Photographers' Blog

The immigrant behind the eyes

Safi, Malta

By Darrin Zammit Lupi

“Go get 13i38 from warehouse 2,” barks the army NCO to his subordinates. We know his name now, but the military personnel providing security in the detention center continue to refer to him, as with all detainees, by the reference number given to him when he arrived here.

He is Mohammed Ilmi Adam, a 17-year-old, from Mogadishu, Somalia. The piercing gaze which made him an iconic figure is gone; he’s just like so many other teenagers of his age, eyes flicking from side to side, rarely making eye contact. Slouching on a chair in a small office at the army’s Safi barracks detention center, he looks dejected, submissive, sullen, lost, and indifferent to our presence.

Mohammed arrived in Malta in the early hours of July 10, after being rescued from a tightly-packed rubber dinghy along with 67 other, mostly Somali, immigrants. He arrived hours after a political storm blew up when the Maltese government threatened to deport a group of new arrivals without giving them the opportunity to apply for asylum, only backing down at the eleventh hour when the European Court of Human Rights issued an urgent injunction to block the action.

Though he was safe, at least for the time being, from the threatened pushback, the picture of his apprehensive and piercing eyes quickly became a symbol of the uncertain future he and others like him faced. Soon after I photographed him arriving in Malta and realized the impact the picture was having on many people, I set about trying to identify him.

Visiting two detention centers on an organized media tour nine days after his arrival, I started showing his picture to a group of Somalis I came across sitting in a window. It wasn’t long before someone recognized him, and dashed off to get him. Once he appeared in the window, I immediately knew I’d found my man, though he didn’t immediately recognize himself in the picture. However, hampered by an insurmountable language barrier, and being told by guards to get a move on, meant I couldn’t actually do anything then.

Revisiting the Waldo Canyon fire

Colorado Springs, Colorado

By Rick Wilking

Covering natural disasters is a strange thing. You get there all in a huff, as fast as you can after the tragedy, and then try to seek out the major damage. You document all that, often busting hump for very long days, for a week or more depending on how bad it is.

Then inevitably the first weekend after the storm or fire comes and the story falls off the radar. Your editor sends you home to lick your wounds and wait for the next “big one.”

As I wrote this, another tropical storm cooked up off the coast of Africa, heading west. “It might be here in a week,” I thought. (Yes, people who cover hurricanes monitor such things.)

The king of Italian politics

Rome, Italy

By Alessandro Bianchi

Four-time Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi lost his court case, but not his magic.

Tensions were high three days after he was definitively convicted for tax fraud on August 1. No one knew whether the unpredictable leader of Italy’s center-right for the past two decades would quit politics or not.

After avoiding conviction in dozens of other cases over the years, an appeals court upheld a four-year jail sentence – commuted to one year – for the media mogul, and because of a recently passed corruption law, he also faced a ban from public office. To deliver his response to the ruling, Berlusconi did what comes naturally to him – he called his die-hard supporters to rally around him in a public square.

Inside the iSurgery operation

Hamburg, Germany

By Fabian Bimmer

When my boss, Joachim Herrmann, told me that I had to cover liver surgery using an iPad, I had no idea how an iPad could be helpful during an operation. I knew that iPhones, iPads and tablets were becoming more important in being useful in all sorts of activities in our daily life – but for surgeries?

We use these new toys in different ways: GPS for cars, during sporting activities, music, mail and for other ways to communicate. Some of my colleagues use tablet computers to present their portfolios and to operate their cameras. Swiss camera maker Alpa uses an iPhone as a viewfinder for their tilt and shift cameras. But I couldn’t imagine how an iPad would be helpful during an operation to remove two tumors from a liver.

Also, I knew nothing at all about livers or any surgery before this assignment.

An automotive best in show

Pebble Beach, California

By Michael Fiala

When I usually don cameras to shoot on the 18th fairway of Pebble Beach it’s to cover what is considered one of the best finishing holes in golf. Stay an arm’s length within the ropes, work as silently as possible and don’t distract the golfers. Instead this past Sunday I weaved myself through this hallowed stretch of coastline and into the colorful automotive celebration that is the Concours d’Elegance. An annual charitable event, which was founded in 1950, of rare automobiles, competing in their class and for Best of Show.

GALLERY: CONCOURS D’ELEGANCE

The Pebble Beach Concours, which concludes a week of car-related festivities – much of it business related – attracts some of the world’s wealthiest car enthusiasts, industry leaders, and celebrities. The week consists of five auctions, eight concours and exhibitions, three days of racing, concept car unveilings and manufacturer displays, all culminating Sunday on the shores of the foggy Pacific.

