Photographers' Blog

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A week in Pictures 7 November 2010

A continual struggle with writing this blog is trying to keep it picture led and not wander off into the top stories from the week that may not have produced the best pictures. This week in Asia we have seen the arrival of U.S President Obama in India, U.S Secretary of State Hilary Clinton doing the rounds, the first election in Myanmar for 20 years (no prizes as to who will win though) not one, but two Qantas jets getting into engine difficulty, the continuing tensions between Japan and China, the failed bid by BHP Billiton to take over of Potash, currency woes as we prepare for G20 in Seoul later this week and let's not forget Afghanistan and bombs in Pakistan. So where to start?  Mick Tsikas produced my favourite picture of the week, a fan at the Melbourne Cup; one can only admire the oral control it takes to shout in celebration while holding firmly onto a lit cigarette.  I thought this was a skill that died out with the passing of Humphrey Bogart.

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A race-goer cheers as jockey Gerald Mosse of France rides Americain to victory in the Melbourne Cup at the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne November 2, 2010. REUTERS/Mick Tsikas

In Indonesia the stark realities of living in the shadow of an erupting volcano continue to be brought home by Beawiharta. Try as I might I could not edit out any of these four pictures.  So with cries of "overfile ovefile" ringing in my ears I will shamelessly re-publish.  Wearing a hat to protect yourself from the hundreds of tonnes of hot ash raining down, you've been made homeless and the air is filled with dust and smoke - what do you do? Light up - a perfect moment caught as life stoically goes on. The strong diagonal lines and planes of tone in perfect monochromatic harmony.

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A man smokes a cigarette in front of temporary shelter in Jumoyo village in the city of Magelang as Mount Merapi volcano erupts November 4, 2010. Mount Merapi has killed at least 39 people since it began erupting on October 26. Over 74 have been injured and more than 70,000 people have been evacuated, according to Indonesia's National Disaster Management Board on Wednesday.  REUTERS/Beawiharta

Aditia Surya's brutal image of the twisted ash covered bodies of the victims brings home the speed and destructive power that the eruption of Mount Merapi has brought to Indonesia. To counter this brutality are two images of the beauty by Beawiharta; the angelic figure walking through a camp set up for those made homeless by the eruption and the sheer might of natures forces as Merapi erupts surrounded by lightening strikes.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures 31 October 2010

In terms of the Ring of Fire, Indonesia had just been too quiet. Warnings that Mount Merapi, which towers above the outskirts of Yogyakarta city on Java island, was about to erupt, were heeded by some and ignored by many. On Monday, a 7.5 magnitude quake triggered a tsunami that hit the remote western Mentawai islands killing at least 343.  A day later, Mount Merapi erupted, killing at least 34.  It took almost three days for Jakarta based photographer Crack Palinggi to reach the scene of the devastation caused by the tsunami. Beawiharta was quicker to scene of the volcano; needless to say it's always worth standing well back when people are evacuating from an erupting volcano.  Bea's picture screams panic, heat and noise of those fleeing as hot ash falls to earth, the drama amplified by the flash blur technique used.  It is in complete contrast to the picture taken a day later of sombre near silence as rescue workers crunch through the muffled ashen landscape like newly fallen snow.

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 A woman covers her baby as she runs from ash falling from an erupting volcano at Kaliurang village in Sleman, near Indonesia's ancient city of Yogyakarta, October 26, 2010. Mount Merapi erupted on Tuesday, prompting terrified villagers to flee and join the thousands already evacuated from its slopes, witnesses said.  REUTERS/Beawiharta

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Volunteers carry the bodies of those who died after Mount Merapi erupted, at Kinarrejo village in Sleman, near the ancient city of Yogyakarta, October 27, 2010. One of Indonesia's most dangerous volcanoes has killed at least 15 people since it began erupting, forcing thousands to flee mountain villages and blanketing nearby villages and towns in ash, witnesses said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Beawiharta

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures August 15, 2010

Flooding and mudslides have again dominated the week's coverage in Asia. Reports that one fifth of Pakistan is now under water and over 20 million have been affected by the rising waters. In the northwestern Chinese province of Gansu over a 1000 people lost their lives as a mudslide swept through the town of Zhouqu. It is easy to become visually tired looking at images of people wading waist deep in flood water or seeing another image of a relative weeping for a loved one. In the pictures below even the most jaded eyes and souls must feel the passion of the pictures as photographers tell the story and bring home the desperation of their subject's plight.

