Photographers' Blog

Welcome to China’s communist bunker bar

By David Gray

China never, ever fails to amaze. What better way to preserve a former Communist Party military leader’s cave headquarters, then to make it into a bar? Not just any bar, but a ‘Military Bar’, decorated with furniture made from old ordnance. What better way to use old artillery shells and land mines than to turn them into bar stools? Brilliant. It does make you ponder the question – now why didn’t I think of that?

SLIDESHOW: COMMUNIST BUNKER BAR

Deep in the mountains west of Beijing, and extremely difficult to find, lies a cave where the former Communist military Marshal Lin Biao made his headquarters during certain military ‘disagreements’ with Russia in 1968. However, from this cave it is alleged he was also plotting the assassination of Chairman Mao Zedong. He died in 1971 when his plane mysteriously crashed in Mongolia, and shortly thereafter, he was officially condemned as a traitor by the Communist Party.

This intriguing history is the reason for the entrance of the cave being shaped in the form of an airplane (definitely a strange site at the foot of a mountain). A very realistic cockpit greets visitors just inside the door.

Guests are then presented with all sorts of Communist propaganda lining the roof and walls of the cave as they walk down towards the larger chasm, where the really interesting scene awaits them. At first, the bar looks fairly normal but when you look up and notice that the light fittings are actually made from old bombs, you start to look more intently at what exactly is around you.

The bar stools are made using old artillery shells for the stands, and land mines for the seats. For seating around tables, you can sit yourself down on an old ammunition box. The tables have a glass top displaying model battle scenes.

An oddly beautiful surprise

By Aly Song

This wasn’t what I expected at all when I arrived at the beach of Qingdao city in China’s eastern Shandong province.

SLIDESHOW: FACE-MASKED SWIMMERS

I was assigned to shoot portraits for a Reuters story on a Chinese airline company. We settled down to plan to board an aircraft with the company CEO, photographing him and other passengers on the plane. So, I booked myself a 24-hour round trip from Shanghai to Qingdao bearing in mind that during the half day in Qingdao I could shoot the green algae along the beaches which appears almost every summer.

However, my plan turned out to be a failure. The weather wasn’t hot enough so there was very little algae. I was about to head back disappointed until I glanced at these women swimming in the ocean. They were wearing full-size masks on their head which looked a lot like wrestler’s masks to me. I could imagine these women coming onto the beach very soon and starting to fight.

Leading a Kung Fu life

By Jason Lee

I drove to a small town about 60 km (37 miles) from central Beijing. I couldn’t believe there was an International Kung Fu Club in such a quiet and remote place. The Lixian Fusheng International Martial Arts Club is the home of Master Chen Fusheng and 11 students currently studying and living there.

Master Chen was an orphan. He was sent to a local nursing home at 8-years-old, where he started learning moves and skills from some elderly martial arts experts. This marked the beginning of his Kung Fu life. Chen says he aims to promote “Real Chinese Kung Fu”. To Chen, a master of many types of martial arts, some Kung Fu has become a sort of performance. He believes though his students didn’t travel thousands of miles to study performance, they want to study the real thing which could help them defeat their opponents and protect themselves.

Master Chen has taught them the ethics and spirit of Chinese Kung Fu; always be patient and tolerant, know how to control strength and power, to resolve danger and not to hurt or kill people (some Kung Fu skills are lethal according to Chen).

Pearl of the orient; 15 years after the Handover

By Bobby Yip

Hong Kong celebrates its 15th anniversary since the handover to Chinese sovereignty from British rule on July 1, 2012. In the city’s King George V Memorial Park, a plaque from the colonial era is hidden behind the roots of a banyan tree. I found this to be a good symbol of the fading former colonial links to the territory’s past.

Bearing the romanticized phrase “Pearl of the Orient”, Hong Kong attracts visitors from around the world. Due to a fast growing economy, a flood of mainland Chinese visitors in recent years (including many big spenders) have boosted the city’s retail sales. In 2011, nearly 42 million visitors came to Hong Kong, about 64 percent of them from the mainland.

SLIDESHOW: HONG KONG 15 YEARS LATER

The “Forever Blooming Bauhinia” sculpture outside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, a gift from the Chinese government in 1997, is one of the most popular tourist spots for mainlanders. To me, they enjoy a freedom of expression here without fear of political correctness. Under an immigration scheme, a few of might eventually settle in Hong Kong. With a good judicial system, low crime rate and a wide range of personal freedom, just to mention a few, becoming a Hong Kong citizen is a dream for many on the other side of the border.

Extreme healthcare after freak accident

The accident happened in Shuangxi, Fujian province, when the steel bars accidentally broke
and popped out from a machine, piercing through the worker’s body at around 3pm on
June 11.

The worker was sent to a hospital in Hangzhou, where the picture was taken, as the operation
could not be done at a local hospital. The surgery started around nine hours after the
accident happened and was a success after more than five hours.

The photo was taken during the first phase of the operation, to shorten the steel bars, as the
firefighter advised on how to dissect them. The co-workers helped to hold the bars with pliers
and used a steel carving machine under supervision by the doctors.

