Photographers' Blog

Remembering Verdun

Verdun, France

By Charles Platiau

Verdun was the site of one of World War I’s bloodiest battles. Hundreds of thousands of French and German soldiers lost their lives in this north-eastern corner of France, where fighting raged for months in 1916.

Yesterday’s enemies are now united on the battleground. Members of French and German historical associations, all keenly interested in the First World War and all passionate about historical re-enactments, gather in Verdun every year to take part in a commemorative march.

One sunny Saturday in March, I joined up with four historical associations who took part in the event: “Le Poilu de la Marne” – from France, and “Darstellungsgruppe Suddeutches Militar”, “IG 18” and “Verein Historische Uniformen”- from Germany.

The French wore the uniforms of “Poilus” as French infantrymen in the First World War were nicknamed. The Germans wore the famous spiked helmet of the old German army. After laying a wreath in the village of Bezonvaux – one of nine villages that were completely wiped out by the fighting at Verdun – they took part in a 9 mile walk to visit the battlefield.

The Germans set out at a quick pace, as if in a race to impress the French, but as the miles wore on the two groups combined. The heat of the day took its toll and some individuals had to be helped to arrive at Fort de Vaux, their final destination.

The ghost villages of Verdun

Verdun, France
By Vincent Kessler

The year 2014 brings together the past and the future for France. It is a time of local elections, and it is also the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.

The Battle of Verdun in northeastern France was the longest battle of the so-called Great War, lasting some ten months from February to December 1916. It was also one of the most murderous.


The WWI ossuary of Douaumont is seen in Douaumont near Verdun, Eastern France, March 4, 2014. The sentence reads : this tower was given to the great deads of Verdun by their friends from the US. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

After the 1870-71 war between France and Prussia, which ended with the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine by the Germans, Verdun was at the eastern edge of France. The city was fringed by hills – hills in which a network of forts was built to protect the border.

Faces of Romania’s past

Slobozia, Romania
By Bogdan Cristel

Romania is proud to have produced a man thought by many to be the world’s first war photographer – Carol Popp de Szathmary, from the city of Cluj, who took photographs of the Crimean War in the 1850s.

One of the most impressive people to have followed in his footsteps is Costica Acsinte, another Romanian who worked as a photographer during the First World War. Below is an image of his taken on the front line.

Although I don’t usually spend that much time on social networks, it was on Facebook that I first came across Acsinte’s works.

Reflecting on Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

By Gary Cameron

He arrived on the evening train from Washington, accompanied by two secretaries, three members of his Cabinet, and several foreign officials. During the train trip, he commented that he felt weak and dizzy. During the speech, it was noted that he face had ‘a ghastly color.’ After the speech, he boarded a train back to the nation’s capital and was feverish and had a bad headache. An extended illness continued, and the President appeared to be in the throes of smallpox when he delivered the Gettysburg Address at the Gettysburg National Cemetery dedication.

Throw in the fact that Abraham Lincoln, in November of 1863, was attempting to save and re-unite a nation in the middle of a Civil War, free a people who came to the U.S. shores in chains and committed to a life of servitude and bondage, dealing with the loss of his young son Willie in 1862, (of the three Lincoln children, only one survived in adulthood), and married to a woman who possessed incredible mood swings, a fierce temper, and depression.

If you look at an actual photograph of Abraham Lincoln in 1863 at age 54, the physical effects of the mental weight and strains he carried are quite evident. Deep set lines and creases, fatigue, and sadness cover his expression even with an attempt to look pleasant. The man easily looks fifteen years older than his actual age.

The last theater in town

Powell River, Canada

By Andy Clark

As far back as I can remember, history has always fascinated me. Though my specialty as an amateur historian has been military history, just about anything that occurred prior to my birth has had my undivided attention. Recently while having a coffee with a friend, he mentioned he had been to a town north of Vancouver called Powell River and had happened to visit a local movie theater. He went on to say matter of factly, that the theater had been continuously running since it was built many years ago.

“Stop right there,” I said. “Did you take any pictures of the place?” Yes, he had and he pulled out his laptop to show me.

