Photographers' Blog

Lives washed away

Zepce, Bosnia

By Dado Ruvic

For many days since the floods in the Balkans began, I have woken up with tears in my eyes. I have been looking at my friends in disbelief, watching as their lives slowly crumble.

Bosnia has been devastated by the worst floods to hit the region in living memory. More than a million people have been cut off from clean water, 100,000 buildings have been left uninhabitable and over half a million people have left their homes.

From the beginning of this crisis, I have felt a struggle within myself between the man who is watching his friends and family suffer, and the journalist, who is trying to document it all for the rest of the world.

Part of my family has been cut off by the floods. Some have become homeless, some have been left with almost nothing; just a plastic bag carrying a few sets of clothes, a piece of bread and a bottle of water.

Teachers, farmers, chefs… They have all become refugees. Their priorities in life are no longer taking a trip to the seaside, buying a car, or a new house. Just like in the old days of conflict in the Balkans, they are now struggling for mere survival.

Behind bars in Central African Republic

Bangui, Central African Republic

By Siegfried Modola

Decades of poor governance in Central African Republic followed by over a year of sectarian conflict and chronic insecurity has crippled even the most basic government services in the country.

A new interim government is faced with the mammoth task of resuscitating the nation’s infrastructure while attempting to bring peace and stability, paving the way for presidential elections next year.

As the divide between Christians and Muslims in CAR grows ever deeper – with the U.N.’s head human rights official saying that atrocities are being committed with impunity – it is clear that the transitional government together with the African Union and French peacekeepers are struggling to enforce the rule of law.

Romania’s bankrupt town

Aninoasa, Romania

By Bogdan Cristel

Getting to Jiu Valley – once home to a powerful coal mining industry that has since fallen on bad times – is difficult. The main road there is currently closed to traffic three days a week because of repair works, so I arrived in the small Jiu Valley town of Aninoasa after driving for 7 hours on detour roads. It is roughly 330 kms (205 miles) to Aninoasa from the Romanian capital Bucharest.

Aninoasa is the oldest town in Hunedoara County, mentioned as far back as 1453 AD. But earlier this year it also became the first town in Romania to have filed for insolvency. It is a small town, with simple houses and ramshackle communist-era apartment buildings to house coal miners.

But the hard coal mine was closed in 2006, after it became too costly, low yielding and outdated to maintain. Today there are only a few coal mines still left in Jiu Valley. Unfortunately for Aninoasa, no replacement jobs have been created since the mine closed. At the abandoned mining site, goats graze and children play.

Scraping by as a French pensioner

Nice, France

By Eric Gaillard

One evening while returning home I came upon a scene that I had never imagined in a country as rich as France – people rummaging through supermarket trash bins looking for food.

In spite of the difficulties I would encounter, I decided to go ahead and meet these people head-on. That day I saw an elderly man waiting on a public bench. Quickly I understood that he was waiting for the trash container from a nearby neighborhood supermarket. I approached him, with my camera on my shoulder, and started a conversation, which stopped abruptly with a curt, “Leave me alone, don’t take my photo”.

I sat down beside him, changed the direction of our conversation, in the hopes of building trust. I knew that what I was asking him was difficult to accept. We spoke of other things when suddenly he opened up giving me his name, Eugene and his age, 87, and that he first rummaged for food during the war when he was twelve. “Times were difficult,” he told me, sighing. Eugene revealed that the money he saved from rummaging for food allowed him to pay for a flight to Thailand once a year to see his “girlfriend”.

On the French poverty precipice

Juan Les Pins, France

By Eric Gaillard

Several days prior to the winter truce for evictions in France for people who are behind on their rent, I asked myself how I could illustrate and make contacts with people who could help. The local associations I spoke with seeking help to make contact with those in precarious living situations were not helpful as they saw this as voyeurism, that these individuals were ashamed and would not permit a photographer to follow them.

Thinking that the story idea had hit a dead end, a local elected official from Antibes, 30 kms (18 miles) from Nice, informed me that he took care of people in precarious situations. At their local offices I studied their listing to learn that a man was living in an underground carpark in nearby Juan Les Pins. The official and I contacted Paul to explain the reason of my reportage. He accepted my invitation to meet.

