Photographers' Blog

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.

During the First World War, the Germans wanted to make a massive attack on a target that had great historical significance for the French, and they thought that weakening France around Verdun could change the face of the war.

On February 21, 1916, they started the assault with a huge bombardment. A charity named “The Western Front Association” writes that during the initial stage of the Battle of Verdun, Germany fired more than a million shells.

Feeling the names of the fallen

Washington, D.C.

By Gary Cameron

There’s an old military adage, which seems to follow more fact than fiction, that if you arrive 15 minutes BEFORE your scheduled starting time, you are late.

Given that, I found myself attempting to find the walkway to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington 30 minutes before the volunteers from the Vietnam Veterans of America local chapter 641 arrived at 06:00 for a weekly cleaning of the black granite and grounds.

There was low-level illumination from ground lights – it was not enough. I have been here numerous times before.

Rocking and Rolling on the Titanic Memorial Cruise

By Chris Helgren

In what resembles a Trekkie convention gone through a time portal, hundreds of passengers on the Titanic Memorial Cruise, retracing the Titanic’s voyage from Southampton 100 years later, now divide their time between promenading in the latest fashions of 100 years ago and debating the true color of Titanic’s funnels. Yellow, but what kind of yellow? Model maker Kenneth Mascarenhas and painter James Allen Flood don’t see eye to eye on the subject, and it’s suggested that fellow passenger Commodore Warwick should adjudicate the issue. After all, he saw the Titanic wreck in a submersible. However, Mascarenhas fails to take into account that the ship is now rusted through and covered with Oceanic mud, its funnels probably covered in barnacles.

Actually, there are plenty of things to do on board the MS Balmoral. I missed the “fluid retention and swollen ankles seminar” on Monday, but there’s been a parade of Titanic experts on show to fill us in on everything one would want to know (except the color of funnels). Sadly, due to the inclement weather, shuffleboard has been cancelled the last two days. As has a dance show, due to health and safety concerns. Many of my fellow passengers have been sighted hunched over, unable to promenade, green with seasickness.

The big drama yesterday was the helicopter evacuation of a BBC cameraman. Tour operator Miles Morgan said that the ship would swing back 20 nautical miles towards Ireland, within range of an Irish Coast Guard chopper. The ailing man was whisked upwards in a sling and we returned on our course, hopefully not late for our anniversary date. Captain Robert Bamberg assured everyone that would be the case if we continued at a speed of 15 knots.

A Holga view of 9/11

By Shannon Stapleton

The 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center has been causing me some anxiety for some time now.

We were told that magazines, newspapers and all other outlets for pictures regarding the 9/11 attacks would need to be filed and completed by mid-summer for deadlines. For a long time I didn’t cherish the thought of covering another anniversary let alone trying to find new ways to illustrate something that for some time I have been trying to avoid. Having been there first hand on that dark day in history I truly dislike having to go down there at all and usually do my best to avoid World Trade Center site area.

It brings back bad memories and I am not a fan of how it has become such a tourist stop when they visit New York. I truly understand the significance of the day and why people would want to come but looking up at the sky or at a fence covering a big hole in the ground is something I will never understand. As jaded as that may sound I will say that once all the politics, union negotiations and property disputes were settled, they have, and continue with time running out, made significant progress for the Ground Zero memorial. Ten years to figure that out seems to me like a long time but who am I.

Sept. 11 – This year it seemed different

Sept 11

Having covered the events of 9/11 and 6 of the last 7 memorials, this year was very different. In the past I had a very hard time covering these memorials emotionally. It was tough seeing these people grieving the loss of loved ones and having, not even through six degrees of separation, known anyone that passed away hard to grasp. But year after year we have gone down to the site to mark the anniversary of one of the worst attacks on American soil in history.

Sept 11 2

This year it seemed different. For me, it seemed not as emotional as the years past. With less exceptions people seemed to be getting on with their lives to a certain extent. I also noticed how the kids of the victims are getting older – not nearly as many babies and younger children. Seven years have passed and the children are growing older. I also think that the presidential candidates visiting the site took some of the focus away from the families’ and loved ones’ day of mourning. It became a separate story to cover other than the anniversary.

Obama/McCain