Photographers' Blog

The last theater in town

Powell River, Canada

By Andy Clark

As far back as I can remember, history has always fascinated me. Though my specialty as an amateur historian has been military history, just about anything that occurred prior to my birth has had my undivided attention. Recently while having a coffee with a friend, he mentioned he had been to a town north of Vancouver called Powell River and had happened to visit a local movie theater. He went on to say matter of factly, that the theater had been continuously running since it was built many years ago.

“Stop right there,” I said. “Did you take any pictures of the place?” Yes, he had and he pulled out his laptop to show me.

Powell River is a small community on the British Columbia Sunshine Coast and accessible only by water. To get there requires about two hours travel by car and a couple of hours crossing on two different ferries from Vancouver. The town was born around 1910 after a pulp and paper mill was built beginning in 1908. At one time the Powell River Company Mill was the largest of its kind in the world supplying paper to one out of every 25 newspapers in the world. In 1913, a small wooden theater was built to offer the locals entertainment that included silent movies, vaudeville shows and even local boxing matches. The town’s people decided to have a naming contest for the theater leaving their suggestions in a ballot box at the company store. A very popular public figure in Canada at the time was Princess Patricia of Connaught, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Princess Patricia was living in Canada at the time while her father The Duke of Connaught served as Governor General in Ottawa, Canada’s capital. Thus, the new theater was named the Patricia.

A new building was constructed in 1928 to replace the original tall narrow theater known to shake and rattle in high wind. It even had bats darting around in the ceiling during performances, forcing the audience to duck and cover their heads. In July 1928, workers broke ground on the new place. But this time, the building was constructed of brick, mortar and stucco. Four months later on November 6 the new Patricia Theatre opened for business. Eighty-five years later almost to the day on a dark and damp evening, I showed up at the Patricia.

As most photographers know, assignments can look or sound good on paper but until you actually get there and see, one never knows for sure. I had gathered a pretty good idea from my friend’s photos and after chatting with the current owner Ann Nelson by phone the theater sounded like a real gem of history. I was not to be disappointed. Just walking up to the theater for the first time was like stepping through a rift in time. The inside was another world. Mural paintings on the wall, wooden trim and of course the rows of old theater seats from the private boxes in the back to the foot of stage. Across the stage hung the original curtain still in place. Made to order in Seattle and shipped by boat one would not have been surprised if Al Jolson himself had stepped from behind the French Velvet to sing a song or two.

Birthing in family

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

Sao Paulo, Brazil

By Nacho Doce

It was a night like any other, until my phone rang at 1:30 am. I reached to answer it without turning on the light. A woman on the other end said, “My water broke.”

“Manu?” I asked. Manuela, or Manu, said that I should come over to her house right away. I hung up and walked over to my sofa and looked at the cameras and lenses, without knowing if I had even charged the battery.

The phone rang again and it was Andre, Manu’s husband. I answered it with a question. “Damn, did she already give birth?” Andre said no, but asked in how long I would be arriving so he could tell the doorman. I took a quick shower, grabbed my gear, drank coffee, and in half an hour I was on my way along empty streets.

Courage in the face of brutality

San Salvador, El Salvador

By Ulises Rodriguez

The clock on the wall marked four in the morning. It was a cold and wet Saturday in July, but I was sitting in the warm offices of El Salvador’s Red Cross. Suddenly, the relative calm and silence in the emergency unit was interrupted when the phone rang. The loud noise made me jump. The phone operator said: “What is your name? If you don’t identify yourself, we can’t help you.”

I went to the operator and asked him what was happening. He said that there had been a report of a woman who had been beaten, raped several times and then left for dead in a ditch. He said that they would take her to hospital because of the severity of her injuries and I asked to go along.

When I got to where she had been found, I saw a woman dressed in a baby blue dress that was dirty all over, with a face disfigured by the blows she had received. She was disoriented and her gaze seemed lost in a void. She kept on repeating that her name was Claudia.

Opening a blind eye to femicide

Guatemala City, Guatemala

By Jorge Dan Lopez

Violence and death are always present and tangible in Guatemala. The population seems to accept it as normal, even more so when women are the victims. In many cases, society simply ignores it, sits in silence or turns a blind eye.

Many men treat women as if they have no rights, thinking it unusual that someone should be punished or fined for beating, raping or killing them.

In Guatemala, violence against women generally starts behind the walls of their own homes. The aggressors in most cases are the men closest to them: fathers, brothers, cousins and partners.

Risking life for school, again

Cilangkap village, Indonesia

By Beawiharta

This is my second picture story about students going to school.

Still in Banten province, Indonesia, around 100 kms (62 miles), or a good four hours drive from my home. These students are not like the Indiana Jones students I covered previously, who crossed the river using a broken suspension bridge, instead, they use a bamboo raft.

