Photographers' Blog

Fresh food on Paris rooftops

Paris, France

By Philippe Wojazer

Have you ever eaten vegetables grown in central Paris? I have.

“What about growing some carrots in our house’s courtyard or radishes on the balcony?” asked one of my daughters. She said she had heard engineer Nicolas Bel’s interview on the subject. So I called him. As with all those with passions, he could speak about his studies for hours and make you suddenly feel part of it.

“Many Parisians who have a flat roof or a large balcony are thinking to produce their own vegetables. There are many technical constraints to build a rooftop vegetable garden such as weight, depth for the substrate (a minimum of 20 centimeters), wind, sun, water. We are now at the live study stage. We want to be able to build a vegetable garden capable of self-sufficient production. We are recuperating biological waste from people, companies and are growing vegetable in trays. We are testing different combinations, all with no fertilizers or any kind of chemicals. Our fertilizers are produced by worms. The project is: Are we able to grow vegetables on a base of organic waste we can find in urban and peri-urban environments such as wood, compost or cardboard,” Bel explained. “My dream is to have a rooftop garden capable on being financially sufficient. I even work with a chef who is growing some vegetables he uses in his kitchen on the rooftop of his restaurant”. “We are conducting pollution tests on our production and the results are really good”, added Bel, who is in charge of the roof of the AgroParistech institute in Paris and is the founder of Topager company where he uses his knowledge to install rooftop vegetable gardens in schools, restaurants, companies and individuals.

That was my link between this new bio-city agriculture and a story to tell.

So we went in the early morning to the 6th floor of the Mutualite building in central Paris to meet Sibylle, a bio-agronomy student who is in charge of this vegetable garden. She was collecting yellow zucchinis from Orgeval, beans, parsley and chives to give to chef Eric Castandet who cooks in the “Terroir Parisien” on the ground-floor of the same building. Today’s special was: Stuffed yellow zucchinis. Sous-chef Nicolas Bouchard started cutting the zucchinis and the rest of vegetables to prepare the recipe. At noon, the restaurant opened. Thirty reservations to start and after an hour, the daily specials were gone. Castandet had put one aside for me and said I had to leave my cameras in the kitchen and taste his cooking. Resisting would have been impossible. The zucchinis were absolutely delicious. Chef Castandet told me that the taste of the tomatoes he grows, like all the vegetables on his roof top, with no chemicals is incomparable to what you could find elsewhere. After the bees on the rooftop of the famous Tour d’Argent restaurant, sheep in a green space owned by the French capital archives service, what will the future hold and what will be the impact of this phenomenon of urban agriculture in France? Is it just a trend or a new way to learn about food production?

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”.

The old Cannes clapper-board

Cannes, France

By Eric Gaillard

In 1987, I covered my fifth Cannes Film Festival. I really wanted to find THE original and exclusive photo to announce its opening.

“The cinema Clap” – An idea which became evidence: Take a photo of the President of the Jury holding a cinema clap. The show begins for another 12-day festival.

At that moment I could not imagine the work and the stress behind this challenge and how far I would have to fight to succeed. Anyway, it was the start of an exciting experience, that I’ve continued every year since.

Finding the face of France’s unemployed

Florange, France

By Vincent Kessler

The name “Valley of the Angels” is derived from the last four-letters, “ange” meaning “angel” in English, which is found in the names of many cities in the Lorraine valley of northeastern France. This valley, also known as Fensch Valley for the river which flows through it, was long home to forges and steelmaking which grew out of the mining of iron ore. The mines and steel foundries forged the culture of a people and the landscape they live in.

The decline of this industry started at the end of the seventies with major social conflicts and demonstrations in other nearby valleys in the region, also involved with the steel industry. For 20 years now the valley has faced closures of industrial sites, mines, furnaces, all contrary to the steel tradition of the region. When I headed there last week, I first photographed the imprint of the past and present on the valley. And like anybody, I was initially taken by the kind of “gloomy” atmosphere you will find in any industrial area.

But the interest was also to try to go further in finding people and testimony about the past, and how it exists with the valley today. As a starting point I contacted trade union representatives and steel workers I knew from coverage of demonstrations and strikes in the region for 20 years, and especially during the last 20 months of social conflict at the Florange-Hayange and ArcelorMittal sites, the last two blast furnaces in the valley.

The German-French friendship

Near Weisskessel, Germany

By Fabrizio Bensch

Photos of significant gestures between two politicians often mirror the state of the relations between the two countries – and become part of our collective consciousness. As a photojournalist, I am often witness to politicians shaking hands or embracing as part of major engagements. Often it’s daily routine.


