Photographers' Blog

Documenting the wealth gap in China

Beijing, China

By Kim Kyung-hoon

Showing the great contrast between China’s rich and poor in photos should be simple. After all, both exist just a few blocks away from each other or sometimes in the same place in any city. A poor family rides a rusty tricycle as a shiny Ferrari passes by. Just around the corner from an expensive restaurant, poor migrant workers eat cheap meals and take naps on the street.

But trying to get people to agree to be photographed was much more difficult than I expected. In six months of roaming around Beijing, visiting places where the rich congregate, such as luxury brand fashion boutiques and cocktail parties at fashion shows and even a luxury car maker’s promotional event, I tried all sorts of things, hoping that someone would open up their lifestyle to my lens.

But no rich person welcomed me and my camera. No one invited me to record this growing reality in China. Perhaps some were afraid that news of their wealthy lifestyle might go viral. Rich Chinese have reason to be shy of the cameras and interviews. The country’s new leader, Xi Jinping, has told people to cut out displays of ostentation. Moreover, the spending habits of wealthy Chinese have often sparked the ire of China’s microbloggers.

One rich family considered my proposal seriously for a couple of days. I met them at a party for the opening of a fashion boutique. They were dressed like celebrities. The daughter had been studying abroad, first in Britain and then in the United States. She spoke perfect English and displayed perfect ‘Western’ manners. The family talked of their plans to visit a resort in Thailand soon. They did agree to me shooting photos, but with unacceptable conditions. They would allow me to photograph the guest room of their luxurious house but ruled out anything that might associate them with the terms “wealthy lifestyle” or “rich lifestyle”. They also wanted to review my picture story before it was published.

The poor did not welcome my camera either but for different reasons. Many felt ashamed of their life and had anxieties about being reported on by the news media. Nonetheless, I spent a lot of time in wealthy and poor districts located in the eastern part of Beijing. The distance between the areas was just a 30-40 minute bicycle ride but the wealth gap I could see through my camera was much wider.

Building the world’s fastest bikes

Skale, Slovenia

By Srdjan Zivulovic

When streamlined bicycle designer Damjan Zabovnik brought me to the garage of his family home, in the Slovenian village of Skale close to Velenje, I thought there would be a hall or small workshop nearby where he could work on and test his masterpieces.

I was wrong. Damjan proudly opened the door leading to the garage, where a mid-sized car could hardly fit. Once inside, he patted his new bike and told me that it was ready for this year.

The garage was filled with bike-related parts, including various gear wheels, tools, his training bike and the bike itself. Damjan is used to facing challenges when building his 19 kilogram (41 pound) pearl among bikes, and had constructed this one from scratch. As usual, putting together the special transmission gear that he designed and manufactured himself in his father’s metalworking workshop was his major difficulty.

The Burning Man experience

Black Rock Desert of Nevada

By Jim Urquhart

I’ve been here three times and I still don’t know where I have been.

I don’t mean to sound whimsical but I still don’t know how to truly describe Burning Man. What began three years ago as idle conversation with some editors has brought me to the Black Rock Desert of Nevada for a week for the third time in the heat of the summer.

The two previous years I have spent my whole time on the desert floor working and creating photos for Reuters.

Postcards from the capital of romance

Paris, France

By Christian Hartmann

In 2012, more than 15 million tourists visited the French capital, with its reputation for spots charged with history. They are also drawn by its eternal charm and landscape which appears to leap from a movie set like an invite for a romantic stroll.

Just a year ago I left the Zurich lake-front where I had spent nearly six years on assignment, covering principally sports and economic stories. Upon arrival in Switzerland, I was impressed by the potential beauty around the lake where residents gathered once the warm days of Spring arrived offering photographers interesting possibilities. Naturally, the new Parisian that I am, I headed to the banks of the Seine River this summer to capture moments that define the charm of Paris. Who hasn’t seen the famous photograph of a couple kissing in front of the Paris City Hall in 1950? Ever since, generations of lovers have kissed in the four corners of the city.

First stop, the Pont des Arts, the bridge which links the Louvre Museum with the Institute of France on Paris’ Left Bank. Since 2008 couples have attached padlocks to the fencing on the bridge in a symbol of their eternal love, as they take in the spectacular view of the Ile de la Cite, the Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the series of bridges which cross the Seine River, linking the city. At the end of the summer, a dark cloud appeared over the bridge in the form of the additional weight from the padlocks of love. There was concern that entire fencing sections could fall from the bridge, threatening the “bateaux mouches” (excursion boats) which transport tourists daily along the river. The question was raised whether these symbols of love would be removed.

Naked exposure

Montalivet, France

By Regis Duvignau

Montalivet: It’s a long beach of fine white sand, pine forest, traditional markets and naturists.

