Photographers' Blog

Stepping into the endless abyss

By Jason Lee

According to official reports, there will be 780,000 HIV-positive people in China by the end of 2011. As drug injection is one of the main causes of AIDS infections, the Chinese government has to face the situation and come up with appropriate solutions to help those estimated 1.8 million drug users in China.

Yunnan, a province located in southwest China at the border of the Golden Triangle, is a hot zone for AIDS infections. It took great effort to apply to the Yunnan province judicial and public security offices to receive permission allowing me to photograph a compulsory drug rehabilitation center and a drug addicts recovery community in provincial capital Kunming.

Most people think that drug addicts are a group of people who are full of lies. This shows how drugs can change a person’s humanity. I have heard so many painful stories from drug addicts. What we need urgently is a good solution to help them get back to normal lives. Because of China’s large population, I believe it is the government’s duty to help. After I finished transmitting my pictures from Yunnan, a picture editor commented “They seem to be pretty good over there.” I replied, “Yes, and I think if ever my friend becomes addicted to drugs, I will personally suggest that he goes there.”

However, even if a drug addict is sent to a prison-like compulsory drug rehabilitation center for, let’s say, about two years before they go back to the society, it is still highly likely that they will take drugs again. A police officer told me that the retake rate is nearly 86%.

Later, I went to a community built for drug addicts to live and work. Some of the residents have decided to spend their whole lives there because they retake drugs several times outside the community. A resident ballet dancer told me that she started taking drugs at the age of 18 and was not aware of the harm they could do. She gave up her rights as a mother as she was not sure whether she could resist drugs in the future. She didn’t want her child to be burdened with her tainted history. “I don’t want to bring about troubles to society. Heroin is not the only drug. There are more and more new drugs which should be revealed by reporters like you and let the young people be aware of them. We shall protect them from stepping into the endless abyss,” she said.

One step at a time

By Carlos Barria

When I was a kid in the south of Argentina, we used to say that if you dig a very deep hole to the other side of the earth, you will end up in China. In my case, China was literally on the other side of the planet; about as far from Patagonia as you can get. Thirty years later, I made it here. I didn’t come through a tunnel, but on a plane that flew over the North Pole.

I moved to China one year ago in the position of staff photographer in Shanghai, China’s biggest and most cosmopolitan city. The challenge was enormous: a foreign culture, and a very foreign language.

I spent my first couple of days walking around the city, just wandering; something I hadn’t done in a long time. Before coming to China I lived in Miami, where I didn’t have much of an urban experience, unless you count sitting in traffic for long periods of time.

Probing plastinated life

By Sheng Li

I was totally amazed when I first saw the exhibition of the plastinated human body specimens. I couldn’t believe that inside our human skin we all look like that! After visiting the exhibition several times, my photographer instinct pushed me to do a story on it, focusing on the production process of the specimens.

On September 13, I finally received permission to visit the workshops of Dalian Hoffen Bio-Technique Co., Ltd. I was very honored as according to the founder and chairman of the company Dr. Sui Hongjin, I was the first photographer allowed to photograph the whole process of the making of the specimens.

Founded in 2004, Dalian Hoffen Bio-Technique Co., Ltd. specializes in the production, preservation and exhibition of plastinated biotic specimens of human and animals. Their workshops and the Mysterious Life Museum are located some 50 km (31 miles) from the center of Dalian city, in the northeastern Chinese province of Liaoning.

Unmasking the masked boy

By Jason Lee

Last Thursday, I left Beijing for the village where the “Masked Boy” lives.

It took me seven hours by train and then by car to reach Mijiazhuang village. When I first saw the boy from a distance, I could already tell how lovely he was. He and his father Wang Shouwu were standing waiting for me. The boy waved at me as I approached. It didn’t take much time for us to get along. His fearless and caring heart comforted me. In fact, he even offered to carry my suitcase when we first met.

I’m not the first reporter to interview Wang Gengxiang. I went to the village because I sincerely wanted to help him. Although the money I donated to the family was relatively insufficient, his story was recognized and spread by many “netizens” on Weibo (Chinese Twitter), many of whom offered their help to the family, who has an income of nearly zero.

Vacation in North Korea?

If you are planning to take an exotic vacation, maybe Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is your place.

A week ago I joined a group of foreign journalists and a delegation of Chinese tourism agents on a trip highlighted by a cruise that left the port area of North Korea’s Rason City and headed south to the country’s famous Mont Kumgang resort. To get to the ship, we took a bus from China to a border crossing in Hunchun. Before we arrived at customs, our Chinese guides collected our mobile phones. North Korean authorities don’t allow foreigners to carry any type of mobile communications.

