Photographers' Blog

Operating on an implant scandal


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.”

Following two hours of waiting, the doctor saw me and asked for details on my project. I explained that because of his statements on the breast implant health issue, I would like to see the implants and make images of their removal. Again, to my surprise, the doctor availed himself and showed me the only box of PIP implants that he had and the defective implants that he had removed from a patient.

Boucq told me that he would contact me the following week; the week of Christmas that I had planned my vacation for…

A photo blog without photos

By Desmond Boylan

Absolutely no choice. This photography blog post has no pictures. (Part 1)

I was recently driving towards Havana on a small, quiet country road in central Cuba. As I came onto a long stretch there was a truck moving slowly ahead of me in my lane, that suddenly stopped on the right side. I approached slowly knowing that in Cuba there are big potholes, very scarce and slow moving traffic, and cows, horses, hens and even children crossing the roads at any time, always without looking.

I put on the indicator to overtake the truck, but I noticed there was some unusual movement off to the right among some people beside some small country homes.

What happened next was an extremely intense situation.

I suddenly saw two women, one of whom was holding a newborn baby still attached to the other by the umbilical cord, and both were yelling for help. I will never forget the expression on their faces. They had tried to climb into the truck cabin but were unable to. They looked at me, screaming for help. Before I could stop the car completely, the three passengers in the back seat of my car had already jumped out and helped in the mother of the child, followed by the other woman holding the baby. The woman holding the baby turned out to be the other’s mother, so I now had three generations of a family in crisis in my backseat. Dangling between them was the umbilical cord with the baby turning purple. I am not a doctor but common sense told me that there was no time at all to lose. I put the car in first gear and before the doors were closed I accelerated down the road blowing the horn and flashing the headlights continuously. I reached 120 kilometers per hour in a few seconds, and kept it there.

Flies and politics

It took villagers in Guatemala’s El Aguacate 25 years of living with clouds of flies on the streets, in their homes, on their faces and on their food, before they decided to act. According to them, the source is the Rosanda 2 chicken farm that began to operate in the entrance to their village the same year the flies appeared. After just my first hour in the village, I too was repulsed by the sensation of the hundreds of flies that crashed into me.

Residents speak with rage and impotence of the flies, which they blame for sickness and even death. Even to a casual visitor it quickly becomes incomprehensible how economic interests supersede the health of a population, and how it’s easier to accept rising infant mortality rather than enforce basic sanitary rules on the farm. It’s especially puzzling now during election season when at each political rally and written on each street poster are promises of improvements for society.

It was a radio news story about a group of armed men standing guard at the entrance to the village that brought me to El Aguacate for the first time. My first photo was probably my favorite of all I had taken in the few weeks since moving to the country; a man who looked both surprised and ashamed wore an old clown’s mask and thick gloves, while patrolling with a rusty shotgun.

Venezuela’s healthy city

One of the daily activities I enjoy most is arriving home in the evening after a long shift at the office, grabbing my iPod and going out running. It makes me feel good, keeps me active, and more important still, it banishes all of the stress of the day.

But I don’t like running in a park or some other quiet place, much less shutting myself away in a gym to jog on a machine, which bores me very quickly.

What I love to do is run through the city, through the streets, without worrying about the traffic, skipping around pedestrians on the sidewalks. I always thought I was a bit crazy because of that, and then a friend told me about a big group of people who don’t just run in the streets, but they do it in packs at night. So I decided to document them.

Capturing souls

From the very first photograph I took of the Kayapo tribe in the Brazilian Amazon, I knew it would be a difficult nine days. They were nine days during which doctors and nurses from the humanitarian Health Expeditions carried out more than one thousand medical exams and dozens of operations on a people known for their qualities as warriors, strong and suspicious of outsiders. Few of the Kayapos understood that they were receiving aid in their benefit, for which nobody would charge them.

The field hospital was in a school annexed to the village, and on my first stroll toward their houses a mother asked for a gift in exchange for the photo I had just taken of her son. As she spoke to me in her language, translated by a man who happened to be walking past. Later I learned that even the native women who do speak Portuguese will not use that foreign tongue if their husbands are not with them.

