Photographers' Blog

Italy’s virtual election

The casual observer could be forgiven for wondering whatever happened to the Italian election. For a country which prides itself on the “colourful” antics of its political class, this year the vote was devoid of spectacle and celebration, which photographers prey upon. Silvio Berlusconi won the prime minister’s post after Walter Veltroni conceded defeat in a deadpan speech in Rome, and the best Silvio could do was telephone a few TV stations to say he was “moved”. I pleaded with our staff photographers to provide reaction pictures from party supporters either on the winning or losing side, but it was the equivalent of an emotional dustbowl in the streets of Rome. The only things missing were tumbleweeds blowing through the streets like in a Spaghetti Western. I’ve seen countless election campaigns in my career but this goes into the books as the dullest one… As a colleague noted, due to the stagnant economy this was probably a good election to lose, which may explain the lack of fanfare. 

Berlusconi
 
On the plus side, freelance photographers will be happy at the result. Whether or not one supports him, one thing is as sure as the sun rises — Silvio Berlusconi sells photos. Freelancers tell me that their incomes go up significantly during a Berlusconi term, now his third, because he creates news. The grey outgoing prime minister, Romano Prodi, failed to generate the same amount of editorial interest as his predecessor. Now, although the Italian economy may be in the doldrums, at least some of my colleagues can benefit.

The World’s Worst Road……UPDATE 1!!!!!

     Well……..I don’t believe it!!! It’s happened. If you’ve read my last blog, ‘The Road West of Kangding’ you know that I called that particular road ‘the worst road in the world’. Well….guess what….there is much worse.

     Travelling with Chris Buckley, Reuters Beijing-base correspondent, we flew to Chengdu in Sichuan Province in China’s south-west to try and get into areas where we had heard that violent demonstrations regarding Tibet had occurred. The reports stated that buildings had been damaged, thousands of riot police and soliders had been deployed, hundreds of local Tibetans had been arrested and Buddhist temples were surrounded. So with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao telling the world that such troubles were over less than a week after these reports, and there were no independent witnesses to verify this, we wanted to find out.

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     We decided to travel on a local bus north-east from Chengdu to the city of Mianyang, from where we would decide what to do next. Looking back, we should have realised that the number of police roadblocks we saw, just going that far, was an indication of what we would encounter over the next few days.

A toast to Adrees Latif

I’d like to add my own congratulations to the plaudits being lauded on Adrees Latif who has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography. It is one hell of a picture.

The following images are unlikely prize-winners but serve to demonstrate the delight with which news of his win has been received by his Reuters colleagues. In the first Paul Barker, Editor Asia News Pictures and Asia Chief Photographer Russell Boyce toast his image;

 Adrees 2

while in the second the editorial team from text, TV, graphics and pictures at Reuters Asia HQ in Singapore drink his health as Adrees himself listens-in via the telephone on the desk to the right of the frame, from his assignment in Nepal.  

The story behind the Pulitzer picture

Reuters Bangkok senior photographer Adrees Latif tells how he took the pictures which won him a Pulitzer Prize. The pictures were taken in Myanmar during the protests in September last year and include the photo of Japanese video journalist Kenji Nagai being shot.

“Tipped off by protests against soaring fuel prices, I landed in Yangon on 23 September, 2007, with some old clothes, a Canon 5D camera, two fixed lenses and a laptop.

For the next four days, I went to Shwedagon Pagoda, two-three kilometres from the centre of town and waited for the monks who had been gathering there daily at noon.

They came… we saw… she conquered…

The State visit to Britain by French President, Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni drew widespread attention not the least from the massed ranks of photographers and televison crews keen to record the couple’s every step.  No cliche was left unturned as members of the press vied with one another to describe their partnership.

