Photographers' Blog

Kiev’s subway disco

Kiev, Ukraine

By Gleb Garanich

Passing through a pedestrian subway in central Kiev about twenty years ago, I saw elderly people dancing. I stopped for a few moments and then proceeded on my route – I was 25 years old at the time and, frankly speaking, this story was of no interest to me.

By pure accident, I ended up in the same place one evening in early February, and all of a sudden I felt a completely different attitude to what was happening… I was no longer indifferent to the lives and destinies of these people. What makes some 200 people gather in this passway on weekends for twenty years and dance for four hours?

Why gather in this very subway? Well, it is understandable – they have no money to rent a spacious room and dance indoors, and the mayor’s office allows them to gather underground instead of allocating any funds.

The reason they dance is also well understood – this is probably the most affordable way to while away their spare time and communicate.

Yet the main problem of the elderly generation in this country is that they feel unneeded by the state and people that surround them. This generation grew up in the Soviet Union. Many cannot adjust to a completely different lifestyle or reconcile with new realities and values. They don’t understand communication via social networks, but they still clearly remember the way all holidays were celebrated during their childhood and youth; when tables laden with food were brought out, and neighbors from the same street or house would sit down together and then dance to the tune of an accordion through the night.

Hitting the ground running

Washington, D.C.

By Kevin Lamarque

Air Force One descends and the well choreographed dance begins: meal trays go up, shoes put back on, and laptops slipped into backpacks. Often the movie is abandoned minutes before the ending. Perhaps it’s time for one last reach into the candy basket. Cameras are slung over shoulders and settings are re-checked. Questions are asked: “Is it raining out there?” “Is there a pen of greeters?” Photographers, first out the door of the press cabin, make their way to the designated spot under the wing to photograph the President descending the steps of Air Force One.

Whether it’s a quick day trip to Virginia or a red-eye to Europe or Asia, the arrival of Air Force One is always a spectacle. For locals, it is the quintessential moment of self-importance: “Air Force One is landing in our city.” Footage of the plane landing is usually broadcast live by local networks. From inside the plane’s press cabin, we often watch this live footage, actually seeing ourselves land. It’s a pretty weird experience when you think about it.

For photographers, the arrival is the first image that places the President in his new locale. It is the beginning of a new story. The arrival photos are usually the first images we transmit to our clients who are sometimes eagerly awaiting a timely visual to match their story.

Searching for UFOs

Sedona, Arizona

By Mike Blake

Red rocks, pink jeeps, vortex tours, pan flute music and UFO tours: Welcome to Sedona, Arizona.

You can see when arriving why for hundreds of years the Native Americans considered Sedona a sacred place; it is stunningly beautiful. But like most beautiful things on this planet we humans find ways to monetize the experience. From parking passes to tours through the desert in pink jeeps, businesses are created and a micro economy sprouts up next to the vortexes. But back to UFO’s…

If you ever get an opportunity to go on a UFO tour, take it. I took my camera along, out into the blackness of the winter desert just south of Sedona where we met up with Kim Carlsberg, who happens to be a well known UFO author and speaker on the subject of UFOs.

Clowning around with healthcare

Bern, Switzerland

By Pascal Lauener

The first time I meet Regula Kaltenrieder, a qualified acupuncturist, I didn’t know that she was one of the 200 Clown Doctors of the Theodora foundation.

The funny and loud crowd celebrated their 20th anniversary on the Federal Parliament Square in Bern. The foundation was founded in 1993 through the initiative of two brothers, André and Jan Poulie, who decided, in memory of their mother, to name the foundation Theodora. Outside Switzerland, the foundation is currently active in seven countries: England, Belarus, China, Spain, France, Italy and Turkey. After a chat with the media representative of the foundation and several phone calls and e-mails later they accepted a photographer to go on a visit with one of their clown doctors.

Last week I met Regula outside a Lebanese restaurant next to the main hospital, the Insel in Bern. She was drinking a cup of tea and chatting with four other women and the media representative of the foundation, who had to ask the parents for permission to take pictures during my visit with the clown doctor.

The writing’s on the wall

Belfast, Northern Ireland

By Cathal McNaughton

A five meter high mural of a gunman dressed in army fatigues and a balaclava, clutching an AK-47 painted on the gable end of a wall of a house in a residential street – people walk by and don’t even notice it.

In other parts of the UK and Ireland there would probably be outrage – but not in Northern Ireland, where young children happily play on streets with a backdrop of politically charged murals commemorating the violence and bloodshed of the Troubles.