Adrees Latif, chief photographer Pakistan, captures a moment that if it wasn't so sad would almost be funny. People, whose lives have been shattered by flooding, loss of their homes, hunger and the risk of disease suffer the final humiliation as a relief truck sweeps by driving water over their heads, the driver oblivious of the scene. In another picture  in a  camp for the displaced  Karachi based photographer Akhtar Soomro photographs a boy sitting in isolation who hurriedly eats, his eyes glaring out of the image as he keeps guard in case someone, imagined or real, tries to steal his food.

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Residents being evacuated through flood waters dodge an army truck carrying relief supplies for flood victims in Pakistan's Muzaffargarh district in Punjab province August 11, 2010. The floods have ploughed a swathe of destruction more than 1,000 km (600 miles) long from northern Pakistan to the south, killing more than 1,600 people.   REUTERS/Adrees Latif

An aerial view of Sumatra Island

I joined a Greenpeace tour flying over Sumatra Island to take pictures of their protest over forest destruction.

Five photographers and a TV cameraman set off early in the morning, while it was still dark, in a new, single-propeller aircraft. No one told me it would be nearly three hours to get to Jambi on a small plane with no toilet. Luckily for me I had an empty bottle as an emergency measure.

This was the first time I’ve taken aerial shots, so I took so many types of pictures. I took every single detail that caught my eye — forest, reflected light from the sun during sunrise, palm oil plantations, river, sea,  houses, everything.  When we started to take pictures, all five photographers jostled around one opened window. The wind blew very hard, pushing the glass against my face. After one hour, one of the other photographers gave up, and had to take a rest after throwing up all his breakfast. That made me happy – more room for me to take pictures.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A week in pictures

Rarely do so many big stories of global interest happen at the same time from one region but last week in Asia its been incredible.

Soldiers and aid workers struggled to reach at least a million people cut off by landslides that have complicated relief efforts after the worst floods in Pakistan in 80 years. Poor weather has grounded relief helicopters and more rain was expected to compound the misery of more than 13 million people . The floods have killed more than 1,600 people. 

PAKISTAN-FLOODS/

Marooned flood victims looking to escape grab the side bars of a hovering Army helicopter which arrived to distribute food supplies in the Muzaffargarh district of Pakistan's Punjab province August 7, 2010. Pakistanis desperate to get out of flooded villages threw themselves at helicopters on Saturday as more heavy rain was expected to intensify both suffering and anger with the government. The disaster killed more than 1,600 people and disrupted the lives of 12 million.  REUTERS/Adrees Latif

from Russell Boyce:

Don’t drink the water, even if there is any to drink (Update)

One more picture that caught my eye during the 24 hours news cycle for the World Water Day is the image of hundreds of hoses providing drinking water to  residents of a housing block in Jakarta.  The grubby plastic pipes supplying a fragile lifeline to families seem to represent the desperation that people face when the water supply is cut off.

