Photographers' Blog

Circle of life in world’s largest refugee camp

By Jonathan Ernst

I arrived in Dadaab, Kenya, well after the story broke.

It is the world’s largest refugee camp with a population of over 400,000, almost exclusively Somali, refugees. Its originally capacity was only for 90,000. Dadaab became front-page news this summer as the population spiked as a wave of “New Arrivals” crowded into the camps at a rate of more than 1,500 people per day as they fled the famine in their home country.

It’s a huge place, and getting around even requires a commute. Convoys roll from the main aid compounds only at certain hours for security reasons. Aid workers talk about how safe and peaceful it has been over the first 20 years, but the internal politics and demographics of the camp have changed dramatically in the past three or so years, as new arrivals outnumber the original shelter-seekers.

When I got there, the crush of new arrivals was still being processed, but the crush of international media had already left town. One of my first nights in the camps, at the bar in the UN compound, I met the crew who operated the satellite television transmissions for networks around the world whenever they wanted to “go live” from Dadaab. They had just rotated in and were prepared to be there as long as one month. But they left after just four days, as there was no longer any demand for them. Anderson Cooper of CNN was one of the last big names to pass through, and he had left a week or so before.

My primary work for Reuters is in the halls of power in Washington, where it’s usually a lot more fun being in the middle of the biggest stories, but in Dadaab I was happy to be there without the hoopla of a lot of other media around. It gave me a little more freedom to find things that interested me — and that I thought readers would also find interesting — and not just chase the story of the day.

While reading some of the UN statistics reports, I noticed that they reported “New Births” on the same line every day as they did “New Arrivals” — the starving people materializing from the desert. I hadn’t known much about Dadaab before I arrived there; about its history and how it had been there for 20 years and looked to be there another 20. I thought one way to illustrate that life will go on in Dadaab was to show the maternity ward at one of the hospitals.

Shooting the Rugby World Cup

In the third installment, Sydney-based photographer Tim Wimborne describes what is necessary to keep the file fresh throughout the tournament and to satisfy different client needs.

In the second of a series of multimedia pieces, Bucharest-based photographer Bogdan Cristel talks about the focus required to cover the Rugby World Cup.

In the first of a series of multimedia pieces, London-based photographer Stefan Wermuth talks about the challenges he anticipates at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

Five years without Justin

By Jason Reed and Larry Downing

America’s military commitment in Afghanistan has been long by any count. Ten years of bloody war fathered by an angry country seeking revenge after it was blindsided in deadly attacks on September 11, 2001. Innocent souls vanished forever inside the flames that day in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania.

Since then thousands of combat GI’s from willing countries have answered their nation’s call to hunt down those thought responsible for that day who are still hiding along the dark footpaths snaking the dangerous countryside.

Every time a soldier, or Marine dies in combat, he, or she is quickly flown home to be buried by a grieving family.

Clearing the rubble but not the sorrow

By Kim Kyung-hoon

In 2004 I was in Indonesia’s Banda Aceh covering the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster which killed over 230,000 people in several south Asian countries. I met a tired-looking man tackling huge piles of rubble created by the tsunami in a brave effort to clean it up. He had only a shovel to use on the debris stretching on all sides as far as the eye could see. He stopped a moment and bemoaned to me that it would take more than several years to clear the rubble in his country. He also added that a rich country like Japan could clear it quickly with giant heavy construction equipment if a similar disaster happened in Japan. When I left Banda Aceh after my one-month stay there, the scenery going from the Reuters temporary base to the airport was almost the same as what I had seen on my first day there, and dead bodies still lay on the streets.

Last weekend, I traveled to Japan’s tsunami–destroyed towns again with my colleague to cover Japan’s traditional festival obon, when families welcome back the spirits of the dead.

It was five months after they had been struck by the March 11 magnitude 9.0 quake and huge tsunami. I could see that the Indonesian man’s insight was correct.

Robot Paro comforts the elderly in Fukushima

By Kim Kyung-hoon

When I covered Fukushima’s nuclear crisis in March, the first radiation evacuees who I encountered were elderly people who had fled a nursing home which was located near the tsunami-crippled nuclear power plant which was leaking nuclear radiation.

On that night, most of the elderly who could not move well due to old age spent a cold night on a temporary shelter’s hard floor.

Their scraggly bodies, the nasty smell from those who were not able to relieve themselves, and faraway looks of the those who had dementia have been impressed onto my memory, one scene out of many from this tragedy which I will never forget.

The fight over Berlin’s Tacheles

Over the last decade Berlin has been changing more rapidly than most of its inhabitants can stomach. Because of its history, the brunt of gentrification that changes everything (from social fabric to architecture) has hit the German capital more than other cities around the world.

Before the Wall came down, Berlin used to be a mecca for bohemians, artists, left-wing idealists and military service dodgers, mostly from West Germany. The collapse of East Germany resulted in an abundance of neglected buildings available in East Berlin. Punks and artists flocked in and the city became Europe’s capital of squats. A maelstrom of unfettered subculture productivity ensued, bestowing the city with an aura of the urban cool that feeds into its reputation to the present day.

But the Berlin of the wild nineties is long gone. Most of the squatters have been evicted or their housing projects legalized. Some of those whom back then ran underground clubs are well-off nightlife entrepreneurs today. Ordinary people who shared their neighborhood with the artists have had to move away, because rents have gone up manifold. And the influx of bohemians from abroad has turned into a stampede of party tourists, turning the last subculture enclaves into playgrounds for reckless twenty-somethings.

Seahorse

There are Seahorses and then there are Seahorses.

You might find one in the most unlikely spot but the incredible surprise, every now-and-then, is an encounter in the most familiar places you live.

You probably know less than you thought.

Seahorse 2.0 from Tim Wimborne on Vimeo.

Stop the parade! The croc hunt must go on

It was Easter Holy Week and I headed over to the small village of Ortega about 325 kilometers (203 miles) north of the Costa Rican capital, San Jose.

My expectation for the trip was to cover the festivities of Good Friday from an entirely different angle from the way the rest of the world celebrates it.

This town has a Good Friday tradition: go hunt down a crocodile. A group of 30 men go in the river La Palma, pounding through the water in search of a crocodile. Meanwhile, a kilometer ahead, another group waits with nets to trap the big critter.

Luxury dog care open for business

Affluent South Koreans have just about every fashion accessory imaginable from designer clothes to handbags and the latest trend in Asia’s fourth biggest economy is small dogs.

Just like their well-groomed owners in the ritzy suburbs of the capital Seoul, pets are now big business for groomers, healthcare businesses and even mood music, helping to create a whole new service industry.

“IRION” is a luxury pet care centre in the Gangnam district in Seoul that recently opened to cater to the needs of affluent urban dwellers who have embraced small dogs as their latest fashion accessory.

Surf therapy

Matthew Doyle grew up by the beach in Santa Monica, California, and with his slim physique and tattooed forearms, looks as if he’s been surfing his whole life.

But it took three tours of duty half a world away, many sleepless nights, and meeting a woman named Carly before the 26-year-old U.S. Army veteran braved the waves on a surfboard.

On a recent Saturday, I met Doyle and a group of 11 other young military veterans trying to overcome the horrors of war at Manhattan Beach, just south of Los Angeles, where occupational therapist Carly Rogers led them in a surf therapy class.

  • Editors & Key Contributors