When we crossed a bridge over the river Tumen Jiang, which marks the border between China and North Korea, we passed from a modern highway to an unpaved country road.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures 7 August 2011

After rioting in Xinjiang left 11 dead at the start of Ramadan the Chinese authorities stated that the insurgents who started the trouble had fled to Pakistan. Security forces quickly deployed in numbers to ensure that any further trouble was prevented or quickly quelled. Shanghai-based Carlos Barria travelled to Kashgar to shoot a story on the renovation of the old Kashgar centre, an example of China's modernising campaign in minority ethnic regions. A busy week for Aly Song, who is also Shanghai based, with taxi drivers on strike over rising fuel costs while Lang Lang had local fishermen preparing for typhoon Muifa to hit. In both pictures, the eye is cleverly drawn  to the distance to show in one image, a line of  striking taxi drivers, and in the other, rows of boats bracing for the imminent typhoon.

Ethnic Uighur men sit in front of a television screen at a square in Kashgar, Xinjiang province August 2, 2011. Chinese security forces blanketed central areas of Kashgar city in the western region of Xinjiang on Tuesday, days after deadly attacks that China blamed on Islamic militants highlighted ethnic tensions in the Muslim Uighur area.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Armed police officers are deployed at a square in Kashgar August 2, 2011. Chinese police have shot dead two suspects being hunted for a deadly attack in the restive western region of Xinjiang, which an exiled regional leader blamed on Beijing's hardline policies towards her people. The two suspects, Memtieli Tiliwaldi and Turson Hasan, were shot by police late on Monday in corn fields on the outskirts of Kashgar city, where on Sunday assailants stormed a restaurant, killed the owner and a waiter, then hacked four people to death, according to the Khasgar government website.  REUTERS/Stringer

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A week in Pictures 24 July 2011

China are hosting the 14th FINA World Championships in Shanghai. In my mind's eye, aquatics is a sport of power, grace, balance and beauty but our pictures seem to add the additional factors of concentration, determination or maybe sheer fear. Against my better judgement, I just have to mention that some of the expressions on the athletes' faces remind me of the age old tradition of gurning. What also made an impression are the angles, different points of focus and continually new shapes that compliment a file that could have been very repetitive.

Qin Kai of China perform during the preliminary round of the men's 3m springboard diving event at the 14th FINA World Championships in Shanghai July 21, 2011.        REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Italy's Linda Cerruti performs in the synchronised swimming solo free final at the 14th FINA World Championships in Shanghai July 20, 2011. REUTERS/David Gray

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A week in pictures July 10, 2011

I am not a gamer at all but while looking at the file this week was reminded of a facility on electronic gaming my son showed me that allows you to see a different view point of the action. You can have wide, close and closer still. Two pictures of police beating protesters with batons have been shot as close as you can possibly get to the action but for sure this is no game.  Philippines based Romeo (Bobby) Ranoco picture is actually so close that it has been shot over the shoulder of the soldier, who, judging by the blood on the head of the unarmed protester, seems to have scored at least one direct hit . In India  and shot just slightly wider is Jayanta Dey's picture. The fact that it is shot slightly wider makes sure we are aware that it is actually three soldiers beating a protester and not one. The line of composition created by the baton and the flexed arm creating a perfect compositional triangle - Although I am not sure the protester would actually care about that. 

An anti-riot policeman hits a protester with a baton at a rally against what protesters claim to be U.S. intervention outside the U.S. embassy in Manila July 4, 2011. Filipino and U.S. troops are holding exercises in the Sulu Sea off the western Philippine province of Palawan, which lies near the disputed Spratly Islands. Conflicting territorial claims by several countries over the Spratlys and Paracels are raising tensions in Asia. Besides the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei are claiming the islands as theirs. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

A policeman wields a baton against an activist of India's Congress party during a protest in Agartala, located in northeastern Indian state of Tripura July 10. 2011. Police used batons to disperse activists on Sunday protesting against the state's alleged discriminatory policies towards reservation of seats in local medical colleges, local media reported. REUTERS/Jayanta Dey

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A week in pictures 03 July 2011

A great news picture has to have the WOW factor and without a doubt the picture of the domb disposal expert being caught in a car bomb blast is amazing. What is even more amazing is that he lived.

A car bomb explodes as a member of a Thai bomb squad checks it in Narathiwat province, south of Bangkok July 1, 2011. The bomb planted by suspected insurgents wounded the squad member, police said.  REUTERS/Stringer 

This combination photo shows a car bomb exploding as a member of a Thai bomb squad checks it in Narathiwat province, south of Bangkok July 1, 2011. The bomb planted by suspected insurgents wounded the squad member, police said. REUTERS/Stringer 

The man behind Mao’s portrait

I was honored and excited when I first heard that I would be joining the TV team for a story which Reuters had been chasing for 2 years – photographing the one and only painter at present who draws the giant portrait of Chinese late chairman Mao Zedong hanging at Tiananmen Square.

Ge Xiaoguang, 58, started learning large-scale portrait painting from Wang Guodong in 1971, and since Wang retired in 1977, Ge has been the author of Mao’s portraits at Tiananmen Square.

We arrived at the entrance of Ge’s studio before 9:00 a.m., a 10-meter-high red building located between the Tiananmen Gate and the Forbidden City. Millions of tourists pass by every day, but most of them would never find out what has been going on in this building.