Photographers' Blog

Learning to walk again after Afghanistan

San Antonio, Texas

By Jim Urquhart

With each step he learns to take he is that much closer to achieving independence. All he wants is to once again be able to be a soldier in the infantry.

Sergeant (Sgt.) Matt Krumwiede has endured about 40 surgeries since June 12th, 2012, when he stepped on a IED while on patrol in Afghanistan.

GALLERY: AFTER AFGHANISTAN

During that time he has fought hard to regain his mobility since the pressure plate unleashed about 15 pounds of explosives that tore away both his legs above the knees, ripped muscle and bone from his left arm, taking parts of a finger and a whole finger and ripped his abdominal cavity wide open.

But, despite his injuries he wants to rejoin his fellow soldiers.

For the last year and half Matt has called Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, home. Everyday he gets himself ready and makes his way to formation with many other injured soldiers. From there he attends doctors appointments, physical therapy and occupational therapy. He is learning to walk again with the use of prosthetic legs while also waiting for his abdominal injuries to heal.

Matt grew up in Pocatello, Idaho with a twin brother named Mark. The two played lacrosse together in high school and when it came time to graduate and other students went to college or began working, Matt enlisted in the army and was soon followed by this brother.

Survival of mankind in the face of disaster

Tacloban, Philippines

By Bobby Yip

Back in 2006, I landed at Tacloban airport, then took a car for a six-hour journey to cover a mudslide which killed 900 people in a remote village in the central Philippines. Seven years later, Tacloban airport is the destination.

Each day after super Typhoon Haiyan battered the city, hundreds of homeless residents try to be evacuated. They fear being left behind, despite some having no clue about what their future holds in another city.

Many more do not leave their homes. They stay on, building make-shift tents and living among debris, where they can find useful items – zinc to make roofs and walls, wood to set up fire.

Waiting on widow’s island

Geoje, South Korea

By Kim Hong-ji

After Germany was reunited in 1990, Korea has been the highest profile divided country in the world. The division has separated numerous families and made them miss each other. A few months ago, when the relationship between the two Koreas improved after five months of political tension, North Korea proposed a reunion ceremony for families who have been separated by the Korean War. Then it abruptly cancelled the ceremony, disappointing the families who have been waiting to reunite with long-lost relatives. Lots of separated families in the two Koreas are still living in great hope that they will be able to meet their loved ones some day.

Geoje island is a small and remote place in South Korea where 18 fisherman were abducted by North Korea while fishing in the disputed West Sea in December, 1972. Forty one years later, little is known about these husbands and sons, how they were abducted or where they may be living in North Korea. I only came to know about this incident when I heard one of the abducted fishermen, Jeon Wook-pyo, 68, escaped from North Korea and returned to South Korea a few months ago. I could not locate him and there is an ongoing investigation by the government. He was abducted 10 years before I was born and I had limited information to follow. Instead, I met a few grandmothers still living in a town heavy with grief for their lost family members. A widow who lost her husband and a mother who lost her child; just wishing they can be reunited in the town some day.

Kim Jeom-sun, 82, who lost her husband when he was abducted in 1972. She is now a grandmother living alone in a 10-square-yard house in Busan, east of the island. She left the island some twenty years ago due to the stigma – as if her husband was a betrayer who fled to the North. Much time has passed since then, but her memories stay with her. A few pictures hanging on the wall keep the memories lingering in her mind. “I have waited and waited until now.. even if he died in North Korea. I still wait for him.”

Standing in JFK’s shadow

By Brian Snyder

John F. Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, and there are reminders of him all over Boston, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and New England. There’s the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum of course, but also the John F. Kennedy federal building, and many schools, streets, memorials and parks named after him. Kennedy also lived in Massachusetts, campaigned for Congress and Senate here, vacationed in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts and Newport, Rhode Island – and photographs of these events and many more are housed in his library. For the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas in 1963, I culled some photographs from the museum’s archives, and set about finding the exact same scene today. Some of these photographs were made by the relatively well known White House photographers Cecil Stoughton and Robert Knudsen, while others are by anonymous photographers.

In order to match the modern scene to the old photographs, I made line drawings of the old photographs and printed those on clear plastic that I could tape to the display on the back of my camera to overlay the scene coming through my lens.

Many of the buildings and landmarks in the old images are still standing, offering clear reference points to line up. As I worked my way around the scenes, I figured out where the photographer had stood 50 or more years ago. The line-drawing overlays allowed me to approximate the focal length of the lens used in the old images, since none of the old images were shot on a 35mm camera. Once I had figured out the camera position and focal length of the lens, I could say to myself, “Cecil Stoughton, or Robert Knudsen, stood here.”

Scouring Madrid’s trash for images

Street cleaners of Madrid went on strike as a measure to stop the dismissal of 1134 workers, about 20% of the staff. Below three Madrid-based photographers discuss their experience covering the strike.

By Susana Vera

Madrileños express their love for their city with the local saying, “From Madrid to heaven, and in heaven a little window from which to see it.” For 13 days, though, no one in Madrid seemed to be paying much attention to the sky above their heads, it was the ground they were most concerned about.

