Photographers' Blog

The Arafat-Rabin handshake 20 years on

By Gary Hershorn

There I was on Saturday, September 11, 1993 waiting for the U.S. Open women’s tennis final to start in New York when I received a call from my manager at the time, Larry Rubenstein, that I had to return to Washington the following night as soon as the men’s final was finished to help cover what he said was a big event Monday morning. “There is going to be an historic handshake and you need to be there so just get back to DC,” he said.

Word had come that PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin were going to attend the signing of the Israeli-PLO peace accord with President Clinton on the back lawn of the White House. I was told to do whatever I needed to in order to get out of New York on Sunday night after the men’s final and be at the White House at dawn Monday morning.

It was a great honor to be told by my boss that I would be the Reuters photographer on the main camera platform in front of the stage where the signing was taking place but before that happened, I had two tennis finals to photograph and make sure I actually arrived back in Washington on Sunday night before I could allow myself to start thinking about how I wanted to capture the historic moment.

For two days all I thought about was what would happen if the tennis final went five long sets and on Sunday night I missed my flight back to DC. How would I ever accept missing what was expected to be the biggest handshake in Washington since Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin shook Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s hand with President Carter on the front lawn of the White House during their peace treaty signing in March 1979.

As I remember 20 years ago, Steffi Graf won the women’s title, Peter Sampras took care of Cedric Pioline in straight sets to win the men’s championship, the car service I hired to take me from the tennis center to La Guardia Airport worked perfectly, the flight wasn’t cancelled and I walked into my apartment about 11 p.m. Now came the fun part, two hours of getting all the equipment I needed ready for the morning event before getting a few short hours of sleep before the big event.

The end of the Lusty Lady

San Francisco, California

By Stephen Lam

Sometimes, you just have to wait.

A few weeks ago I was assigned to photograph the closure of the Lusty Lady, the first unionized and worker-owned strip club in the United States, located in San Francisco’s popular North Beach neighborhood.

In the week leading up to the event, I had a difficult time getting in touch with my contact at the club, but I was finally able to get the green light two days before it shut. The club had been extremely busy since the closure was announced, but they allowed us to cover the story on the condition that I remained respectful to everyone there: challenge accepted.

As part of the closure, the club hosted a New Orleans-style funeral procession around the neighborhood before the final night of shows at the club. I was greeted by the sight of current and former dancers from all over the country, along with curious onlookers.

Burning bright, loud and intense

Black Rock Desert of Nevada

By Jim Bourg

Having been to Burning Man several times now, I went to the 2013 event determined to convey in some new way to people who have never been the intensity, the size and the sometimes overwhelming sensory overload of the experience. It is truly like nothing else on earth and sometimes feels alien and otherworldly.

The size of the event, a temporary city of almost 70,000 people spanning across miles of the Nevada desert, is hard to convey in individual still photos. So is the sensory overload that 24 hour a day music, lasers, flame effects, wild costumes and the intensity of the dusty, sometimes blazingly hot in the day and at other times frigidly cold at night desert environment brings to bear. Some people who have not been before find it too much to take and leave after only a few days never to return. But for tens of thousands of others one of the regular cliches of Burning Man is that it feels like home and they feel more comfortable there than any place else. As people arrive in Black Rock City every single person gets the salutation from volunteer greeters: “Welcome Home!”

Another common cliche among the “Burners” who attend the event is that trying to describe the experience of being at Burning Man to people who have not been there is like “trying to explain the color purple to a blind person.” Participants returning to work exhausted and changed by a week in the 100 degree dust storm blasted, dehydrating heat of the desert are often floored by friends and coworkers cheerily asking “How was your vacation?” The environment, culture and experiences of Burning Man strain relationships, profoundly impact peoples’ concepts of community, self reliance and responsibility for themselves and others. In many cases the experience actually permanently changes peoples’ perspectives on their lives.

Losing the land war

Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil

 By Lunae Parracho

Three-year-old Sandriely has a look of suffering. She was born in the roadside camp along the same highway where her brother was run over by a truck. Her grandmother Damiana Cavanha, one of the few women chiefs among the Guarani Indians, has lost, beside her grandson, five other family members: one aunt died of poisoning from pesticides used on the neighboring sugar cane plantation, and her husband and three of their children were hit and killed by passing vehicles.

Damiana, Sandriely, and 23 other Guarani Kaiowa Indians are living in a makeshift camp along the shoulder of highway BR-463 in Mato Grosso do Sul since 2009. They settled here after their last failed attempt to take back their ancestral land, called Tekohá Apika’y. (Tekohá is loosely translated as ancestral land, and Apika’y, the name of that specific plot, means “those who wait.”) That was four years ago when they were expelled from their land by gunmen who shot one of them.

A federal prosecutor visited the camp back then, and wrote in a report, “Children, youths, adults and the elderly are subjected to degrading conditions against human dignity. The situation experienced by them is analogous to a refugee camp. They are like foreigners in their own country.”

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.

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.