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Hoses used to supply residences with water are seen hanging across a street at the Penjaringan subdistrict in Jakarta March 22, 2010. Residents in the area say that they have had to construct makeshift water supplies for their homes by attaching hoses to pumps bought with their own money, as the government has yet to repair the original water supply which was damaged. March 22 is World Water Day.     REUTERS/Beawiharta

Today, March 22 is World Water Day and Reuters photographers in Asia were given an open brief to shoot feature pictures to illustrate it.  The only requirement I asked of them is that they included in the captions, the fact that while the Earth is literally covered in water, more than a billion people lack access to clean water for drinking or sanitation. At the same time in China 50 million people are facing drought conditions and water shortages and the two stories seemed to tie in with one another.

from Russell Boyce:

Demonstrating in Indonesia – Don’t forget your tooth brush

 It's a big day in Jakarta. The parliamentary committee that has been investigating a bank bailout for months is due to present its findings, so that members of parliament can decide the fate of two of Indonesia's top reformers, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati and Vice President Boediono regarding their decision to bailout small lender Bank Century. So you decide to protest at the gates of Parliament. You need to be prepared, you need to be equipped. You will face riot police, baton charges, razor wire, water canon and thrown bricks and bottles and tear gas. What will you decide to take? Packed into your bag will be a banner (with additional pole that acts as a lance), a helmet to protect your head from projectiles, of course political motivation............and don't forget your toothbrush.

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A student pretends to brush his teeth as police use water cannons to disperse protesters outside the parliament building in Jakarta  March 2, 2010, where the parliamentary inquiry committee's recommendations over the Bank Century rescue is being held. A parliamentary probe failed on Tuesday to resolve bitter divisions over the fate of Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati and Vice President Boedino, two key pro-market lawmakers in Indonesia's cabinet, signalling conflict over economic reform would continue.  REUTERS/Beawiharta

 What would you take to ensure that your voice was heard at a demonstration and that you catch the eye of soaked Reuters staff photographer Bea?

Reliving the tsunami

Today I returned to Aceh, determined to take pictures of the same locations my team and I had photographed five years ago, when the capital Banda Aceh was completely devastated by a tsunami. At the time, I was with two Reuters journalists from the Jakarta bureau.

We landed at Aceh’s Sultan Iskandar Muda airport on December 27, 2004 – one day after the giant waves paralyzed the city, previously unaware of what a tsunami could do to a city. Information from Banda Aceh in the first few days after the disaster was very limited. It dawned on us later that the lack of news from Banda Aceh was because all of the communication facilities had been damaged.

The airport was oddly quiet. A few wounded victims were waiting for flights to take them out of Aceh. The car park was empty and we couldn’t find cars or taxis. We spotted an ambulance parked outside, so we asked the driver to take us to the city.

Sheltering mental patients

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At an Indonesian center for mental patients run by the Galuh Foundation, I found Totok.  A patient who had just taken his morning shower and shaved. Totok used to be a thug in a market, and was feared for his habit of beating up vendors. One day, the vendors’ anger peaked and they beat Totok  up, leaving him with physical injuries and mental damage.

I read about the foundation in a local newspaper, in an article about a wedding between a  female patient and an employee of the foundation. The foundation was set up in 1982 by Gendu Mulatif in Bekasi, on the outskirts of Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta. Mulatif used his money to build a compound to take care of homeless patients who had been taken in from the streets. Once admitted, he treated them with medicinal herbals and changed their diet to vegetarian.

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Head nurse Suharyono (L) and Suharyoso (R) bring in a man suffering from mental illness (C) shortly after finding him at a street in East Bekasi, outskirt of Jakarta November 5, 2009.  REUTERS/Beawiharta

How the earthquake in Sumatra affected me

Write a personal blog on an earthquake where thousands have been killed. Spot the contradiction there… but here goes – how the earthquake in Sumatra affected me.

So usual drill (1) Get a call. (2) Pack my bags, too much, too little, unpack, repack – I know I’m missing something. (3) catch a flight – London, Doha, Kuala Lumpur, Padang. (4) Take pictures. (5) Transmit pictures. (6) Repeat (4) and (5).

Directly from the airport I go to the local earthquake-damaged hospital. I see a grandmother comforting the bravest nine-year-old girl suffering from two broken legs. She reminds me of another brave little girl, my eldest daughter, 10 years old. Heartbreaking.