Photographers' Blog

Uneasy life of China’s migrants

Shanghai, China

By Aly Song

Living in the metropolis of Shanghai for over 10 years, it makes sense to me that all the luxury malls, high-end goods and soaring skyscrapers are made by the hands of migrant workers. As a result, I pay extra attention to the migrant worker community.

Shortly after the Spring Festival holiday, I had a chance to photograph dozens of migrant workers traveling from home to job interviews at an underwear factory in Shanghai. They were all recruited by an employment agency, a popular business nowadays especially on the coastal area where the labor shortage situation has reached a worsening level.

The interview was the simplest I had ever seen, the only requirement by the factory was “good health”, followed by several questions which altogether lasted about 5 minutes. Afterwards the workers were divided into two groups – experienced and “whiteboard” (without any work experience). The experienced workers were asked to start working right away, while the whiteboard workers needed to attend a training course – by observing the production line and following a veteran for one or two days.

There were two “whiteboard” girls that caught my eye during the assignment. The two shy girls in their 20s were both ethnic Yi minorities from a village in southwestern China’s Yunnan province. You could almost see in their eyes that everything was so new and strange to them. They wouldn’t give me their names, but they told me that it was their first time leaving home for work, and it brought them to a city over 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) away.

Insecurity and uncertainty have long been the key words for Chinese migrant workers, mainly because they left their homes for a strange environment with few friends and usually zero social insurance. A recent hot topic at the ongoing annual National People’s Congress (NPC) was the household registration system (or hukou regime) reform. Through this, migrant workers could finally benefit from government funds on medical services and education for their children, which are given free to urban dwellers. It would, however, take some time for the new policy to carried out. So, what’s the situation now?

Mars in the desert

Outside Hanksville, Utah

By Jim Urquhart

I may be a Red Shirt but I made it to Mars.

According to Urban Dictionary (the finest source of American literature), a Red Shirt is defined as; A character in a science fiction or adventure story whose sole dramatic purpose is to get killed by the story’s villain and/or itinerant monster. Taken from the propensity of security officers on the original Star Trek series (who typically wore red uniform tops) to be killed in the episodes’ pre-opening-credits teasers.

GALLERY: LIFE ON MARS

When I was young I wanted to be an astronaut but I never had the discipline to follow through. At one point I wanted to be a scientist but I barely made it out of high school and later dropped out of college but not until after I learned a little chemistry for recreational use in my younger days.

Even with my Red Shirts I have always been wanted to be around people that put their minds and bodies to the test. I even married a woman that has three Master’s degrees and is working on her Ph. D. I have always prided myself in consuming as much science news as possible. To me, the mind and the search for tangible knowledge is the fuel for dreams and will lead you to adventures in life.

A widow’s refuge offers solace to the sorrowful

Vrindavan, India

By Adnan Abidi

The sound of applause echoing in the dingy shelter forced a smile on the face of Tulshi Dasi. An expression she had almost forgotten since her world turned white. The reason: she could now write and had just finished writing the English alphabet on a blackboard. And all this at the age of 70! She had never felt this empowered and never knew that learning was so much fun. As Dasi wrote a new chapter in her life in the grimy shelter in Vrindavan, that she shares with many women like her, her companions, around 50 odd widows applauded her progress.

GALLERY: WIDOW REFUGE

Widows, either abandoned by their family members or shunned by society, find their life’s last refuge in various government run shelters such as this one. They come here from all across the country, but mostly from Bengal, where they survive by begging and chanting hymns in temples.

Hindu widows are branded as inauspicious by society and are forbidden to wear any form of color or be a part of any kind of celebrations like marriage and childbirth, hence most find respite amid their own kind, and seek solace in sorrow. As I spent my day with them I realized that learning was the best part of their day. Each of them would get up early, bathe and offer prayers together in the hall before resuming their daily chores of making prayer beads and flower garlands.

Underground with Bosnia’s women miners

Breza, Bosnia and Herzegovina

By Dado Ruvic

Since I started photography, miners have always been an attractive subject matter for me. They provide all photographic elements in one place. Throughout the years, I have often worked on stories below ground for the local newspaper, spending shifts with miners. As March 8th neared, I came up with the idea to do something different related to International Women’s Day. The story, which I had planned a few years earlier but had no reason to shoot, was now ready: Women miners.

GALLERY: LONE FEMALE MINERS OF BOSNIA

One morning I went into the Breza mine and the first person that greeted me at the door was a very strong, smiling woman named Sakiba. I felt the spirit of mining through her. After she finished the morning’s preparation and made a few phone calls, we went to the change rooms. After I awkwardly donned mining clothes, our day started, and a crowd of dirty particles were smiling on my camera. At the entrance to the pit, there was a second miner Šemsa, waiting for us.

Both women have been working in the mine for over 20 years. Every wall, every pillar, every soul in this mine politely bowed to them. We descended in the elevator to about 400 meters below ground. About one year ago a major fire broke out in the mine and one of their friends died. During the time we spent together Šemsa said she finds it difficult to descend into the pit — it stirs very bad memories that are hard to deal with. However, she comforted herself in believing that death was meant for everyone, including her friend.

