Photographers' Blog

Trailer park worth $30 million

By Lucy Nicholson

Too often in America, being old means being lonely, isolated and depressed.

At Village Trailer Park, a leafy oasis surrounded by busy commercial streets about two miles from Santa Monica’s famous beach, elderly residents are fighting to preserve a different way of life.

GALLERY: LIFE IN A TRAILER PARK

Owner Marc Luzzatto wants to relocate around 50 residents from the quirky trailer park to make way for nearly 500 residences, office space, stores, cafes and yoga studios, close to where a light rail line is being built to connect downtown Los Angeles to the ocean.

Village Trailer Park was built in 1951, and 90 percent of its residents are elderly, disabled or both, according to the Legal Aid Society. Many have lived there for decades in vintage mobile homes they bought.

The nearly 4-acre site is valued at as much as $30 million, according to the Los Angeles Times. Buildings that have grown up in the neighborhood in recent decades now feature offices of media empires such as Yahoo! and MTV Networks. Santa Monica once had nearly a dozen trailer parks and now has just two.

As I walked around the park, trees swayed in the breeze, birds sang, and residents emerged from their homes to greet me. When I explained I was shooting a photo story, they reeled off names of neighbors I should visit. Everybody knows everybody, and each has a story to tell.

A new life with 250 Euros

By Marcelo del Pozo

It’s five o’clock in the morning and I find myself in a place and situation that I’m sure I shouldn’t be in, much less taking pictures.

Jose Manuel Abel, his wife Olive and their two children, Claudia, 13, and Jose Manuel, 16, were crying and hugging one another as they didn’t know when would be the next time they would see each other.

SLIDESHOW: NEW COUNTRY, NEW LIFE

Abel, from southern Spain, is one of a growing number of Spaniards moving to Germany for work after failing to find a job at home. He has to leave his wife and children behind for the time being, but sees no other choice. Abel, who used to work as a salesman during Spain’s boom years, selling insurance, books, water filters and vending machines, has been unemployed for more than two years. With about one in four people jobless, he sees few prospects working at home and has taken a job in Munich working in the kitchen of a Spanish restaurant owned by a Spanish-German friend.

Resumes on the corner of hope

By Mario Anzuoni

I met Kelly Edwards on a street corner. He was not the average person you see at traffic lights; he was nicely dressed, freshly shaven with a professional demeanor, holding a sign that stated he was looking for work. I handed him my business card and kindly asked him to get in touch with me.

Given the job situation and the U.S. economy struggling to create new jobs, I was interested in knowing more. Two days later Kelly called. We spent an hour on the phone where he started to tell me his story. At that point I asked if I could spend a day with him to show an average day of job seeking; he agreed. About a week later, I arrived at Kelly’s home in West Covina where he greeted me with freshly brewed coffee.

Kelly Edwards is 54 years old, and has been unemployed since 2008. He put three kids through college and now lives with his wife Lynne and their 13-year-old son Kal-El. He has been a full time and part time employee, but never without a job. With two decades of experience in the food and beverage industry Kelly thought it would be a good idea to move from Portland to Los Angeles four years ago, but he is still without a full time position with the exception of a few handyman jobs.

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.

Surviving rather than living

By Cathal McNaughton

“My wife thinks I don’t do enough but I’m doing everything I can. I work day and night. I’m trying to work my way out of this,” olive farmer Dimitris Stamatakos told me as he took a break from stacking wood at his small-holding in the village of Krokeae in the Peloponnese area of Greece.

During the boom years Dimitris, 36, made a comfortable living from the 1,700 olive trees on his seven acres of land – today, due to rising costs and higher taxes, his olive crop yields just 50 per cent of what it once did and to make ends meet he toils endlessly at odd jobs.

Selling firewood, hiring out his tractor and even hiring himself out as a laborer to his neighbors are just a few of the ways he makes the extra euros he needs to support his wife Voula and their two young boys, three-year-old Christopher and one-year-old Elias.

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.

An American homeless family

By Lucy Nicholson

On her second day of camping near the coast north of Los Angeles, Benita Guzman lit a match, threw it on a pile of logs, and poured gasoline on top. As flames engulfed her hand and foot, her niece, Angelica Cervantes, rushed to throw sand over her. Benita thrust her burning hand into a pile of mud, and took a deep breath.

Camping’s not easy. It’s a whole lot rougher when you’re a pair of homeless single mothers trying to keep seven children fed, clothed, washed and in school.

Guzman, 40, and two of her children are living outdoors with Cervantes, 36, and five of her children. The two banded together in an effort to keep the children together as a family, and not taken away and separated in foster homes.

Detroit’s glimmer of hope

By Mark Blinch

I’ve been to Detroit countless times over the years and though I’ve always known the city to struggle with poverty, I am usually sent to the city to cover another winning Detroit sports franchise, or the glitzy international auto show showcasing the years new cars from all the top auto makers.

As I drove down the highway from my hometown Toronto, I tuned into my favorite Detroit rock radio station 89x as I got close to the border crossing. The radio hosts began to plug an event where people with little means could go and get a free meal. It was just a few days until Christmas, and rockstar Kid Rock, a Detroit native, was putting up the funds to help support his hometown.

I was sent to Detroit to meet with the people who struggle the most during the holidays, to see the places where they seek comfort and to capture the spirit of the locals who reach beyond their own troubles to help out others.

China’s deserted fake Disneyland

By David Gray

Along the road to one of China’s most famous tourist landmarks – the Great Wall of China – sits what could potentially have been another such tourist destination, but now stands as an example of modern-day China and the problems facing it.

Situated on an area of around 100 acres, and 45 minutes drive from the center of Beijing, are the ruins of ‘Wonderland’. Construction stopped more than a decade ago, with developers promoting it as ‘the largest amusement park in Asia’. Funds were withdrawn due to disagreements over property prices with the local government and farmers. So what is left are the skeletal remains of a palace, a castle, and the steel beams of what could have been an indoor playground in the middle of a corn field.

Pulling off the expressway and into the car park, I expected to be stopped by the usual confrontational security guards. But there was absolutely no one to be seen. I walked through one of the few entrances not boarded up, and instantly started coughing. In front of me were large empty rooms and discarded furniture, all covered in a thick layer of dust, along with an eerie silence that gave the place a haunted feeling – an emotion not normally associated with a children’s playground.

Greece’s new army of the homeless

By Yiorgos Karahalis

Ragged clothes, small piles of belongings and a bleak future, Greece’s new army of homeless have swelled in numbers since the debt crisis hit the country.

As part of ideas to highlight the story that has dominated headlines for the past two years, I wanted to illustrate the emerging problem of homelessness in a country which has seen a rise in the number of homeless by 20-25 percent in the last two years alone – a staggering rise in a country where adult children live with their parents, in some cases until the day they get married, and pensions traditionally go to support young families.

Athens is the country’s largest city with an estimated population of five million and where the homeless problem is much more visible than anywhere else. Even its city center, a top tourist spot, sees dozens of homeless people having made building entrances and shop fronts their new home. Sleeping bags and cardboard boxes piled against walls, a few shopping bags of clothes and food their only belongings.
Homelessness has now permeated all genders, races, ethnic backgrounds and social classes.