Powell River is a small community on the British Columbia Sunshine Coast and accessible only by water. To get there requires about two hours travel by car and a couple of hours crossing on two different ferries from Vancouver. The town was born around 1910 after a pulp and paper mill was built beginning in 1908. At one time the Powell River Company Mill was the largest of its kind in the world supplying paper to one out of every 25 newspapers in the world. In 1913, a small wooden theater was built to offer the locals entertainment that included silent movies, vaudeville shows and even local boxing matches. The town’s people decided to have a naming contest for the theater leaving their suggestions in a ballot box at the company store. A very popular public figure in Canada at the time was Princess Patricia of Connaught, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Princess Patricia was living in Canada at the time while her father The Duke of Connaught served as Governor General in Ottawa, Canada’s capital. Thus, the new theater was named the Patricia.

The Arafat-Rabin handshake 20 years on

By Gary Hershorn

There I was on Saturday, September 11, 1993 waiting for the U.S. Open women’s tennis final to start in New York when I received a call from my manager at the time, Larry Rubenstein, that I had to return to Washington the following night as soon as the men’s final was finished to help cover what he said was a big event Monday morning. “There is going to be an historic handshake and you need to be there so just get back to DC,” he said.

Word had come that PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin were going to attend the signing of the Israeli-PLO peace accord with President Clinton on the back lawn of the White House. I was told to do whatever I needed to in order to get out of New York on Sunday night after the men’s final and be at the White House at dawn Monday morning.

It was a great honor to be told by my boss that I would be the Reuters photographer on the main camera platform in front of the stage where the signing was taking place but before that happened, I had two tennis finals to photograph and make sure I actually arrived back in Washington on Sunday night before I could allow myself to start thinking about how I wanted to capture the historic moment.

Riding the Moscow metro

Moscow, Russia

By Lucy Nicholson

London has the world’s oldest underground rail system; Tokyo’s metro has employees to push people into packed trains; New York’s subway is an ethnic melting pot. Hidden beneath the streets of Moscow is something completely different. To step onto the Moscow metro is to step back in time and immerse yourself in a museum rich in architecture and history.

Opened in 1935, it is an extravagant gallery of Communist design, full of Soviet artworks, Art Deco styling, statues, chandeliers, marble columns and ceiling mosaics.

GALLERY: INSIDE THE METRO

Built under Stalin by some of the best Soviet artists and architects, the metro transports 7-9 million people a day, more than London and New York combined. It costs 30 Rubles, around $1, for a single ride. We were given metro passes with our credentials when we arrived to cover the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Moscow. On the first day, I caught the metro back to our hotel with a group of Reuters photographers, when we missed the last media bus.

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.

The game of the Eton elite

Eton, Britain

By Eddie Keogh

Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could step back in time? I know I never will but occasionally you come across a scene that has barely changed for hundreds of years. This was certainly the case when I visited Eton College this week to photograph the annual Eton Wall Game between The Collegers (scholarship holders) and The Oppidans (the fee paying pupils).

Sport doesn’t get more elite than this. It’s only played once a year, there is only one pitch of its kind in the world and you need to be a pupil at Eton College, one of the most exclusive public schools in the world. Bear in mind that this school has produced 19 British prime ministers including the present one, David Cameron. It’s highly possible that one of the boys in these pictures will enter Downing Street as Prime Minister one day.

The game has a long history here with the first recorded game taking place in 1766. It encompasses elements from both soccer and rugby, but the unusual bit is that it’s all played up against a brick wall 110 meters (yards) long and a pitch that is only 5 meters wide.

Guinea-Bissau: The weight of history

Gabu, Guinea-Bissau

By Joe Penney

When Guinea-Bissau is in the news, it’s almost always for the wrong reasons: coups d’état, assassinations, drug smuggling and extreme poverty.

Journalists like to cite the fact that since the tiny West African country switched to a multi-party system in 1995, no president has completed a full term. The country is often labeled a “narco-state” because of South American drug cartels using its islands and mainland as a waypoint for trafficking cocaine to Europe, even though its neighbors are dealing with the same problems.

But this reputation is rarely put into its historical context. After the Portuguese created what is modern-day Guinea-Bissau in 1890 when European powers divided the African continent at the Berlin Conference, they fought a 49-year-war of pacification against the local African communities resisting their rule.