Destination Fukushima: Two years on

Fukushima, Japan

By Issei Kato

“Let’s put our hearts together and keep going, Fukushima!” reads a large banner that hangs across a large steel structure that stands next to the No. 4 reactor building at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima nuclear power plant.

The plant was overwhelmed by a massive tsunami and earthquake two years ago, triggering hydrogen explosions and a nuclear meltdown.

I was at the Fukushima site for the second time on Wednesday, ahead of the two year anniversary of the March 11 tsunami and earthquake, as a pool photographer, taking pictures of the crippled plant on behalf of foreign media based in Japan. This time, I was struck by how many more workers were on-site and the large number of tanks filled with contaminated water scattered around the area.

The tiger, the pig and the cage

Sumatra Island, Indonesia

By Beawiharta

Over a three-week period in February, I covered two very different animal-related assignments in Indonesia – the slaughtering of snakes in West Java and the preservation of the endangered tiger in Sumatra.

In West Java, Wakira along with his 10 workers kill hundreds of snakes each day for their skin at his slaughterhouse in Cirebon. While in Sumatra, real estate tycoon Tomy Winata saves and releases tigers into the wild at his Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation. I didn’t enjoy the snake slaughterhouse assignment because snakes are dangerous and disgusting, but I really liked visiting the tigers in Tambling.

After a nearly 90 minute flight on a Super Puma helicopter from Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, we landed at the Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation on the southern tip of Sumatra Island. The 45,000 hectare forest reserve can only be reached by boat or plane. As soon as we reached the Sumatran Tiger Rescue Centre on our golf cart, we could immediately hear the roars of the tigers. Seeing three ferocious tigers up close was shocking to me. At times, it was difficult to move and I trembled in fear as the view from my camera lens made me forget that they were actually caged up.

This isn’t my first Mardi Gras

Sydney, Australia

By Tim Wimborne

Not many photographers look forward to shooting on the street on a wet Saturday night. This probably led to my ‘big break’ with the sole agency I had my eye on shooting for – more so than the months I had spent promoting myself as a potential Reuters stringer. And so I covered the 2001 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade. I got there early, left late, carried too much gear, over shot and over filed.

Now, after a couple of years freelancing and then a decade as a staffer with assignments in dozens of countries, my time Down Under is up. This month I take on a new position with Reuters in Singapore. My last assignment in Australia? The 2013 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade.

2001 – I was still shooting film and used a Nikon F5. I would have used Fiji-color 800 film, maybe pushed a stop.
2013 – Last Saturday I covered the parade using Canon EOS 1Dx bodies, 16Gb cards although still shooting mostly with prime lenses.

Rio from above

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

By Ricardo Moraes

Flying over Rio is always incredible. Seeing my city from the sky reveals its beauty from new angles.

My recent flight over the city was focused on the renovation work being carried out at the Maracana Stadium, which will host games for the Confederations Cup this year, the soccer World Cup in 2014 and the 2016 Olympic Games.

With these big events fast approaching, we are constantly monitoring the progress of building works. The new roof being installed at Maracana is supposed to be its big moment, marking the beginning of the end of renovations.

Inside the Pistorius courthouse

Pretoria, South Africa

By Siphiwe Sibeko

The Oscar Pistorius murder trial is one of the biggest stories South Africa has ever had. Covering it as a Reuters photographer was one of the most demanding and frustrating assignments I’ve ever had.

We were given strict orders by the court not to take photographs of anything or anyone while the magistrate was in the courtroom. This limited our access to Oscar and made it difficult to take good pictures.

On his first court appearance he stood in the dock and looked straight at the magistrate, avoiding looking at photographers and the people in the gallery. The magistrate read out that Oscar had been charged with murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Oscar bowed his head and breathed heavily, struggling to contain his emotions and wept. I think this was when it hit him that it was not a dream but reality. At the end of the court proceedings on that first day I only managed to photograph Oscar from the side as he was avoiding photographers. Then he turned as quickly as he could and left the court.

An endangered priesthood

Tagaytay city, Philippines

By Erik de Castro

I woke at dawn to the sound of a bell ringing and Gregorian Chant music at the Saint Augustine Minor Seminary compound on Mindoro island in the central Philippines. It was still dark as dozens of seminarians in the first phase of a 12-year journey to priesthood walked towards a chapel for their morning prayers and a mass.

I walked to the same chapel 41 years ago and left after more than two years in the seminary.

As I walked with them in the chilly air, I felt the seminary’s sprawling compound was so big now compared to the time I was there. Since 1962 when the seminary opened, there have been 1200 seminarians who have passed through, according to Father Andy Lubi. So far it has produced 72 priests, some who have already left for a variety of reasons. From the 100 recruited during an annual vocation campaign, 12 is the average number of candidates that enter the seminary per year.