Photographers' Blog

Decline of the Catskills

Catskills, New York

By Carlo Allegri

Dubbed the “Borscht Belt,” in its heyday the Catskills was a bustling vacation resort region popular with middle and working-class New Yorkers of Jewish origin. Situated about 100 miles north of New York City, people flocked to the area to escape the stifling summer heat of the city. Many families would relocate to the area for several months, with men visiting their wives and children on the weekends.

An abandoned house is pictured in the Catskills region of New York

Thousands of people were drawn to the area by hotels like Grossinger’s and the Concord, once the largest resort in the United States, which along with hundreds of other smaller resorts, hotels and colonies dotted the landscape.

An abandoned resort hotel is pictured in the Catskills region of New York

Legendary comedians such as Joan Rivers, Woody Allen and Rodney Dangerfield performed at and visited the area’s hotels, which became famous as a proving ground for acts.  The area also provided the setting for the 1987 film Dirty Dancing.

The interior of an abandoned business is pictured in the Catskills region of New York

Cheap airfares, the popularity of seaside vacations and the decline of anti-Semitism had a huge impact on the tourism industry in the region. By the 1970s the area was a shadow of its 1960s peak, just one large resort hotel remained in the 1980s, and by the 1990s it too had fallen into bankruptcy.

An abandoned business is pictured in the Catskills region of New York

Some areas in the Catskills have become ghost towns, but the area’s former glory is evident, the size of the hulking buildings a testament to the number of people that visited the region. Dilapidated theaters, stores and restaurants stand abandoned, but amid the desolation there is still beauty and a quiet majesty.

Living on minimum wage

Delores Leonard is a 28 year-old single mother raising two daughters Erin, 6, and Emmarie, 8, on the South Side of Chicago. She’s been a fast food worker at a McDonald’s restaurant for 7 years and makes $8.25 an hour. It’s her only source of work income and she’s never made more than minimum wage working at the drive-thru window.

Delores Leonard helps her daughter Erin with her homework at the breakfast table.  REUTERS/Jim Young

I have covered several organized protests by fast food workers over the last year in Chicago, but wanted to take a closer look at how people balance their lives and finances as a worker living on minimum wage. I arrive at her house before sunrise and she is already up getting breakfast for her two girls, helping daughter Erin with her homework and getting them dressed for school.

Delores Leonard helps her daughter Erin with her homework during breakfast.

Delores walks them to school before jumping on the first of two buses she takes to get to work, about an hour away at a McDonald’s restaurant in the Hyde Park neighborhood; only about a mile from President Obama’s personal residence.

Remote Dangers

Incheon, South Korea

By Rob Dawson

To receive messages saying, “Police detained me” and “Running a bit late. Broke my nose,” is not something I expected when editing the Asian Games. With some 10,000 athletes taking part in the 16-day multi-sport competition it was always going to be a challenge to cover such a sporting spectacular, but this was out of the ordinary.

South Korea's Jung celebrates beating Uzbekistan's Turdiev in their Men's Greco-Roman 71 kg gold medal wrestling match during the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon

As a picture editor, I was based in the Main Press Centre, sitting alongside colleagues from text and TV. I was often the central point of contact for the six photographers covering the event alongside my main responsibility for picture editing.

I received those two unusual messages when Japan’s Chief Photographer Issei Kato, and  Asia Editor-in-Charge Tim Wimborne were setting up and retrieving their remote cameras.

Abandoned on the border

Suruc, Turkey

By Murad Sezer

A new crossing point was set up along the Turkish-Syrian border last week by the government of Turkey, where humanitarian agencies and the Red Crescent offered first aid and registered the new arrivals.

The frontier was normally a hive of activity, with wailing children and families desperately trying to carry whatever they could manage across the dusty terrain. Heavily armed security officers patrolled the border and police would search bags before the refugees passed into Turkey.

When they arrived on the other side, some would sit on their luggage looking lost, others would scramble onto buses or trucks, which would leave three or four times a day to ferry people to refugee camps on the Turkish side.

An American rebel in Ukraine

Yasynuvata, Ukraine

By Marko Djurica

He stood beside a jeep, wearing the Russian army’s tight, black boots and trousers, that most of the insurgents wear, and a green military jumper. A small compass and large hunting knife in a sheath hung on his belt, an AK47 was slung over his shoulder. He looked straight at me through a balaclava. As I approached, he seemed to get bigger and bigger.