I had a top priority knowing I was going to be within inches of rare, concept and production cars worth millions of dollars – do not accidentally bump into any of them. I very deliberately minded my gear, many times taking off bags and extra cameras before leaning over to shoot these ultra expensive machines. I’m happy to report I didn’t leave a single scuff or scratch.

Fishing by sunrise

Lisbon, Portugal

By Jose Manuel Ribeiro

What we don’t see, we don’t know and when we don’t know we can not think about it. But near any of us, can be some piece of news. In the darkness of the night between Golden Beach and California Beach in Sesimbra village, 40 km (25 miles) south of Lisbon, elderly retired fishermen pull long ropes and fishing nets onto the sand.

The same place during the day welcomes thousands of swimmers and tourists on summer holidays without any knowledge of what had been done before dawn.

Trapped between European Union laws, Natural Park Environment regulations, the Portugal financial crisis and their need to survive on a slim pension of between 200 and 300 euros, they keep fighting helped by younger neighbors and relatives as they practice the old fishing technique, the arte xavega. Xavega is a Portuguese word originating from Arabic meaning fishing net.

Vinyl’s not dead, long live vinyl

Lodenice, Czech Republic

By Petr Josek

The good old times are probably, definitely, gone and the world and all its information will soon fit into mobile phones. You read papers on your mobile phone, you pay in stores by mobile phone, watch movies, chat with friends, take photographs, play games and, alongside many other applications offered in modern times, you also listen to music from your mobile phone.

The time when you sat at home, lit a candle, opened a bottle of wine and pulled out a nice black vinyl record of your choice to relax is history. But there is still a hope.

GZ Digital Media’s factory is located in a small village called Lodenice, some 26 kilometers (16 miles) west of Prague. It was established at the beginning of the 1950s, manufacturing records for the whole Eastern bloc.

Athletic endeavors for remote cameras

Moscow, Russia

By Fabrizio Bensch and Pawel Kopczynski


Canon 1DX, 70-200 1:2.8 + 1,4 converter, 1/2500 sec at f/8, 1250 ISO

The great success of remote and robotic cameras during the London Olympics opened up a new window of opportunities to shoot sports pictures from above.

With that in mind, our preparation for the World Athletics in Moscow started back in November 2012, as we began to analyze the venue from a technical point of view.

Fireworks explode over Luzhniki stadium during the opening ceremony of the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Moscow August 10, 2013. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski

Living as a Muslim in Paris

Paris, France

By Youssef Boudlal

Photographing the daily life of Muslims in Paris is a challenge. I discovered this by throwing myself into the project, which rapidly became a story of failed encounters, rejection and disappointment. Among the people I met, the fear of prejudice towards the Muslim world was intense, as was the worry that cliches about the community could be fueled or spread by images.

I met a good number of people as part of my investigation. The first few were in the suburbs of Paris, home to a large Muslim community. In Vitry-sur-Seine, I met four twenty-somethings of North African origin sitting outside a church. I explained my project to them and their suspicions were quickly aroused. I was asked about my job, the reasons for my project and why I was interested in them. They worried about how my images would be used. One of them took me for a spy.

Another encounter, this time at Mantes-la-Jolie, among Paris’s western suburbs. Here, a young woman in a headscarf was buying fruit and vegetables at the Val Fourre market and I decided to approach her. I explained my project in detail, and asked if she wanted to take part. She displayed no enthusiasm but no scepticism either, to the point where she asked permission from her father, a butcher she was helping for the season. I was already picturing images of this contrast. But he refused, without explanation. My arguments couldn’t sway him.

Commemorating Operation Pedestal

Valletta, Malta

By Darrin Zammit Lupi

In ever dwindling numbers, elderly war veterans keep their annual mid-August appointment in Valletta’s Grand Harbour to take part in a commemorative service marking the anniversary of Operation Pedestal. Known to the Maltese as the Santa Marija convoy (as it had reached the island on the feast day of Our Lady of the Assumption, an important day in Malta’s religious calendar), Pedestal was a desperate attempt by the Allied forces to get much-needed supplies of food, fuel and ammunition to the bomb-battered island of Malta in August 1942, at the height of the war in the Mediterranean.

Malta, a British air and naval base at the time, was on the brink of starvation and close to surrendering to the Axis powers that surrounded it on all sides. The operation’s success, albeit with heavy losses, has gone down in military history as one of the most important British strategic victories of World War Two, even though it was in many ways a tactical disaster.

To commemorate the 60th anniversary 11 years ago an old school friend of mine, Simon Cusens, took it upon himself to make contact with survivors of the convoy and arrange to bring them to Malta to mark the anniversary. 105 convoy veterans attended that year, including three former enemies, watching a highly emotional re-enactment of the August 15, 1942, arrival to the beleaguered island of the tanker SS Ohio, the ship that carried the most crucial supply of fuel and is, to this day, considered to be the island’s savior.