For almost a fortnight litter overflowed many of the city’s bins, turning pavements into obstacle courses. Pedestrians watched every step they took, fearful that food waste might make them slip and fall. Drivers competed with garbage bags for parking space for their vehicles. For once, the ever-present weather conversation was replaced by rubbish disgust as the city’s number one small talk topic.

Body shop, or chop shop

Caracas, Venezuela

By Carlos Garcia Rawlins

I thought I’d heard it all, but I was wrong.

“Doctor, a friend of mine got them and they looked great. I want to look beautiful too…”

“Doctor, when my husband turned to look at another woman I knew if I got them he would look at me…”

“I lost weight and they started to sag…”

“Doctor, I was tricked, they told me they were injections of expanding cells that would be absorbed…”

Sochi’s struggling locals

Sochi, Russia

By Tom Peter

“We meant to do better, but it came out as always.”

Everyone in Russia knows this phrase, unintentionally coined by the late prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and applicable to an abundance of situations in this country, where official pronouncements of intent are often so far removed from reality that you could cry. Though instead of crying, Russians ruefully utter this aphorism and smile.

In Sochi you hear it often these days. With less than 100 days left before the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics, the city has entered the finishing straight to complete the venues for an extravaganza that is to showcase a new Russia. A Russia that has shed its shabby post-Soviet coat to welcome the world to Sochi, where the “sea meets the mountains”, where everything that is adorable about Russia will flourish in a sparkling new summer and winter holidaying resort, as official publicity has it.

This aspiration comes at a high cost.

There is of course the $50-billion prize tag, which makes the Sochi Olympics the most expensive Games in history. Some Russians say this money should have been spent on schools, roads or the public health system, all of which are in great need of repairs.

A torch in space

Zhezkazgan, central Kazakhstan

By Shamil Zhumatov

PART ONE: LAUNCH

During more than a decade of covering Russia’s space exploration program, I have seen pretty unusual missions. I have taken pictures of an investor heading for the International Space Station, as well as those of a clown and programmers flying into orbit. But the most recent space launch and landing have probably become the most unforgettable – the torch of the forthcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia’s Sochi reached space and then returned to Earth. Now, as I play back this hectic flurry of events, it is still hard to believe how closely these two things are entwined – the Olympics and space. The Olympic Games had been aimed by the authorities to strengthen Russia’s image. Given this ambitious task set by Moscow, Russia’s space program – a symbol of national pride, albeit marred by several botched unmanned launches – simply couldn’t stand aloof. Space was doomed to become part of this bright political show.

A few months earlier, when I learnt about the future mission of the torch, the only question that haunted my friends was – how will it burn in space? Their avid interest was heated by the torch itself, whose flame had gone out several times since the Olympic relay across Russia began last month. One of my colleagues even joked that while in space the torch would need “a man with a lighter”, recalling the image of a resourceful plainclothes security agent who saved the day, reigniting the torch with a cigarette lighter when the flame went out right at the start of the relay in the Kremlin on October 6. But as the launch date of November 7 drew nearer, there was a general sigh of relief – the torch would not be lit aboard the space station for safety reasons, and it simply would not be able to burn in outer space due to the laws of nature.

The show began on November 5 at 0700 sharp. The gates of a giant hangar at Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan opened, and at the sound of a whistle a locomotive slowly rolled out a Soyuz rocket, whose normally white-and-grey body was now decorated with Sochi Olympics trademark snowflake patterns. A quick glance at a large number of armed policemen, their armor and helicopters hovering overhead left no one in doubt that the upcoming launch was of paramount importance to Moscow.

At Duxford Airfield, Spitfires still rule the skies

Duxford, England

By Neil Hall

Propellers whirring, a group of Spitfire aircraft zooms in formation across the sky over Duxford Airfield, one of the first stations of Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF).

It could be a scene straight from the 1940 Battle of Britain, when British and German fighter planes vied for control of the skies in one of the key clashes of the Second World War. But this is 2013, and the shapes streaking over the landscape are models that have been worked on by the Aircraft Restoration Company, a firm dedicated to repairing historic planes, mostly for private owners.

Since there are no longer any factory parts available for the old crafts, this involves building the new elements by hand.

From paradise to inferno

Novo Progresso, Brazil

By Nacho Doce

The Amazon? Nobody can truly understand what it is without spending months or years immersed in it, to see the forest and witness the destruction. Spectacular and heartrending at the same time, it is the focus of great controversy that affects the world as much as it does Brazil.

It took us five trips spread over the past year to achieve a better understanding, but what I have recorded is just a brief moment in this immensity of rainforest and deforested land, with the forces working to annihilate what’s left.

GALLERY: INSIDE THE AMAZON

It was time to show the crime being committed against the Amazon.

The only way to begin was to make contacts. I met environmentalist Juan Doblas while visiting a hydroelectric dam on the Tapajós River. Through Juan I met a sociologist named Cirino, and through Cirino I met a farmer named Derivaldo. Cirino and Derivaldo are not their real names; they asked to remain anonymous because both live under constant threat. The word is that there is a $20,000 bounty for Derivaldo’s head, offered by Amazon loggers who want him dead for protecting the forest.