Photographers' Blog

A convert to Islam

By Danish Siddiqui

London to me, as a photographer, is a uniquely diverse place to capture on camera in terms of its people and their stories. It amalgamates a lot of complexities that make for compelling narratives.

A couple months back I went to London from Mumbai as part of a short assignment, to get some experience out of my usual domain. I worked closely with the Reuters UK team and specifically Andrew Winning on the production of a multimedia piece that would tell the story of young Muslim converts in London.

In an age where there is a lot of skepticism around Islam, empirical evidence has proved otherwise. A study, for instance, has suggested that more than 100,000 people converted to Islam in the last decade. London is one such melting pot. And the city made for an interesting background to follow the life of one such convert.

But it wasn’t easygoing from the start. People in London aren’t that forthcoming, especially if there is a camera involved. The contacts that Andrew had lined up for me backed out without warning. Upon landing in London, I’d have to start all over again.

After a few days of futile negotiations and making new contacts, I met Jason Thomas, a Muslim convert re-christened Hussain Thomas. Raised by a single parent and subjected to a rough teen life, Hussain joined a gang at a very young age and was involved in robberies, drugs, etc. Due to this, he spent the next few years of his life in and out of court probation, community service, police stations and jail.

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3

By Eddie Keogh

The world now is a very different place to the one that held the Ancient Olympic Games which only lasted for one day. In those days only men could compete and only unmarried women could watch. It was rumored that women would dress up like men in order to get in, but that sounds a little Pythonesque….

The greatest show on earth is due to take place this summer in London. For a London boy who has photographed sport for the past 30 years, having the Olympics here is very special. It won’t be my first, that was in Los Angeles. As a 21 year old kid working for a London news agency, I can still remember my jaw dropping when I was asked to go. My hair is a little greyer now, but I still have the photography bug and was looking forward to covering the Olympic test events.

Now it’s a very serious business. The stadiums and venues are ready and the testing is now in full flow. As a photographer working for Reuters in Britain we shoot a lot of Premier League football, so to have the opportunity to shoot some different sports is challenging but really interesting. We need to get the right balance on each job, from nailing an important moment that tells the story of the day to shooting some pretty or unusual angles. Sometimes I get it good and other times I get it better. (Ok, I’ve missed a few, just don’t tell the boss.)

NFL touchdown in London

By Suzanne Plunkett

British sports fans are a serious bunch. When it comes to football (they never call it soccer), many would rather lose their home than miss their team score a winning goal. Club allegiance is often demonstrated with tribal passion – influencing tattoos, clothing and even choice of marital partners.

When American football makes a rare appearance in London, it’s somewhat of a surprise to see the seriousness of the sport replaced with a more frivolous obsession: cheerleaders.

That’s not to say British fans have no interest in the sport. When the Chicago Bears took on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a showcase game at Wembley Stadium in October, I spoke to plenty of Brits among the American expats paying homage to their national sport. Many professed as much fanaticism as the American supporters who had traveled from the States specifically to see their team.

From Downing St. to the White House… and back

It’s cold, it’s very dark and oh…. of course it’s raining. I have no idea if or when I will actually see the Prime Minister after standing here for hours.

That’s my enduring memory from 10 years (1989-1999) of covering Downing St. as a photographer for Reuters. I still tell people that Downing St. is the coldest place on Earth, no matter what month it may be!

Twelve years later, I walked up Downing St. as a veteran of the White House Press Corps for Reuters, and things were very different indeed. The sky was blue, the air was dry and warm and sunshine washed in from Whitehall. This couldn’t be the same place where I regularly photographed Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair all those years ago.

The view from inside the Abbey

There were probably more than a billion people who would’ve loved to have been inside Westminster Abbey to see Prince William marry Kate Middleton and to soak up the glamor of what was, for a day, the world’s biggest news story.

I was lucky enough to be assigned a position inside the abbey, but though I got to witness the spectacle through a camera lens, my experience was less about pomp and pageantry and more about perils and pratfalls.

With the congregation dolled up to the nines, even the photographers were expected to smarten up. Abbey staff told us to wear “a suit and tie or female equivalent”. Dressed accordingly in my smartest jacket and skirt, I felt the part – right up until I saw the ladders.

Final preparations for the big day

The guest list was finalized weeks ago and the invitations sent out. For the lucky ones their presence was requested, nobody refused.

There was no fancily decorated envelope from the lord chancellors office landing on our doormat, but an email from the UK chief photographer asking you to be part of the Reuters team to shoot William and Kate’s wedding is an invitation you don’t turn down.

It’s like any other wedding in many respects; you worry about what to wear. How do you keep dry and warm whilst dressing for a wedding? Not as easy task.

Snowed under

So what do you do when the TV and radio news are all telling you not to travel, and then you receive a group SMS from your company saying stay at home?

Well it’s the worse snow storm to hit London in 18 years and all you want to do is get out there and shoot it.

I get to my car and as I am wiping the snow off it I look up at the window and see my kids looking at more snow than they have seen in their lives. I watch their little faces light up as it dawns on them that all this snow means only one thing — NO SCHOOL. Now let’s face it, that’s just about as good as it gets.

A picture is worth another thousand words…

A short while back I collated a few choice quotations and sayings on photography and the picture-taking process: ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’.

I think various gems were omitted first-time round, so here are a few more:

“There are few professions where even when you are right at the top and a household name, you might still be standing on a draughty street corner with your feet getting wet and cold, waiting for something to happen.” (Philip Jones Griffiths)

rtx87y7.jpg

Above – A British Airways aircraft taxis past BA tail-fins at Heathrow Airport, west London. Photograph by Toby Melville

Mind your head!

Among my first photo assignments when I moved to London from Rome in 2006 were the most popular horse race meetings of the British summer. The Epsom Festival and Royal Ascot turned out to be High Society galas and a rendevous for betting maniacs rather than just straighforward sporting events. Still today all the funny hats amuse me and make me believe that cultural differences can be a powerful source of inspiration.

In all probability I would never wear one of those huge and colourful hats, but nevertheless I wouldn’t judge them immoral or socially corrupting. Then, yesterday, some pictures from a stringer in Tehran really shook me up and gave me goosebumps.

All4pix

‘Morality Police’ detain a man with unacceptable hair and clothing styles during a crackdown on “social corruption” in north Tehran. 

Strange… what us?

Ivy

On first impression it’s enough to put a nesting Robin off its stride for good and liable to bring other garden creepers into disrepute - but it’s just the English celebrating Spring.

The caption to Toby Melville’s picture informs us, “A costumed festival participant marches in the Jack In The Green procession in Hastings in southern England May 5, 2008. The traditional annual May Day festival has origins at least as far back as the 17th century, with hundreds of costume-clad dancers and musicians – many dressed in green foliage – marching through the coastal town and symbolically slaying a giant Jack at the finale.”.

Some are more ‘out’ than others.

strange 

Elsewhere other revellers cover themselves in the remains of dead animals and