A stone’s throw away from my office, the Helio-Marin Centre’s,”live better, live naked” slogan is one I have known for a long time. So I decided to adopt Adam’s attire and become a true naturist for the duration of this assignment and melt into the crowd of 14,000 holiday makers at the nudist campsite during the busy summer season. The vacation center’s fences open to a quite “natural” landscape, hiding nothing from the eye either of human beauty or nature’s small faults.

I took up my own challenge to live for several days among naturists, shedding my own clothes along with pre-conceived ideas. I discovered the beach in the morning, naked as the day I was born. I encountered Jean Pierre who played a dance tune on his accordion while standing in the sea. Jean Pierre practices on the beach so as not to annoy vacationers in nearby bungalows with his wrong notes.

Romania’s bankrupt town

Aninoasa, Romania

By Bogdan Cristel

Getting to Jiu Valley – once home to a powerful coal mining industry that has since fallen on bad times – is difficult. The main road there is currently closed to traffic three days a week because of repair works, so I arrived in the small Jiu Valley town of Aninoasa after driving for 7 hours on detour roads. It is roughly 330 kms (205 miles) to Aninoasa from the Romanian capital Bucharest.

Aninoasa is the oldest town in Hunedoara County, mentioned as far back as 1453 AD. But earlier this year it also became the first town in Romania to have filed for insolvency. It is a small town, with simple houses and ramshackle communist-era apartment buildings to house coal miners.

But the hard coal mine was closed in 2006, after it became too costly, low yielding and outdated to maintain. Today there are only a few coal mines still left in Jiu Valley. Unfortunately for Aninoasa, no replacement jobs have been created since the mine closed. At the abandoned mining site, goats graze and children play.

From Aleppo to no man’s land

Miratovac, Serbia

By Marko Djuirca

I had been thinking how cold it was for this time of year to need both my hoodie and my jacket. A cold, strong wind blew over the hills of no-man’s land separating Serbia from Macedonia. I stood quietly in total darkness for an hour or so until the border patrol officer, looking through his thermal camera, said: “Here they are, I think there must be 40 of them!”

Every year, the Serbian border police catches more than 10,000 migrants from Africa, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, who are trying to reach Serbia illegally. They come from Turkey, through Greece to Macedonia and Serbia before they reach Hungary and with it, the borderless Schengen travel zone.

When I decided to follow this story, I had no idea how strong an impact it would leave on me.

The crime of dog kidnapping

Mexico City, Mexico

By Edgard Garrido

A woman approached me while I was taking pictures of a leaflet with information on a purebred dog that had gone missing in Parque Mexico. She was on a bike and she had a dog with her whose head easily reached my belly. She asked me if I was doing a story and she introduced herself as Mariam Luzcan “a protector of dogs and a true dog lover”. She was dressed in black and covered with what I suppose was dog hair and lots of dirt, she smelled like dog too. But I liked her so we agreed to meet again in a couple of days and do a story together on missing dogs.

In Mexico City, dog kidnapping has become another way of making an illegal, but quick, buck. It is becoming more common as many of the capital dwellers own lots of dogs. And I mean lots – not one or two, but four or even six or seven pooches at a time. Of course there is a wide range of businesses dedicated to the well-being of man’s best friend. There are dog hairdressers, dog clothing lines, specialty food stores, dog hotels, companies that arrange adoptions for “orphaned” dogs, security for dogs, massages for dogs, crematoriums for dogs, you name it.

In a country where half of the population lives in poverty and where drug violence has killed more than 70,000 people so far, I find this overwhelming love towards an animal which I have never been able to relate to, a bit disturbing.

Dignity Wage

Brasilia, Brazil

By Ueslei Marcelino

I phoned Sueli yesterday to give her the good news.

“Mrs. Sueli. The government just announced that it will increase the minimum wage in January!”

With the same lively voice she spoke with when I visited her a few days earlier, she responded, “Child, that’s a great thing. Maybe there will be a little extra money now to buy some meat?”

According to her ID card, Sueli Paes Alecrin is 48 years old, but her eyes reveal that she is older, much older. She is a single mother to her sons Alessandro, 16, and Alex, 15, and her daughter Amanda, 11. Amanda was born with cerebral palsy.

20 years covering conflict: Goran Tomasevic

As in the ruins of Beirut, Sarajevo or Stalingrad, the conflict in Syria is a sniper’s war. Men stalk their fellow man down telescopic sights on suburban streets, hunting a glimpse of flesh, an eyeball peering from a crack, using decoys to draw their prey into giving themselves away.

During weeks spent tracking the fluid frontline of the battle, veteran war photographer Goran Tomasevic provided daily evidence of an escalating conflict that the UN estimates has killed 100,000 people. Tomasevic photographed with exceptional proximity as combatants mounted complex attacks, managed logistics, treated their wounded, buried their dead – and died before his eyes.

This special package has been sent to coincide with an exhibition of Goran’s award winning work at Visa Pour L’image, the premiere international photojournalism festival. This exhibition was curated by Ayperi Karabuda Ecer.