Absolutely decided not to negotiate or “buy” their permission to photograph, I just shrugged off her demand saying that I understood. I continued on my way, only to run into her again in a short time. During the first hours there I found it impossible to recognize anyone who I had already met earlier, and suddenly I found the same woman confronting me with a “bill” for each picture I took of her, her son or any of her other children. She was aggressive and I had no resource other than to show her my ignorance of the language, even though she repeated in Portuguese, “Money, must pay.”

Catching gold fever

For the past 15 years Boonchu Tiengtan has been digging for gold in Panompa, a small village in Thailand’s Phichit province. His bare hands, a hammer and a shovel are his only tools.

Boonchu Tiengtan carries a load of stones to break at a primitive gold mine in Panompa near Phichin February 17, 2011.  REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Boonchy’s spouse sits in the shade of netting and patiently breaks rock into small stones with her little mallet. They seem to be a happy couple, laughing and joking when talking about what they do. We call it a hard job and primitive gold digging; they call it the only life they know.

A woman breaks stones at a primitive gold mine in Panompa near Phichin February 17, 2011.  REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

With gold prices skyrocketing and investors finding safe haven in precious metal, Boonchu and his wife make $30 dollars a day. That is more than what an average rural Thai family makes in the agriculture industry or with livestock.

In this together: A recipe for survival

In the weeks after the mass shooting in Arizona in early January, the question in newsrooms and kitchens alike was: How long would it take Gabrielle Giffords to recover and could she ever hope to return to work in the U.S. Congress?

Never mind that she had survived a gunshot to her head at point blank range, we still wanted to know: How long? Six to nine months? Eight to 10 weeks? Years?

These were the same questions asked during my own medical crisis some 20 years earlier. I remember waking up in an emergency room and hearing talk of seizures (seven) and a brain tumor. Subsequent MRI & CT scans would confirm a tennis ball-sized mass.

How did the Haiti earthquake affect you?


A year after the Haiti earthquake killed about 250,000 people and left more than a million homeless, a major multimedia documentary by Thomson Reuters Foundation takes viewers to the streets and tent cities of the shattered capital.

From the homeless schoolgirl who studies science by candlelight to the doctor who built a makeshift operating theatre in the ruins of a hospital, One Day in Port-au-Prince tells stories of resilience, ingenuity and courage.

We’d like to add the experience of Reuters readers. Perhaps you were directly involved, or maybe someone you know. Perhaps the catastrophe moved you to respond in a special way.

AIDS: Wat Prabat Nampu temple, Thailand

Photographer Damir Sagolj presents a multimedia look at a hospice for those dying of AIDS at a Buddhist temple Wat Prabat Nampu in Lopburi, Thailand.

Alzheimer’s disease: A subject close to home

Who, in the world of photography in Reuters, doesn’t know someone suffering from Alzheimer’s disease? Who doesn’t know and feel the suffering of their closest relatives when they are facing this disease? It must be even more difficult for the eldest, who are used to seeing people suffering from cancer or strokes but do not understand this disease, and start to panic.

Recently, I made contact with the Portuguese Alzheimer Association to talk with them about the disease. A week after I contacted them I met with two women, Brazilian therapist Claudia Zolini and Portuguese therapist Margarida Matos. I started talking to them about my personal experience with this disease, telling them how my godmother, who died in March, suffered from Alzheimer’s. I told them how, when the first signs of her disease showed up years ago, I would laugh at her little mistakes – until the moment came when I had to face the real evidence of this illness, that I could not fully understand. I told them that suddenly I had to become a psychologist for my mother, who by then was in a panic, fearing that she would also suffer from Alzheimer’s. She could understand many different types of diseases but not this one. She suffered in a way that only she can tell.

After recounting my story, the two aid workers told me they would help in any way they could. My godmother had an income, and with the assistance of the estate she could afford to be in a facility where she was helped. But I wanted to know what happens to low income families, who cannot afford to send their relatives to nursing homes. I felt that would create a bigger impact. The aid workers asked me: What do you mean bigger impact? I answered, the bigger the impact for me and the bigger it will be for society. They kept asking questions, in particular, if the photos would be used in the right way by the newspapers. I stayed silent after this question. I then answered, if they don’t use it wisely, they are not human.

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