Photographers' Blog

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.

Nudity here is natural, not vulgar. Businessmen mix with craftsman in a joyful nakedness that no one seems to notice. No one bats an eyelid when I jump into the pool with a Gopro in my hand to make a series of underwater photos of people taking an aqua gym class. Only the life guard, holding my iPad beside the pool in order to see my images remarked on my “courage” to have so quickly adapted to the dress code.

The Helio-Marin Centre allows all generations to take advantage of naturism. The glance of another is no longer about their clothes. Remarks are no longer directed about the job one holds which can no longer be guessed at. How to distinguish the banker from the carpenter? The hair dresser from the minister? Everyone is alike, or almost.

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.

The quiet of a nuclear beach

Iwaki, Japan

By Issei Kato

“I have to arrive at the beach before it starts raining.” This is what I was thinking as I drove up to the Fukushima coast, less than 35 km (21 miles) from the crippled nuclear plant. Because the weather forecast said it was going to rain in the region, I had packed a waterproof kit for my camera and beach gear so I could be ready to photograph the beach.

Iwaki city, located just 40 km (24 miles) south of the plant, had declared nearby Yotsukura beach open to the public this summer, the first time since a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered a nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. But, during the period between July 15 and August 18, when the beach was open to the public, the operator of the plant admitted that contaminated water was leaking out to the ocean. Government officials said 300 tonnes of radioactive water was probably flowing out to the sea every day.

Most of Japan’s beaches are controlled by the local government, which holds official opening ceremonies during the summer months and assigns lifeguards to patrol the beach. Residents and visitors can go to the beach during the off-season too, but it is usually less crowded. I went to the beach just after the open season had ended, thinking there would still be about 100 residents enjoying the sun, even though it was weekday, because the summer holiday season had still not ended.

The most wanted photograph in China

Jinan, China

By Carlos Barria

As the morning approached, reporters, photographers and cameramen from national and foreign media organizations gathered outside the Jinan Intermediate People’s Court to cover the final chapter in the trial of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai.

The stage for this story was Jinan, in the northeastern coastal province of Shandong. This story had all the elements of a great thriller: power, corruption, romance and murder. With no access to the courtroom itself, the foreign media and the general public relied on images provided by the court for glimpses of the trial. Also, for the first time China’s judicial system provided court transcripts, published on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.

The opportunities for photographing Bo Xilai stood at about zero. Authorities only allowed media to stake out the courthouse from a fenced area across the street, and even there we had to go through a security scan to get in. Some journalists complained that during the first morning of the trial police denied them movement in and out of this area to cover protests that were going on nearby.

An underground photography mission

Gaza-Egypt border in the southern Gaza Strip

By Mohammed Salem

It was not easy to get in to the tunnels’ area on the Gaza-Egypt border. I had to make an enormous effort to obtain a permit from the Hamas-run interior ministry because there is a ban on photography in this area for apparent security reasons. Once I had the permit, I headed straight to the area where I was stopped at several police checkpoints before finally getting to one of the smuggling tunnels. It took me a few minutes to take in the area and see the real situation with my own eyes, not as it is described by others. Hundreds of tunnel entrances were covered by tents in an attempt to hide the location and Egyptian army tanks were close by, guarding the border.

One of the tunnel workers, Abu Mohammed, offered to let me see his tunnel. At the entrance, his colleagues were sleeping and having a rest after some hard work while the other shifts were working underground. Abu Mohammed decided to accompany me to help me while I was photographing inside the tunnel. I was surprised and a bit frightened to see a 20 meter-deep hole, and wasn’t so happy about going down into the dark. Abu Mohammed encouraged me, saying that you descend on a rope operated by an electric generator, assuring me that the rope was strong enough to carry heavy construction materials. I tied my cameras around my body and the adventure began.

I had a very weird feeling while going down, but it was interesting. When I arrived underground, two of the tunnel’s workers shouted a warm welcome as they saw me as a guest. They were very happy to see a new face. Cautiously I began walking inside the underground passage, which runs about one kilometer (0.6 miles) to the Egyptian side. For my part, it was like a trip to another planet or a completely different world. The workers continued their work and I managed to document them while they were repairing their damaged tunnel and resting. I could hear some murmurings and sounds coming from a neighboring tunnel that was separated from us only by a wall of sand. I almost got lost and started to enter another tunnel run by other people, but the workers notified me. It was not an easy hour. It was very hot and humid, and shooting pictures was very difficult due to the weak light. Even breathing was not as easy as I thought.

A day on the lobster boat

In waters off Cape Elizabeth, Maine

By Brian Snyder

The instructions were: “Meet my sternman, and friend, Rob at 4:45am at the fish pier in Portland, Maine. From there, you two will catch a ride on another boat out to join me on the Wild Irish Rose, somewhere among the islands off coast.”

Lobsterman Steve Train owns the the Wild Irish Rose, and had some engine problems that morning. Rob was running late. But Steve guided me to his brother’s boat at a different pier. We picked up Rob and were out to the Wild Irish Rose soon enough.

Steve Train started lobstering with his brother when they were kids, then worked on a variety of boats throughout high school and college. In 1989, while he was still in college, he bought his first boat. He jokingly calls lobstering a “disease.” His father lobstered into the 1960′s, stopped, but started again in the 1990′s. Steve’s brother bought his first boat in 1992, his first year out of college. Both of Steve’s daughters, twelve and sixteen years old, have lobstered with him, the elder daughter all summer until field hockey started.

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