Photographers' Blog

A tale of two cities

By Cathal McNaughton

I’ve been covering the economic crisis in Ireland for over three years, chronicling the changes as the Celtic Tiger becomes a distant memory and the austerity measures grip the country.

But because I’m in Dublin so frequently I have probably become accustomed to the sight of unfinished buildings, “to let” signs and boarded up shops. I no longer properly notice the terrible decline that is gripping the country.

Recently I was on assignment in Oslo, Norway, covering the visit of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and it was while I was there that I took time to look around another major European city. The contrast was stark.

In Dublin there is a permanent air of gloom. No matter where you look there are visible signs of the recession with businesses shutting down and building projects abandoned. The Irish newspapers are fixated on the financial crisis and headlines churn out doom and gloom daily. You can’t turn on a radio station without an in-depth debate about the state of the country. In coffee shops it’s all anyone can talk about – the obsession with housing that has dropped hundreds of thousands of euro in value and the impossibility of things ever getting back to normal.

But in Oslo, the economy has been untouched by the recession and it is a booming vibrant city. Just like in Dublin ten years ago there are major building projects underway with luxury apartments being constructed on the waterfront. Property prices are skyrocketing. There is little sign in Oslo that their European neighbors are in turmoil, something that is borne out by the figures.

Looking into the eyes of a mass murderer

By Fabrizio Bensch

A lot has been written about Andres Behring Breivik, the 33 year-old Norwegian man who a year ago was unknown.

He lived completely withdrawn on a small farm far from Oslo, alone to work on his diabolical plan. He built bombs to explode in central Oslo, and in the following chaos drove to Utoeya island and shot as many teenagers as possible. In all, he killed 77 people that day.

Today, for the first time, I looked directly into the eyes of this man – the eyes of a mass murderer.

The way to the island of horror

It was a typical Friday afternoon in Berlin — traffic in the streets and people looking forward to their weekend. A few hours earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had finished her traditional summer press conference in the capital city, where she answered with quite a lot of humor and unusual looseness, journalist’s questions about the Greek crisis and the EU summit in Brussels before she left for summer vacation. I was at home and not aware of the latest news when I got a phone call from the Berlin office: “It’s an emergency. There was a bomb explosion in Oslo. Can you book a flight to Oslo and immediately fly there?” At first I did not know what exactly had happened. My wife searched for information online and the first breaking news images from Oslo had flooded the media. People were wandering amid the rubble in the governmental area of the Norwegian capital.


REUTERS/Berit Roald/Scanpix


REUTERS/Morten Holm/Scanpix


REUTERS/Per Thrana

I booked the next flight from Berlin to Oslo. I had just two and a half hours until departure. I quickly packed my equipment, took a 500 mm telephoto lens and a few days worth of personal belongings. At the airport check-in I met other journalists — a mix of foreign colleagues and the Reuters cameraman with whom I would fly to Oslo. The plane was packed, every seat occupied, mainly with journalists. This was one of the fastest routes to Norway after the bombing. There was free internet onboard so I was able to check the latest news non-stop. There was now concrete news trickling in about a shooting on Utoeya island, about 40 kilometers (24 miles) northwest of Oslo, with a number of people reported dead.


REUTERS/Jan Bjerkeli


REUTERS/Morten Edvardsen/Scanpix


REUTERS/Morten Edvardsen/Scanpix

When the plane landed in Oslo at 22:30 it was still light out and given the situation and the information about the shooting on the island Utoeya, I decided to go there immediately. I rented a car at the airport and drove off, with the help of my GPS navigation. Meanwhile I had contacted the Reuters text correspondent and our local photographer who had made one of the first pictures for us from the island. I told him that I would drive to Sundvollen, which is the closest village to the island. There was a hotel where all the survivors and their relatives were being taken. It was raining when I reached the hotel after midnight. I parked and walked into the hotel. There were rescue workers and survivors everywhere and parents who had managed to reunite their children who survived the shooting. When I asked at reception for a room for the night, I realized I was standing in a group of survivors. To stay there — or even to photograph it — was quite impossible. People were crying and hugging each other. There were reports that a considerable number of people had been killed during the shooting on Utoeya island and that there was a connection with the bombing in Oslo. It was after leaving the hotel that I took the first photos of survivors, from outside the police cordon.