 An American who calls himself "Hunter" holds his rifle as he walks through a field near the town of Yasynuvata, in eastern Ukraine

I was in Ukraine again, where the West and Russia have taken opposing sides in a separatist war with the pro-Russians in the East.

I had heard a few weeks before that the pro-Russian Vostok battalion had an American siding with the insurgents. Our team had repeatedly tried to get permission to do a story about him but we hadn’t had any success. However, during an assignment in Donetsk, I finally met the right people to allow me access on the condition that I would only take still pictures and not film him.

Clooney gets hitched

Venice, Italy

By Alessandro Bianchi

I was waiting aboard a taxi boat moored in front of the Hotel Cipriani in Venice for four hours waiting to photograph U.S. actor George Clooney at the gala dinner ahead of his wedding ceremony. Unfortunately, about 30 taxi boats full of reporters, photographers and the paparazzi had exactly the same idea.

U.S. actor Clooney and his wife Alamuddin stand in a water taxi on the Grand Canal in Venice

At around 6 o’clock in the evening, George jumped on his personal taxi boat “Amore” to go to the Aman Hotel and the taxi fleet swarmed around his boat to take the best picture.

Working on a taxi boat is hard at the best of times, as the waves can make it unstable and you can lose your balance, but the job was made even more difficult by the fact that Clooney’s boat was surrounded by others rented by the media.

The thrill of the fair

Munich, Germany

By Michael Dalder

Many of us have been invited to wedding ceremonies and receptions in our time, as guests or even as photographers. One Saturday, at five o’clock in the morning, my colleague Lukas Barth and I prepared our camera gear to photograph a wedding party, with around six million guests.

I’m not sure how many of them were aware of the fact that the party they were attending – “the Oktoberfest” – originally celebrated and honoured the marriage of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen in 1810.

A gingerbread heart is pictured during the 181st Oktoberfest in Munich

Almost 200 years later, the celebration still exists in the form of the world’s biggest beer festival, a place where tradition meets madness. The fairground has been called “Theresienwiese”, or “the Wies’n” by experienced visitors and, despite the name “Oktoberfest”, the festival always starts on the penultimate Saturday of September.

Fleeing Islamic State

Suruc, Turkey
By Murad Sezer

Tens of thousands of Kurdish Syrians have fled Islamic State and flocked to the Turkish border. Most of them are from the Syrian border town Kobani and its surrounding villages, where the group’s fighters have launched attacks, but other refugees have travelled from further away.

A Kurdish Syrian refugee waits for transport during a sand storm on the Turkish-Syrian border near the southeastern town of Suruc

They arrive at the border, tired, miserable and desperate for water, but many have to wait days before they are allowed to cross into Turkey.

There is an increasing accommodation problem in the small Turkish border towns, which have very little space for so many refugees, but if they can be accommodated, border officials will allow them to enter in groups. Some lucky refugees have relatives in Turkey with whom they can stay.

Becoming a man

Bungoma, Kenya

By Noor Khamis

As eastern Africa had uncharacteristically fallen silent, I decided to travel over 500 kilometres to western Kenya as schools had just closed and so month-long circumcision rituals had taken centre stage.

The rituals, which are observed in public, represent the annual rites of passage into adulthood for boys aged sixteen and below. The Bukusu community, a sub-tribe of the Luhya tribe, has strongly stuck to such traditions.

A Bukusu boy waits outside his uncle's home for the circumcision ritual in Bungoma

The ceremonies normally take place in August, to give the adolescents enough time to heal before school resumes.

Still missing – MH370

Beijing, China

By Kim Kyung-Hoon

Almost six months have passed since the Malaysian Airlines MH370 disappeared. Although authorities concluded that the plane crashed in the remote Indian Ocean and lost all the passengers, many family members refuse to accept that conclusion. They hope that they are still alive.

Zhiliang, whose fiance was onboard Malaysian Airlines Fight MH370 which disappeared on March 8th, is silhouetted at an empty house which he had planned to decorate with her for their marriage, after he shows the house during an interview with Reuters in Tianjin, August 26, 2014.      REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

However, public interest towards this incident has faded, so I decided to record what these family members are still going through and shed light on this mysterious incident once again.

I thought that portrait-style pictures showing family members together with the missing passengers’ mementos would tell a story.

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