Photographers' Blog

Outspoken South Korean singer taps populace sentiment

On June 13, 2002, when South Korea, Japan and the rest of the world were captivated by the 2002 FIFA World Cup, a 50-tonne U.S. army vehicle crushed two South Korean schoolgirls to death during a drill in Yangju, north of Seoul. The girls, Shin Hyo-soon and Shim Mi-seon, both 14, were on their way to a friend’s birthday party.

Wearing traditional funeral clothes, a protester holds a picture of two South Korean girls recently crushed to death by a U.S. military vehicle, at a rally near U.S. embassy in Seoul December 5, 2002.  REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won

Thousands of South Koreans protested for several months to demand then-U.S. President George Bush apologize directly for the incident and hand over the U.S. soldiers involved to South Korean court.

The soldiers left South Korea after they were acquitted in a U.S. military court in the country in November 2002, which inflamed anti-American sentiment.

Angry that no one was found criminally responsible for the deaths, many South Koreans wanted the bilateral Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) altered to allow local authorities to prosecute cases involving U.S. troops in South Korea.

South Korea and the U.S. have a military alliance dating to the 1950-53 Korean War. Nearly 30,000 U.S. troops are based in South Korea, which is still technically at war with North Korea as the 1950-1953 conflict ended with an armistice and not a peace treaty.

A global view of Earth Hour

The world turned off its lights on March 26 for an hour from 8.30 p.m. local time as a show of support for tougher action to confront climate change.

A global celebration of Earth Hour 2011 from Nicky Loh on Vimeo.

I was given the assignment to not only photograph the event from Taipei, Taiwan, but to produce a multimedia video that showcased the world’s landmarks without lights as part of the fifth annual Earth Hour.

The Taipei 101 building is seen before Earth Hour in Taipei March 26, 2011.  REUTERS/Nicky Loh

The Taipei 101 building is seen during Earth Hour in Taipei March 26, 2011. REUTERS/Nicky Loh

The Reuters online team in Toronto and I had decided to produce a video to illustrate the event with pictures by our photographers around the world. The idea was to fade before pictures with the lights turned on into the exact same image without the lights on.

A day out with a swan

After watching Natalie Portman’s Oscar winning performance in Black Swan which she portrays a perfectionist ballerina who ultimately breaks down, I was intrigued by the life of ballet dancers. They endure hours of toe curling training just to perfect their art.

A dancer from the State Ballet of Georgia warms up before a dress rehearsal for Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial in Taipei March 2, 2011.  REUTERS/Nicky Loh

My chance to meet real life professional ballerinas came when performers from the State Ballet of Georgia performed Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial in Taipei. I was granted behind the scenes access to the famed ballet piece which was also the core theme of the movie. I felt like my sense of curiosity for ballet would be duly curbed.

I was excited the night before and did all the research I could on Swan Lake so as not to sound like a fool when talking to any of the dancers.

Rapper salesman Mr Watanabe

“Extraordinary, unique, outstanding….”

These words often promise an interesting news story and also they might guarantee success in someone’s job.

Sales clerk Satoshi Watanabe cleans a pair of eyeglasses to display on a rack at an optical store in a shopping district of Tokyo February 24, 2011.  REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Mr. Watanabe, who I happened to find on the street, is an example of these words.

He is a sales clerk in an eyeglass company which has about 2,000 employees and his job is to sell eyeglasses to customers in a shop in one of the busiest shopping districts in Tokyo. His attire is not unique and more like a typical sales person in Japan. His black horn-rimmed glasses and dark-toned suits would remind you of a picture in a company poster of the most diligent employee of the year.

Natural disaster strikes Sri Lanka, again

The recent floods in eastern Sri Lanka disrupted the lives of more than 1 million people and forced up to 400,000 people to seek refuge in temporary shelters like huts, schools and mosques. Rice crops in the east were devastated. Many fields were flattened by the water that burst through broken dams. Standing water 4 feet deep saturated the fields for days. Much of the rice that remained standing, while it looked healthy, had no grain remaining in it. The worst-affected districts were Batticaloa, Ampara and Trincomalee and these were also regions hit hard by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and decades of separatist conflict which ended nearly two years ago.

