Photographers' Blog

Living as a Muslim in Paris

Paris, France

By Youssef Boudlal

Photographing the daily life of Muslims in Paris is a challenge. I discovered this by throwing myself into the project, which rapidly became a story of failed encounters, rejection and disappointment. Among the people I met, the fear of prejudice towards the Muslim world was intense, as was the worry that cliches about the community could be fueled or spread by images.

I met a good number of people as part of my investigation. The first few were in the suburbs of Paris, home to a large Muslim community. In Vitry-sur-Seine, I met four twenty-somethings of North African origin sitting outside a church. I explained my project to them and their suspicions were quickly aroused. I was asked about my job, the reasons for my project and why I was interested in them. They worried about how my images would be used. One of them took me for a spy.

Another encounter, this time at Mantes-la-Jolie, among Paris’s western suburbs. Here, a young woman in a headscarf was buying fruit and vegetables at the Val Fourre market and I decided to approach her. I explained my project in detail, and asked if she wanted to take part. She displayed no enthusiasm but no scepticism either, to the point where she asked permission from her father, a butcher she was helping for the season. I was already picturing images of this contrast. But he refused, without explanation. My arguments couldn’t sway him.

A contact put me in touch with a Salafist – a follower of a strict kind of Sunni Islam – who prayed with others in a garage at Mantes-la-Jolie. The originality of the place cried out to me. I met him, we talked through a week of long negotiations and he said the project was possible. But that was before the end of June, when the arrest of six suspected Islamists in the Ile-de-France region made the meeting difficult. In the end, I wasn’t allowed to photograph either the people or the place.

Another contact put me in touch with Chehrazad, 36, a Muslim woman of Moroccan origin, who is employed at a public notary’s office and normally wears a headscarf, but is now forced to remove it due to a law banning headscarves in the civil service. Her French husband agreed that I could follow her life for a day. I went with her to the market, to her work and home. For her, covering her head was a case of individual choice: “Wearing the veil is a personal desire to protect my modesty,” she told me.

Beware of Englishmen in Civvies

Novi Sad, Serbia

By Marko Djurica

At the Exit Festival in Serbia’s second city Novi Sad, you won’t find any signs pointing the way to the closest place to egress, but only signs for “emergency escape.” It is intentional so that concertgoers don’t get confused that the party continues outside the fence, but I came to see it as a hidden message.

The festival is held on the grounds of Petrovaradin, a medieval fortress on the banks of the Danube River, and has been drawing crowds from the region and from Europe for over 14 years. The original festival grew out of a post-war student protest movement against the regime of former Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic. The name was meant to be a clear call for the Milosevic regime to step down and for society to leave the consequences of a terrible dark decade behind. The festival climaxed in the mid 2000s when it was recognized as one of Europe’s top ten festivals. Since then, it has all been downhill.

This year the very existence of the festival came into question because the past few years have been less successful and the fact that the festival is financed, in part, by the Serbian Ministry of Culture. But really, if you are one of the best European festivals for years, how can you need financial assistance from the government? The organizers justify the high ticket prices as necessary for attracting big stars to perform, which other than Atoms for Peace and David Guetta, I didn’t see or hear about.

A widow’s refuge offers solace to the sorrowful

Vrindavan, India

By Adnan Abidi

The sound of applause echoing in the dingy shelter forced a smile on the face of Tulshi Dasi. An expression she had almost forgotten since her world turned white. The reason: she could now write and had just finished writing the English alphabet on a blackboard. And all this at the age of 70! She had never felt this empowered and never knew that learning was so much fun. As Dasi wrote a new chapter in her life in the grimy shelter in Vrindavan, that she shares with many women like her, her companions, around 50 odd widows applauded her progress.

GALLERY: WIDOW REFUGE

Widows, either abandoned by their family members or shunned by society, find their life’s last refuge in various government run shelters such as this one. They come here from all across the country, but mostly from Bengal, where they survive by begging and chanting hymns in temples.

Hindu widows are branded as inauspicious by society and are forbidden to wear any form of color or be a part of any kind of celebrations like marriage and childbirth, hence most find respite amid their own kind, and seek solace in sorrow. As I spent my day with them I realized that learning was the best part of their day. Each of them would get up early, bathe and offer prayers together in the hall before resuming their daily chores of making prayer beads and flower garlands.

A tourist in my own backyard

By Kevin Lamarque

There may be no free lunch, but for those seeking to take in art and education, visiting Washington is a bargain. The Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum and research complex, includes 19 museums and galleries. All of which are free of charge. Add to that the National Gallery of Art, and the only toll you will pay is the fatigue on your legs as you wander from site to site in the nation’s capital.

I have upon occasion been lured into the National Gallery of Art, located next to the U.S. Capitol, before or after covering my news assignments on Capitol Hill. The National Gallery of Art provided me with a temporary escape from the world of politics that dominates this town. It also gave me some much needed visual stimulation. I would rarely come out without some interesting photo for Reuters. I enjoyed trying to capture the aesthetic relationship between the physical space of the gallery, the art and the visitor.

VIEW A LARGE FORMAT GALLERY: SMITHSONIAN STILLS

I wondered if the other galleries offered similar visual opportunities. Summer is high tourist season in Washington, a good time for me to join the masses and see what they come to see. My plan was to visit the National Gallery and all the Smithsonian museums and galleries located downtown in an attempt to make at least one nice photo at each locale. It’s a checklist I should have completed long ago. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I’d only visited a few of these places in my 13 years of living here.

Addicted to the needle

By Jason Reed and Larry Downing

The tattoo is as ancient as time itself.

Born out of man’s desire to draw more than straight, simple lines, today’s tattoos have evolved into beautiful interpretations by savvy artists that bend those old lines into colorful masterpieces etched onto a virgin canvas of skin with sharp needles and bright inks. Lifetimes of stories of hard love, or high adventures archived onto an arm, a leg, or for that matter, anywhere skin lives for curious eyes to enjoy forever.

The hobby of collecting tattoos has exploded into the mainstream. Look around and you’ll find them worn by anyone…. and anywhere. Annual conventions and competitions are held freely inside luxury hotels instead of hidden from view. Tattoos are even stars of their own reality television shows.

Reuters Senior photographers Jason Reed and Larry Downing traveled across the country recently to attend two different tattoo conventions in Hampton Roads, Virginia, and Cincinnati, Ohio, while working on a multimedia project entitled, “Addicted to the Needle” which opens a window into the private world and the culture of tattooing. First up was the Hampton Roads Tattoo Festival and then the National Tattoo Association’s 33rd annual convention. Both walked out of those gatherings realizing tattoos are no longer the stamp indicating someone to be a tramp, or a biker outlaw, but instead a lover of beautiful art and personal expression.