I received a call from a local photographer saying he had found another group of students crossing a river using unconventional means. “Why are you not taking pictures yourself?”, I asked. Cikal replied, “We need to work together, you for the international audience and me for the Indonesia reader. Because I think they need a proper bridge. Maybe the students will get lucky from our pictures.”

I recalled our success story with the suspension bridge a year ago. Maybe we could do the same thing for these students. What Yan Cikal said reminded me of one of the “photographer’s tasks”: make a change for a better life through pictures.

Journalists take White House to task over photo access

Washington, D.C.

By Mark Felsenthal

Simmering tensions between the White House and press corps that covers it spilled into the open on Thursday when news organizations formally protested decisions to bar photojournalists from many presidential events.

The White House Correspondents Association and major news organizations, including Reuters, wrote to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney to complain about being shut out of events that the White House documented with its own photographer.

They urged that the White House provide access for independent photojournalists to all public governmental events the president participates in.

Growing up in the European Parliament

Strasbourg, France

By Vincent Kessler

To be totally honest I didn’t see Vittoria at first glance when I took pictures of her and her mother, Italian MEP Licia Ronzulli, for the first time on September 22, 2010.

The European Parliament plenary room is a giant hemicycle for the 766 MEP’s elected from the twenty-eight Member States of the enlarged European Union. It’s not easy to see in detail what’s going on with each lawmaker especially when seated in the back rows, and when your shooting position is on a 10-meter-high balcony.

But thanks to a telephone call from my friend and Reuters journalist Gilbert Reilhac, who was following the voting session on the internal TV service of the parliament, and thanks to a 400mm lens and converters, I spotted her for the first time. I did not know it at the time but she was then only a few weeks old. The pictures were widely used by newspapers and online sites.

Learning to walk again after Afghanistan

San Antonio, Texas

By Jim Urquhart

With each step he learns to take he is that much closer to achieving independence. All he wants is to once again be able to be a soldier in the infantry.

Sergeant (Sgt.) Matt Krumwiede has endured about 40 surgeries since June 12th, 2012, when he stepped on a IED while on patrol in Afghanistan.

GALLERY: AFTER AFGHANISTAN

During that time he has fought hard to regain his mobility since the pressure plate unleashed about 15 pounds of explosives that tore away both his legs above the knees, ripped muscle and bone from his left arm, taking parts of a finger and a whole finger and ripped his abdominal cavity wide open.

Survival of mankind in the face of disaster

Tacloban, Philippines

By Bobby Yip

Back in 2006, I landed at Tacloban airport, then took a car for a six-hour journey to cover a mudslide which killed 900 people in a remote village in the central Philippines. Seven years later, Tacloban airport is the destination.

Each day after super Typhoon Haiyan battered the city, hundreds of homeless residents try to be evacuated. They fear being left behind, despite some having no clue about what their future holds in another city.

Many more do not leave their homes. They stay on, building make-shift tents and living among debris, where they can find useful items – zinc to make roofs and walls, wood to set up fire.

Waiting on widow’s island

Geoje, South Korea

By Kim Hong-ji

After Germany was reunited in 1990, Korea has been the highest profile divided country in the world. The division has separated numerous families and made them miss each other. A few months ago, when the relationship between the two Koreas improved after five months of political tension, North Korea proposed a reunion ceremony for families who have been separated by the Korean War. Then it abruptly cancelled the ceremony, disappointing the families who have been waiting to reunite with long-lost relatives. Lots of separated families in the two Koreas are still living in great hope that they will be able to meet their loved ones some day.

Geoje island is a small and remote place in South Korea where 18 fisherman were abducted by North Korea while fishing in the disputed West Sea in December, 1972. Forty one years later, little is known about these husbands and sons, how they were abducted or where they may be living in North Korea. I only came to know about this incident when I heard one of the abducted fishermen, Jeon Wook-pyo, 68, escaped from North Korea and returned to South Korea a few months ago. I could not locate him and there is an ongoing investigation by the government. He was abducted 10 years before I was born and I had limited information to follow. Instead, I met a few grandmothers still living in a town heavy with grief for their lost family members. A widow who lost her husband and a mother who lost her child; just wishing they can be reunited in the town some day.

Kim Jeom-sun, 82, who lost her husband when he was abducted in 1972. She is now a grandmother living alone in a 10-square-yard house in Busan, east of the island. She left the island some twenty years ago due to the stigma – as if her husband was a betrayer who fled to the North. Much time has passed since then, but her memories stay with her. A few pictures hanging on the wall keep the memories lingering in her mind. “I have waited and waited until now.. even if he died in North Korea. I still wait for him.”