Photographers' Blog

Mandela and my son

South Africa

By Mike Hutchings

Balancing the dual roles of photojournalist and parent can be challenging at times – unpredictable hours and long assignments can be disruptive to family life.

But being the son of a photojournalist has its perks. My son Daniel had the chance to meet former South African President Nelson Mandela three times while accompanying me on stories.

On the first occasion, he was only six weeks old. I had been waiting for Mandela to arrive at a function in Cape Town’s Waterfront district when my partner Shannon called and asked where I was.

“Waiting for Mandela at the Waterfront,” I replied.

Her response was fast.  So fast in fact that I could almost hear the slamming of doors and the screeching of tires as she grabbed hold of Daniel and sped off to join me. In a flash they were standing next to me, moments before Mandela arrived.

Mandela’s love for children was well known, driven perhaps by the pain of separation from his own family during his incarceration and early political life. Invariably, when he appeared in public, he would immediately zoom in on any children present. And that engagement always made for good pictures.

The teachings of Mao

Sitong, China

By Carlos Barria

In a remote farming area of China’s central province of Henan, kids are roused from their warm beds at 5 a.m. as revolutionary songs play over the loudspeaker system. In the freezing morning they gather around a cement courtyard for their morning exercises.

Mr. Xia Zuhai, principal of the Democracy Elementary and Middle school — where the curriculum stresses the teachings of China’s late Chairman Mao Zedong — blows his whistle and encourages the students while they run around in the darkness for 20 minutes.

Then, the children enter a cold classroom where a big portrait of Chairman Mao is seen on the wall, decked out with colorful balloons in preparation for the 120th anniversary of Mao’s birth on Dec. 26.

Fly fishing with veterans

Hopeville Canyon, West Virginia

By Gary Cameron

In the summer of 2012, I photographed the Wounded Warriors Amputee Softball team as they played against local teams in central New York. Veterans of the Afghanistan, Persian Gulf and Iraq wars, their horrific wounds were quite evident; everyone on the team had a minimum of one limb missing, if not more. If there was one common factor that I learned from that story, it was that veterans, no matter what their military affiliation or tour of service, have a quiet understanding among themselves that bonds them with the awful experience of war. These men and women, attempting to continue on with their lives and families once home again, have seen too much conflict. At a very young age, they have had too many tours, too many nightmares, and too many difficulties in re-adjusting back from a world where things blow up on a daily basis and friends are seriously injured or killed.

Project Healing Waters is a program that began in 2005 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington for veterans who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its purpose was to provide veterans with access to the many aspects in the art of fly fishing, and the serenity that accompanies this art.

I love fishing and spending time on the water with my family and friends, but you must understand the difference between those who fly fish, and those who simply go to a store, buy a rod, reel, line and lure, and “fish.” I fall under the latter category.

Circle of life at Greece’s fish farms

Sofiko village, Greece

By Yorgos Karahalis

Fish farming was a business that a few decades ago was completely alien in Greece, where eating fish was strictly related to the local fisherman, the weather conditions and the phase of the moon.

These days, regardless of the moon and the weather, we can all buy fresh fish at extremely low prices, every day. And from my experience of the industry during the days I photographed its fish farms and hatcheries, I realized there is more to the process than I thought – it’s a production line that resembles the circle of life itself.

The first step in the journey is at the hatchery. There you’ll find the broodstock, a group of fish held in the facility for breeding purposes. Once the eggs are chosen, they’re transferred to different tanks where they start growing up. At the same time, ichthyologists, the scientists who study fish, carry out regular checks on the newborns to make sure they’re healthy.

Challenging gender roles in the Philippines

Manila, Philippines

By Bobby Ranoco

The Philippines economy has surged with 7%+ growth for five straight quarters but for some, jobs remain hard to come by. The answer for some people has been to look for work in an area traditionally filled by someone of the opposite gender.

I contacted the state-run Technical Educational Skills and Development Authority (TESDA) which offers training courses for ‘unisex jobs’. I met three women undertaking training courses in the traditionally male jobs of automotive repair, welding and electrician.

One of them, Vina Jane Aranas, a 17-year-old high school graduate said she dreams of finishing college. She took a nine month fixing cars vocational course which she hopes will allow her to work and support her herself through college. “I am not ashamed of what I am doing, even if people think that automotives is a job for men. Life is hard nowadays and it is difficult to get a job… I believe this is a way for me to finish college, and I dream of having my own car repair shop,” Aranas said. I started taking pictures of her fixing a car engine, lying on the floor to align car wheels. I told her that I was impressed and that she was way better than me because while I have my own car, I don’t even know how to change flat tires. We both had a good laugh.

Fishing for a living fossil

Fonte Boa, Brazil

By Bruno Kelly

This was the second year I’ve had the chance to document the fishing of the world’s largest freshwater fish with scales, the arapaima, or pirarucu, as it’s known in the Brazilian Amazon. Last year I photographed a community that fished only at night for a few days to fill their quota, but this year it would be done in the day and the fishing would last a week.

I traveled to the Mamiraua nature reserve, some 600 km (373 miles) west of Manaus along the Solimoes river, one of the two main tributaries of the Amazon. This reserve was created in 1996 with the aim of promoting sustainable use of natural resources for the development of the river communities. The trip began with a two-hour flight from Manaus to Tefe, and from there on a fast launch to the town of Fonte Boa, affectionately known as the Land of Pirarucu by its residents.