But… a state visit by a French President would always draw interest, and with the added glamour angle you had a winning formulae.  The drab world of formal visits was to be given a makeover - I for one hoped so. In my view, the visit was not so much a breath of fresh air blowing away the cobwebs, but a mix of contrasting elements standing together. With this visit we hoped to  see contrasts of age, style and appearance. In addition the sense of anticipation was heightened because the people involved represented the historic differences between the English and the French. Would they come together in a new entente cordiale? Would the charge be led by the French President? Not on your life, it was led by his wife, the amabassador extraordinaire.

Did Carla Bruni-Sarkozy disapoint? Here are the photographs, judge for yourselves.

Back on the Taiwan Killer media bus

On my way back from a routine election assignment in Hsinchu, a fellow wire photographer quizzes me on my age.

“Errr… 26″ I reply and the other wire photographer goes “Wah sey!” which translates as something like “Whoa” if there is such a word in english. He proceeds to to tell me that he can’t remember where he was when he was 26.

Which is probably also why Russell, the Asia Chief photographer, asked me to write about my newbie experience operating and planning my first big team story,  namely the Taiwan presidential election won by Nationalist candidate, Ma ying-jeou.

Cook the Hunt

The recent general elections in Spain were held in the wake of an ex-socialist councillor shot dead in the Basque Country in a place near my hometown. I was working on the afternoon shift when I saw the first alert of the assassination appear on our text service. I almost jumped out my chair. Somehow my internal alarm bell still goes off instinctively whenever something happens in the area where I used to work. It was only after a couple of seconds that I realized I’m 12,000 kilometers from where the assassination took place, and I couldn’t just grab a camera and go. There wasn’t much I could do, except get in touch with the photographer in the Basque Country, make sure he was aware of the breaking news, and then prepare for his pictures to land on the desk.
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Above: Basque police collect evidence outside the house of a former socialist councillor after an attack in Mondragon, northern Spain, March 7, 2008.  Photograph by Vincent West

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Above: People stand during a silent protest in Burgos, northern Spain March 7, 2008, against the murder of Isaias Carrasco. Photograph by Felix Ordonez

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Above: Spanish vice president Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega (R) and Spanish Socialist Party spokesman Jose Blanco (C) walk in front of the coffin of Isaias Carrasco carried by Basque Socialist Party general secretary Patxi Lopez (back L) and Basque socialist’s president Jesus Egiguren, during a funeral in Mondragon, northern Spain, March 8, 2008. Photograph by: Vincent West

Get your snouts out

Business and economy news is one of the most challenging parts of covering the story in Tokyo.Why? Fashion shows have their beauties, red carpets have their stars, and sporting events have their action, but what is going to catch a reader’s eye and make them do more than glance at our picture on a story about GDP?
In Tokyo we’re trying to make our financial coverage as compelling as other subjects and our approach is to try to have fun with these assignments, and working around the tight access restrictions. What we see is tightly controlled, and even in news conferences we are usually corralled into a small section of the room and forbidden to move. The subdued demeanor and limited variation in clothing (black, navy or gray suits) worn by this country’s business leaders is another challenge. There are no Richard Bransons here. Not even a Bill Gates. We had a Carlos Ghosn, but he isn’t around much anymore.

BOJ

Executive Interviews:

It’s easy to get beaten down and lose hope when we walk in to shoot photos of the CEO of an industry-leading company only to find the room is lit with dim florescent lights and the only decoration is nicotine-stained curtains. But the great thing about an interview is that unlike a crowded news conference you can set up lights, move around and seize control of the light away from the florescent strips in the ceiling and do some fun strobe work. I like snouts because they’re great for getting rid of the phones, plants, decorations, thermostats, light switches and anything else that clutters up a photo. A snout can be anything that fits over the head of your strobe to limit the spread of the light from it, letting you control where light falls and where it does not.

Portrait

GDP and other Economic Figures

GDP and other economic figures are broad enough that you could almost shoot anything for these, but at the same time it’s a bit bewildering to try to sum up a country’s economic mood with one frame. I think we’re most successful when our pictures are beautiful and convey a strong mood at the same time, as in the photo below.