Paul and I met along the beachfront of this chic summer holiday tourist city on the French Riviera where he explained his story. In 2005 he suffered an injury, followed by an operation, which resulted in disability, forcing him out of work. Then his wife, who continued to work to support the couple, died. Without resources to pay his rent, he was evicted.

Spain’s pain

By Jon Nazca

SLIDESHOW: SPAIN’S AUSTERITY PAIN

I have taken a look back through the archives for the first pictures illustrating the crisis in Spain. It was a story about a protest of goat herders and farmers in Malaga in May 2008. They protested with their goats to demand measures from the government to solve the crisis they were facing.

Months later, Spanish truck drivers protested against the rising fuel costs paralyzing the country for several days.

Protests and demonstrations continued until the Spanish people woke up on May 15, 2011 with the 15-M movement, also known as The Indignants, protesting against the ongoing financial crisis, politicians and bankers. The Spanish Revolution began and with it came endless revolutionary images.

The Faces of Merkel

By Thomas Peter

The Bundestag in Berlin, session 188. The plenum below the grand glass dome of the Reichstag building is buzzing with the voices of lawmakers who are to vote today on the ratification of Europe’s permanent bailout mechanism.

News photographers pluck the occasional picture from among the crowd with a timid click of their cameras. But everyone is waiting for Chancellor Angela Merkel.

A summit of EU leaders in Brussels has finished only hours earlier. A summit that Ms Merkel left as the defeated, after Spain and Italy cornered her into budging to their demand to use EU rescue fund money for the direct recapitalisation of banks, something that thus far had been a red rag for Germany.

“We just want to go home”

By Joe Penney

By the time the aid workers arrive at Mbera refugee camp at 7am after crisscrossing a 15 km (9 mile) trail through sand dunes from the adjacent town in a convoy of white Land Cruisers, Malian refugee and mother Zeinab Mint Hama has already been up for at least an hour.

As she did back home in Lere, Mali, Zeinab starts her days early to avoid the blazing midday Saharan sun, with temperature reaching up to 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit). She and the 64,000 other Malians who have fled violence in their home country to settle temporarily at Mbera, a United Nations-run camp about 40 km (25 m) from the Malian border in neighboring Mauritania, are persevering to establish a sense of normalcy to their new lives.

SLIDESHOW: MALI REFUGEES

Mbera itself functions like a fairly normal Saharan city: there are schools, a butcher, hairdressers, lots of tea and even the odd electric guitar. Traditionally nomadic peoples, many of the Tuaregs and Berabiche Arab tribes who left Mali for Mbera are accustomed to a life of minimal material comfort and establishing their homes under tents built from available materials. But events in Mali have provided a new challenge: political instability and violence.

A hopeless situation

By Cathal McNaughton

Time is running out for Natassa Papakonstantinou – by August she could be homeless.

What becomes depressingly apparent as we sit in her tastefully decorated apartment in a middle class suburb of Athens, is that there is no plan B. Last August, 43-year-old Natassa was finally laid off from her job in telecommunications – she hadn’t been paid a penny for the previous six months so she had been living off her savings and hoping for the best.

She was made redundant and now gets by on 461 euros she gets each month in state benefits plus what little is left of her dwindling savings. By August she has calculated that she will be penniless and, with no money to pay her rent, she could be homeless.

Iconic cafe faces uncertain future

By Andrea Comas

After 124 years Madrid’s historic Café Gijón is facing uncertainty. The lease on the establishment’s popular terrace has expired and Madrid’s City Hall has put it on offer to the highest bidder. It just may be another sad story of how the crisis is ravaging Spain.

The Café Gijón opened in 1888 and soon became an important meeting place for intellectuals of the time, like Santiago Ramon y Cajal, Ramon Valle-Inclan, Pio Baroja. Later Nobel laureate Camilo Jose Cela became a regular and his book “The Hive” was inspired by the café. Throughout its history, the “tertulias” or, gatherings of leading artistic, cultural and political people, have never ceased. Currently the café is frequented by contemporary writers such as Francisco Umbral and Arturo Perez-Reverte among others.

When our TV crew told us they planned to do a story about Café Gijon, I was reminded of the first time my father took me there for dinner with acquaintances. He told me it was a very famous café where intellectuals had their gatherings and debates. I can’t recall ever having seen anything like that. But in my imagination the Café Gijón became something symbolic, something special. It was as if you received a dose of culture just by entering.