These murals have become street wallpaper for the people living in this small corner of Europe who barely bat an eyelid at a gory depiction of a skeleton crawling over dead bodies that adorns the end wall of a house on their street.

To die in peace

Yangon, Myanmar

By Minzayar

“There are about thirty patients in our hospice and the number’s always about the same. New patients arrive regularly and as old patients die. About ten die every month here.”

When the nurse showing me around the hospice said that, I was kind of shocked. If ten patients die a month, that means one every three days. To be honest, I have very rarely seen someone die near me. When I do, it is very sad and scary. I cannot imagine how the people here live with it.

U Hla Tun’s cancer hospice is a well-known place in Myanmar where cancer patients have been looked after for many years. It was founded in 1998 by U Hla Tun, who despite his wealth couldn’t save his young daughter from deadly cancer. His hospice only accepts cancer patients in the terminal stage, those who have already been given up on by the government hospitals’ cancer wards. “We accept only the hopeless and the helpless,” says Naw Lar Htoo Aye, the head nurse.

The old woman and the sea

Cano Ciego Island, Costa Rica

By Juan Carlos Ulate

One of the most gratifying moments that photojournalism offers is to meet people who will make an impression on us, regardless of their social or intellectual status, through an example of courage and boldness.

People like Cecilia Villegas, a 77-year old woman who lives on the island of Cano Viejo, some 45 minutes by boat from the Costa Rican city of Puntarenas on the Pacific coast. Cecilia, known to all as “Grandma Chila”, goes out every morning with her weak knees and slanted walk looking for mollusks in the mangrove swamp where she lives.

She then ventures out to sea in her small boat and goes fishing. If she is successful she goes to the market in the port of Puntarenas to sell her catch. Then she wanders the streets for 12 hours or until the tide rises when she can go back home to her Cano Viejo ranch and her animals.

The lost dogs of Ciudad Juarez

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

By Jose Luis Gonzalez

As a photojournalist living and working in Ciudad Juarez I’m used to seeing dead people being picked up off the streets.

The last few years have been brutal, with violence and shoot-outs every day and dead people everywhere. But it is much calmer now and corpses lying in puddles of blood are not as common a sight as they used to be. Nevertheless, some weeks ago I drove through a neighborhood and saw a couple of men dressed in hooded, white coveralls picking up another kind of corpse: a dead dog. They threw it into a container pulled by a truck and when they took off I started to follow them.

They stopped every so often, picking up another dead dog from the streets and throwing it into the container. They were collecting a lot of dead animals and when I approached the truck, I could see that there was a whole pile of them.

Riding India’s railways

Across India

By Navesh Chitrakar

My journey on the great railways of India began on October 23, 2012. The trip not only marked my first visit to India, it was also the first time that I had ever travelled on real trains because my home country, Nepal, does not have a proper rail network.

Everything about the trains was new to me, which made it really exciting. I started out from Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station in Delhi and headed towards Agra with the help of a railway atlas, a train map and a fixer. I had been provided with the fixer’s assistance for a couple of days thanks to my chief photographer Ahmad Masood, one of the generous people who gave me a lot of help to complete this story. It didn’t take me long to get used to train travel; I understand and speak Hindi, and most of the people on the trains were very friendly and helpful. Most of the time I was doing what I was there to do: observing and trying to capture the most significant and fascinating aspects of India’s railways.

In a country that is the seventh largest in the world by area and the second largest in the world by population, the Indian railway network reaches almost everywhere and carries commuters from one end of the country to the other. The network is a lifeline for India and for the Indians who use it. And why not take advantage of it? People prefer trains because they are a cheaper and faster way to travel. When you travel India by rail, everything is going on around you; it seems like the railway has created its own world and the running of that world depends on the running train.

More soup for more poor

Buenos Aires, Argentina

By Enrique Marcarian

I first photographed a soup kitchen in 1998, in a parish in one of Buenos Aires’ famous “villas miserias,” which literally means “misery towns” in reference to its large slums. At that time I only saw children taking their daily rations and often smiling at my camera.

I assumed that the sheer number of children depending on soup kitchens was just circumstantial, and the next governments would improve the situation for them and there would be more being fed at home instead of by charities.

I was wrong. A couple of years later the country entered into one of its worst economic crises. Suddenly I no longer saw just more children in the soup kitchens but I saw them even more malnourished, to the extent that they were at risk of starvation. In fact, I came to find out that some children did die, although official versions didn’t say it was starvation.