The dissident’s residence

By David Gray

Blind Chinese lawyer Chen Guangcheng grabbed the world’s attention in April when he refused to leave the U.S. embassy in Beijing after escaping from his village where he was under home detention. The end result was that he and his wife were put on a plane to New York. Over the next few weeks, the Chen family that still lived in the family home were subjected to beatings and house raids by local plainclothes security personnel. During one of these raids, Chen’s nephew tried to stop the invaders, and as a result is in detention for attempted murder – a crime that carries the death penalty in China.

Just three weeks ago I photographed Guangcheng’s elder brother, Chen Guangfu, who had managed to slip out of the same village as his brother in an attempt to obtain a good lawyer for his son’s case. As I was photographing Guangfu he recounted the beating he had suffered as retaliation for his brother’s escape. He said he no longer has any feeling in his left hand. When the interview finished I thought I would probably never see this brave man again but when we received word it might be possible to visit his village, we headed straight there.

Myself, Royston Chan of Reuters Television, and text correspondent Sui-Lee Wee, boarded planes and flew to Shinyi in Shandong Province, some 600 kilometers (372 miles) southwest of Beijing. A driver was waiting for us when we landed; a good contact as a result of Royston’s previous attempts to visit the village. We drove the 70 kilometers (43 miles) or so to Dongshigu village. As we approached the turn-off, we had our cameras ready and drove past to determine what we would do next.

An Austrian clone, made in China

By Tyrone Siu

An elegant black swan sliding silently on the lake, cutting into the reflection of European style wooden houses and church clock tower in the water – the rare image radiated a moment of peacefulness in my mind until it was disrupted by a loud thundering sound of a truck passing by. It was not until then that I paid a closer look to the bird and found it to be a dark duck – another small replica, as part of a massive copycat project from China.

The $940-million-dollar project, conceived by a Chinese mining tycoon, is to clone Austria’s most picturesque village, Hallstatt. Even though it’s in the largest replica-industry county in the world, it still keeps people wondering how such an extensive scale of copying can be done, and whether it is even possible for the SIM city to be materialized into a dream village. I soon find out my answer.

SLIDESHOW: CHINA COPIES AN AUSTRIAN VILLAGE

Like the black duck I saw, other parts of the village gave me a similar kind of awkwardness. The structures and facilities look almost the same as the Austrian village I saw in photographs, but the spirit and taste of the complex is so typically Chinese. The supposedly peaceful atmosphere with relaxing background music is spoiled by the frequent shuttling of trucks carrying materials, bringing up dust and releasing the smell of gas. Rubbish and bags can be seen piling along the artificial lake, while the village is surrounded by construction work. You can occasionally see Chinese builders carrying bamboo sticks and wooden ladders across the little European town that would only be used by the East. The images are hilarious.

Gay and out in China

By Aly Song

As society in China modernizes, its gay community is less mysterious and increasingly part of the country’s fabric, pursuing dreams and happiness like other citizens.

Before setting out to document this story, I had a somewhat stereotypical image of gay Chinese – that they lived colorful and comfortable lives, with prominent members often active in the fashion and entertainment industries, that they wore exquisite clothes and were in top physical shape. I imagined two men sitting in a bar smoking cigars and drinking wine, possibly discussing fashion trends or gossiping about showbiz stars.

But working on this story for more than three months changed my view. The reality was less romanticized, and reflected many people’s search for love anywhere, same sex or otherwise. In China, when seeking same-sex companionship, one way is to spend 20 yuan (3 U.S. dollars) for entrance to a gay bathhouse to find others sharing the same desire. Or you can pay 7 yuan (a little more than $1) to get into a gay dance club to find someone you like.

72 hours in Shanghai

By Carlos Barria

Occasionally, along with covering the news stories like the economy, politics, sports and social trends, we (Reuters photographers) have time to do something really fun.

Weeks ago, over a couple of beers, a friend from the BBC had the idea of putting a camera on the hood of a car and shooting a time-lapse sequence for a story he was working on. I’d never done a time-lapse project myself, so when I was asked to come up with an idea for Earth Hour on March 31— when cities across the world switch off their lights at 8:30 pm— my colleague Aly Song and I thought we’d give it a try. We decided to shoot sequences during the three days leading up to Earth Hour, ending with the dimming of the lights in Shanghai’s city center.

(View a full screen version here)

It was also a good opportunity to buy some new toys at Chinese prices, such as suction cup camera holders used to secure the camera on top of a car or any other surface.

Diving, not a sport for wimps

By Stefan Wermuth

I had the opportunity to cover a training session of Britain’s future Olympic diving hopefuls at the Crystal Palace Diving Club in London.

When I arrived the session had already started in a dry diving gym.  It was a room full of trampolines, diving boards, mats and mostly young girls performing somersaults or other flips. “Quicker, quicker” shouted one of the three Chinese coaches.

China’s divers are currently dominating the sport.  They won all the gold medals at last year’s world championships. The British diving club decided to recruit Chinese coaches seven years ago when London won the bid to stage the 2012 Olympics.  Now, 15 of the approximately 460 children in the program are in the top England talent squad.