group of friends or dozing off on a bench. Except that Liu has a very cool name, MaDiGaGa, and is now in the spotlight among the modeling world.

Gallery: Grandpa turned model

One hand on his hip, lower legs crossed, with his head looking up in the air – posing in front of the camera was no difficulty for Liu. He did not need any instructions from the photographer before he changed his pose to present his figure. It was not hard to notice that, when compared to other models who pose for a living, Lui did not appear natural and smooth. But for a model who started styling at the age of 72, he’s made a very good start that most would envy.

It all began when the grandfather decided to pick up some of his granddaughter LV Ting’s clothes, and wore them for fun. The clothes, meant to be sold in an online fashion store, were supposed to be worn by a model who suddenly cancelled. But the way Liu wore them created a fresh and funny image, so LV Ting decided to use her grandfather’s pictures for promotion instead. The odd styling took internet users by surprise and Liu soon became one of the hottest topics in the digital world, attracting a five-fold increase in visits to the fashion website.

House in the middle of the road

Wenling, China

By Aly Song

“Right now, buying a house like this would cost me more than 2 million yuan, but the government only offered me 260,015 to move, where could I go?” 67-year-old Luo Baogen said while smoking a cigarette in front of his partially demolished “nail house”, standing alone in the middle of a road in Wenling city, China’s eastern Zhejiang province. “Nail house” refers to the last houses in an area owned by people who refuse to move to make room for new developments.

GALLERY: A HOUSE IN THE ROAD

About 500 kilometers (310 miles) from Shanghai, this house quickly became an Internet hot topic after local news reports bearing dramatic photographs went public last week.

Considering a follow-up story and to have some more pictures of our own, I traveled there with a Reuters TV colleague on Saturday.

Choreographing our China congress coverage

Beijing, China

By Petar Kujundzic

Is there anyone against? – “Meiyou” (There is no one)

The last time I covered an important Communist Party congress was in my own country almost 23 years ago. I was the only photographer for Reuters there, shooting black and white and sending a few pictures to the wire using a drum analog transmitter. The last congress of the Yugoslav Communist Party, which ruled the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from 1945 until 1991, ended with a split within the League of Communists and ushered in years of violence and civil conflict… but that is a totally different story.

Last week’s 18th Chinese Communist Party Congress, by contrast, was a highly choreographed affair — no drama. In fact, during the preparation, the question arose: How do you cover one of the world’s top stories when it’s considered visually “boring.” At the same time, how do you deal with the difficulties of restricted access, especially if you are a foreign journalist in China?

On the other hand, the congress represents a rare opportunity to cover a once-in-a-decade leadership swap in one of the world’s superpowers, just a week after the dramatic and colorful presidential election in the United States. This time, as Chief Photographer in China, it was my turn to organize the coverage.

A wider view of China’s Congress

Beijing, China

By Carlos Barria

China’s once-in-a-decade leadership transition was for me a great opportunity to photograph an event that, although it all happens behind closed doors, still offers an interesting kind of visual access.

GALLERY: PANORAMAS FROM THE CONGRESS

For example, the 18th Party Congress, where China ordained its new leadership, was a unique opportunity for journalists to wander around – with fewer restrictions than normal — in the Great Hall of the People. As a first-timer, I found the building itself imposing, and full of details and un-explored corners.

I thought it would be interesting to try using a panoramic format this time, to give a sense of the officialdom surrounding the event, and the large, intimidating spaces where it was all happening. Panoramas also helped me to see more than one scene in a single picture.