India’s touring cinemas under threat

The sleepy Indian village of Ond comes alive for a week every year when trucks loaded with tents and projectors reach its outskirts. The tents are pitched in open fields, converting the trucks into projection rooms for screening the latest Indian blockbusters to exuberant villagers, who otherwise have few chances to see a film at all.

Photographer Danish Siddiqui travels to these “talkies” to document the decades-old tradition. View the multimedia below for an in-depth look or click here to read the full story.

Travelling Talkies from Vivek Prakash on Vimeo.

The next Black Swans

After almost every assignment I come back home grateful for the peak into the world I was offered or the people I met. This last week was no exception as I covered the 39th Prix de Lausanne, an international dance competition for young dancers.

Ballet dancer Komine Saya from Japan performs her classical variation during the Prix de Lausanne semi-final competition in Lausanne February 5, 2011.   REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud
(click on the image above to view a multimedia presentation)

Some 75 candidates aged between 15 to 18 from 19 countries competed at the Palais de Beaulieu Theatre in Lausanne, Switzerland. The young dancers that made their way to the finals were either awarded with a scholarship granting free access to the finest dance schools or with an apprenticeship allowing them to be accepted without an audition to the most renowned ballet companies. In addition to the final and semi-final on the two last days of the event, the first four days were dedicated to training classes and rehearsals of the competition variations. The competitors were judged as they performed their classical and contemporary variation in front of the public during the finals but the jury also evaluated the candidates for their performance in the ballet and contemporary classes.

Ballet dancers perform during a contemporary class at the Prix de Lausanne in Lausanne February 1, 2011.   REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

I photographed two days of the preparation and the semi-finals, following the dancers through the different aspects of the competition leading up to the final. This included early morning warm-ups in the studios, individual coaching sessions on stage, backstage preparation and the semi-final leading to the selection of the 20 finalists. More photo opportunities than any photographer could hope for! These dancers devote their life to their passion, spending three days witnessing their rigorous training and the realization of their dream as they performed in front of the public was, once again, one of these assignments I come back home grateful for.

Before a ball is bowled

Reuters Photographer Parivartan Sharma takes us to the town of Meerut, north of Delhi, where cricket balls are still being made the old-fashioned way – by hand. India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will co-host the 2011 Cricket World Cup starting on February 19.

The Making Of A Cricket Ball – Cricket World Cup Preview from Vivek Prakash on Vimeo.

Crawling for honor

The problem with covering military events in Taiwan is that they are conducted in a controlled environment where almost everything is staged for the media. However, sometimes I would like to see the true grit of army life and the side that is rarely seen in public. Being conscripted to the military myself in Singapore, I have witnessed how tough training can be in the army.

My quest to illustrate this in Taiwan was fulfilled when I negotiated exclusive access to cover the final stage of a nine-week intensive Amphibious Training Program for Taiwan Marine Corps titled “Road to Heaven”.

Taiwan Marines’ “Road to Heaven” test from Nicky Loh on Vimeo.

Feast of the Black Nazarene

Downtown Manila’s “Feast of the Black Nazarene” is an annual event that everyone anticipates. It has become a routine because everything happens as expected – millions of people jockeying to get near and touch the image of the Black Nazarene or at least the rope that pulls the carriage for the religious procession. Some people faint, a few unfortunate ones get trampled to death or suffer heart attacks, petty thieves take advantage of the situation to pick pockets and bags, and so on.

Devotees clamber onto a carriage to touch the statue of the Black Nazarene during an annual religious procession in Manila January 9, 2011.    REUTERS/Erik de Castro

Yes, it has become predictable and routine but it never ceases to amaze me every time I see the outpouring of emotions and enthusiasm of the people to be part of the event. Last January 9, I was at the Qurino Grandstand in Manila as early as 5 a.m. The procession didn’t start until 7 a.m. after a Holy Mass but I had to make sure I would get the best possible position to capture good images of the crowd. That position was at the rooftop of the grandstand.

A man is carried by fellow devotees after touching the statue of the Black Nazarene during an annual religious procession in Manila January 9, 2011.   REUTERS/Erik de Castro

This year, police estimated two million devotees participated in the procession that took the image of the Black Nazarene to the streets of Quiapo district in Manila. It was just more or less a five-kilometer stretch but it took 17 hours for the image to reach the final destination – the Quiapo Church.