REUTERS/Bundesregierung/Guido Bergmann/Pool

However, these days if a German chancellor and a French president reach out for one another, this signifies an important development in international relations – and is a very significant symbol for a united Europe. Historically, relations were dominated by wars – for the generation of our grandfathers and grandmothers, seeing the other country as “the enemy” rather than a neighbor was a defining political and cultural force, which molded everyday actions and experiences.

At the borders where battles used to be fought, we can now pass through freely without immigration control and without having to switch currency. Rather than having francs and Deutsche Marks, French and Germans now both use the Euro. Trade is closely linked. When going shopping in a standard German supermarket, it’s possible to choose from baguettes, different French wines and a large selection of cheeses among other things. It is part of our normality; our everyday.

Mali’s war: Far from over

Across Mali

By Joe Penney

Since French troops first arrived in Mali on January 11, 2013, I have spent all but one week of 2013 covering the conflict there. The first three weeks were probably the most intense I have ever worked in my life, and at times, the most frustrating. French troops hit the ground at a pace which far outstripped most journalists’ ability to cover events, and media restrictions forced journalists to focus on something other than fighting.

GALLERY: IMAGING MALI

Many other journalists have lamented the stringent media restrictions, which at a certain point meant that when the French and Malian took control of Gao, most of the journalists were blocked at a Malian army checkpoint in Sevare, more than 600km (370 miles) southwest. But after the initial push resulting in the seizure of nearly all of Mali’s territory, the jihadist groups opted for a more insurgent-like approach, targeting the Malian army with suicide bombs and surprise attacks in Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal.

It is clear that this war is not like many others. After a month of complaining that we were not given access to the frontline, on one of the first few days I arrived in Gao, the frontline came to us. We had heard lots of gunfire throughout the night and then in the morning, Malian and French forces engaged in a day-long street battle with jihadists who had taken control of several key administrative buildings downtown. The attack on Gao and other attacks, like Thursday’s in Timbuktu, show that the danger in this war is that it can erupt at any time, in any place.

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.

Would you stand on this ridge? Gabrielle Giffords did

By Denis Balibouse

Would you stand on this ridge?

(Excuse the uneven horizon, it is due to my legs shaking when I took the picture)

A few weeks ago I received an invitation for two conferences from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva from the six astronauts who flew the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s last mission in May 2011, which delivered the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station. According to CERN’s website this is “an experiment to search in space for dark matter, missing matter and antimatter on the international space station.”

Sometimes the hardest part of a job is to find the news hook, so for this invitation I turned to my journalist colleagues in Geneva. Tom Miles, our Chief Correspondent in Geneva helpfully pointed out that the mission commander was Mark Kelly and that his wife, former U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who survived an attempted assassination in Tucson, Arizona on 8 January 2011, was coming along.

Front row at the Sarkozy show

By Philippe Wojazer

April 31, 2012
The day before French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s last big political meeting.

During a rally one month earlier I had the idea to place a go-pro camera on a television arm to capture general views of Paris’s place de la Concorde. I went to the TV production team to ask if I could hang the small camera under their camera without disturbing their images. The problem is that if you put something on the end of their arm, you need to add some weight to the other end so it is balanced and can “fly” over the crowd. Balancing weight can be long work. The team were really helpful and at the end of the day, I had my go-pro camera fixed up-there.

When I returned the next morning they explained that a rescue helicopter had to land near the arm and that all the adjustments had to be redone. We also needed to clean the camera as it was covered with dust from the helicopter. It took us an hour to re-balance, clean and check the go-pro settings (timed to take a picture every 10 seconds). I explained to the technician how to start the camera. Later, when I was among the crowd, I tried to see if the little red light was blinking every 10 seconds. I wasn’t sure it had worked until I got the camera back and saw it had taken more than 1500 pictures.

Operating on an implant scandal

WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES THAT CONTAIN NUDITY

By Eric Gaillard

The PIP breast implant scandal or how a French news story became a global health problem.

During a recent daily news briefing, I learned from a Paris-based editor that a plastic surgeon in Nice named Dr. Denis Boucq had decided to remove breast implants manufactured by a French company called Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) as a precaution.

After some research, I found the surgeon’s contact details. I thought to myself that with such a busy schedule, he would be unlikely to give me an immediate appointment. I took a chance and to my surprise his secretary told me “Come in 30 minutes. He will see you between two patients.”

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