The Mamiraua reserve is divided into nine sectors with some 200 communities. To put the reserve’s dimensions into perspective, it would take more than 24 hours to travel from one extreme of the reserve to another in one of the fast launches that are commonly used here. One of those launches became our home during this trip.

Dressing the jewel of the Greek army

Athens, Greece

By John Kolesidis

Known in Greece as Evzones, the soldiers comprising the presidential guard – a term dating back to Homer, meaning the “well-girt” men, implying an elite status – are a symbol of discipline. The unit is often referred to as “the jewel of the Greek army”, and rightly so. Their primary mission is to guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier around the clock, which may seem like a piece of cake, except it isn’t. During their watch, they have to remain completely motionless and stand at attention at all costs in all kinds of weather. During violent demonstrations, for example, plastic water bottles, oranges and Molotov cocktails keep flying over their heads. Their eyes may tear up because of the tear-gas used by police, but they remain stone-still, maintaining a show of normality. It is quite surreal to watch them stand still while a virtual war is raging around them or while little children tease and harass them, often pinching them to make sure they are alive.

It’s not easy to join the presidential guard. There is a minimum height requirement of 6.1″, and the soldier has to be in top physical and mental health. A series of exercises and drills are necessary to establish their unparalleled level of discipline. Upon waking up in their camp, which is identical to the rest of the army camps, the Evzones perform an extended program of marching and lining up drills, as well as endurance training and stretching exercises at the National Garden. Their target is to learn how to raise their legs to shoulder height and get used to standing on their feet for more than 100 hours per month.

Next to their discipline, the most striking thing about them is their handmade uniforms, mirroring the lengthy national struggles. The white kilt comprises of 400 pleats, representing the 400 years under Ottoman occupation. The red leather clogs weighing more than seven pounds bear around 60 nails, depending on the size, which would hook to the rocky ground of the mountains where the Greek people fought at the time. Getting dressed is no simple mission either. Putting on the uniform is a ritual in itself, demanding the presence of two people. One helps the other, as the various items have to be placed carefully, and the uniform has to remain crisp.

NBA goes up in smoke in Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico

By Edgard Garrido

I was to photograph an extraordinary basketball game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the San Antonio Spurs as part of the NBA Global Games schedule for the 2013-14 season.

The day before, the players met with children from the indigenous Triquis tribe and played a game barefoot in the tradition of the young Triquis’ team. It was a fantastic moment and I have no doubt that the journalists and everyone present, enjoyed it as much as the young Triqui players. It was a delightful opening to a grand game to be played the next day.

On game day everything looked perfect. A temporary court had been set up; benches, bleachers, baskets and scoreboards were in place. A press room for 200 accredited journalists had been prepared with high quality wi-fi and hundreds of ethernet terminals. There was a plan with our designated positions courtside and in the bleachers marked with stickers pinned to the floor. There were chairs and tables exclusively for the press, plenty of printed information on the players and the teams, signalized access to all points, antennas, remote cameras and cables, cables and more cables. Everything was impeccably set up for us to enjoy the occasion, an event worth millions, where people had paid between 160 to 5600 Pesos ($12 to $430) to watch elite players compete or at least catch a glimpse of the beautiful cheerleaders jump and fly through the air.

Marching to Sousa’s drum beat

Washington, D.C.

By Jonathan Ernst

One of the great things about Washington is historic Capitol Hill, where there’s a lot of life beyond the headlines and punch lines about the U.S. Congress. I like to describe it as a small town attached to the city. We know our neighbors. We walk our dogs.

Sure, our neighbors include senators and congressmen, and every once in a while at the grocery store you’ll find yourself in line behind a woman who happens to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services holding the bouquet of flowers she’s picked out, or a guy who happens to be the director of the CIA as he’s making a selection at the olive bar. But at that moment, they’re just neighbors. They probably walk their dogs too. While a security detail in a large black SUV watches from a discreet distance.

Another great thing about Washington is the Marine Band, nicknamed the President’s Own. They happen to live on Capitol Hill too, in the oldest post in the Corps, known simply as the Marine Barracks Washington — or known even more simply to neighbors by it’s street corner: “8th and I.” If you happen to be driving near 8th and I streets on your way home from the market, it’s not uncommon to see the band’s bus loading up for an event at the White House, a concert across town, or one of their tours around the country. The Marine Band does not mess around. They look great, they sound great and they’re Marines. So when they walk their dogs around Capitol Hill, the other dogs make way.

Bureaucrats in a conflict zone

Bangui, Central African Republic

By Joe Penney

On Thursday, the volatile Central African Republic was host to a bloodbath. Hours of fighting between the former “Seleka” rebels that took power in a March coup d’etat and local militia and fighters loyal to the deposed president, Francois Bozize, killed over a hundred. As the situation continues to deteriorate, France is set to take a bigger role in its former colony’s security, sending hundreds of troops in the coming days.

Yet while security is what is grabbing the headlines at the moment, CAR’s problems lie much deeper. Already an unstable state in the run-up to the coup, the Central African government is now in tatters and just going through the motions. During the coup, most ministry buildings were looted for cash, computers and anything hungry rebels could get their hands on. Little has since been replaced.

The Seleka rebels stole a computer from a state laboratory containing vital information on HIV patients’ medication. They even stole the minister of commerce’s car.

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