Photographers' Blog

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.

The red carpet was rolled out for Liu and he is now the famous model desired by fashion companies. Many media in China have tried to interview him.

From farmer to part-time model, the grandfather can be as insistent and stubborn as any other old man. During our interview, he openly disagreed with the choice of clothes chosen by his ‘boss’ and insisted on his own way of mix-and-match. It is not hard to see why – his granddaughter prefers tone-on-tone combinations, while Liu likes eye-catching and bright colors. The combination increases the color spectrum of a picture and boosts his self-confidence. It is not hard to see why his figure can raise eyebrows.

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.


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.


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.

Big shoes to fill

By Carlos Barria

Eight years ago, Chen Mingzhi quit his factory job and became a shoe designer. But it was slow going at first, so he passed the time honing his skill by making smaller and smaller shoes.

A couple of years later, a neighbor challenged him to do something outside his comfort zone — to create a giant shoe.

Chen accepted the challenge and started right away. “I wanted to prove that I could do it”, Chen said later.

China’s “wonderful” Communist village

By Jason Lee

Growing up as a Chinese national, I leaned a lot about Communism through text books. On Monday it only took a one and a half hour flight and one hour drive to travel from China’s modern cultural and political center, Beijing, to the small communist society at Nanjie Village.

Honestly, I didn’t expect it to be so easy. There were no entrance tickets, no security guards, and no one had to check our vehicle. We drove all the way to the village center, where a giant statue of the late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong stood in the middle of a square, waving at me. Next to him were four portraits of his communism comrades: Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. The loudspeakers at the square repeatedly played the classic revolutionary song “The East Is Red”; the same song played in outer space in 1970 after China’s first satellite was put into orbit.


The entire Nanjie village consisted of dozens of factories and several main streets. Faces of Mao Zedong were everywhere. There were very few people or cars on the street, which might have been the reason why all the traffic lights in the village were not working, not even at the crossroads. I jumped up and down with my cameras in the middle of the street to get good angles, which could easily get me killed if I were in a different town. But luckily the people of Nanjie seemed to move at a slow pace and be pleasant.

China in color or black and white?

By Carlos Barria

I have heard this question asked a million times: would this picture be better in color, or in black and white? I grew up in the color era, but I do remember seeing television programs in black and white. That was before 1990, when my parents bought a color television to watch Argentina’s national soccer team play in the World Cup in Italy. (We won the Cup in 1986… in black and white.)

I find myself wondering sometimes whether a particular story, or a particular picture, would be stronger or clearer in black and white, or in color. To some degree, the answer is imposed. I work for a media organization that provides clients with color pictures, so I photograph in color.

But sometimes I like to experiment with converting pictures to black and white, just to see how they look. Recently I visited two Communist Party schools in China where trainees attended courses to reaffirm their foundation as Communist Party members. During the trip I went first to Jianggangshan in Jiangxi province, a historical area where former Chinese leader Mao Zedong fought the Nationalists, as a leader of the newly created Red Army. Then I visited a modern school in Pudong, in the cosmopolitan hub of Shanghai.

Protesting – Beijing style

By David Gray

Starting last Wednesday, I have been riding my bike to the Japanese embassy in Beijing to cover protests against the Japanese government purchasing disputed islands in the East China Sea. These protests started off with just a few people – perhaps a few dozen – as ‘Beijingers’ are not used to being allowed to voice their opinions loudly (and most importantly, in large numbers) on the streets about anything.


The day it was announced that Japan had bought the islands, small groups of protesters were ushered into position by officials outside the main entrance to the embassy, and allowed to yell slogans and hold banners for around 10 minutes at a time. Some occasionally threw a water bottle or small stone over the gate, but they were quickly led away by plainclothes police with what can only be described as a ‘friendly’ warning.

So, we turned up on Saturday, thinking it would be yet another day of monotonous chanting and yelling. We carried our ladders, which had become necessary because the area that officials had deemed ‘adequate for press requirements’ was of course ridiculously small and we needed them to see over the top of each other. At first, a few groups arrived, but not in substantial numbers. But the word must have got out that protests were being ‘allowed’, and quite unexpectedly, thousands of people appeared and began pushing the outnumbered riot police guarding the embassy’s main entrance.

Keeping safe in a quake-hit zone

By Jason Lee

Around noon on September 7 two shallow earthquakes struck the mountainous area of Yiliang county of Yunnan province, China. I received my assignment to travel to the area at around 6 p.m. when the death toll reached 60.


As you can imagine, it is never easy to get to an earthquake-hit area. I had only 20 minutes to pack and prepare before a 3-hour flight. After that, I traveled another 8 hours by car followed by a one hour ride on the back of a motorcycle before reaching my destination. Along the road I didn’t see many collapsed buildings, but there were lots of giant rocks that had probably rolled down from mountains as the quake hit, as a result, many cars were smashed into pieces.

My memory of covering the deadly 2008 Sichuan earthquake gradually came back — apart from the damage that had already been done, I needed to watch out for possible landslides and other dangers. Every aftershock brought with it more risk for the residents and rescuers in the worst-hit area, as they were at the foot of several huge rocky mountains.

Ye Shiwen: Innocent until proven guilty

By Carlos Barria

As the day starts, parents accompany their kids to the Chen Jing Lun Sports School. In the entrance a sign reads, “Today’s sports school student, tomorrow’s Olympics stars” – a reminder of where it’s possible to go with hard work.

A girl with swimming goggles around her forehead waits for training to begin. She muses over portraits of famous Chinese swimmers hanging on the wall. Among them is a portrait of London Olympics double gold medalist Ye Shiwen.


Years ago, at age 6, Ye arrived at this same pool without any swimming experience. But a couple of months later she had mastered the freestyle and the backstroke. “Ye Shiwen never told me that she was tired, or that she didn’t want to swim anymore. She never said that,” her former coach Wei Wei remembers.