Photographers' Blog

Scotland – a tale of two cities

Edinburgh/Kilmarnock, Scotland
By Suzanne Plunkett

I find myself waiting in a featureless hotel conference room in the Scottish town of Kilmarnock. I’m here to photograph an informal meeting about the benefits of voting for independence in the upcoming referendum on whether Scotland should break its union with the rest of the United Kingdom.

But if attendance at this gathering is anything to go by, the vote in favour of secession may be in serious trouble.

According to some observers, Kilmarnock, a down-on-its-luck manufacturing town in the west of Scotland, should be a pro-independence heartland. The economically depressed, so the theory goes, are more likely to vote for change.

Yet, here in the Fenwick hotel, 15 minutes past the time the meeting should have started, barely anyone is here. It’s so empty I can hear the tick of a wristwatch from three rows away. We all stare awkwardly at the rain sliding down the windows and wait.

Then – bang!

The door flies open and two chattering volunteers breeze in. They bustle to the front of the room and begin stacking “Yes to independence” campaign leaflets and draping a Scottish Saltire flag over a desk. They are oblivious to the settled gloom until one of them turns around and notices something is missing.

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.

The choice for Mali

Timbuktu, Mali

By Joe Penney

As Mali went to the polls July 28 for the first round of presidential elections meant to restore peace and stability in the vast, landlocked West African country, I traveled from the capital Bamako to the dusty northern city of Timbuktu.

Elections in northern cities like Timbuktu, the storied Saharan trading post and scholarly center around since the early 14th century, were always going to be difficult to organize. The city is roughly 1000 km (620 miles) by road from the capital Bamako, but it takes 20 hours along dirt tracks and extremely potholed pavements to get there. During the rainy season, flooding renders the dirt track from Douentza to Timbuktu nearly impassable.

Since French and Malian forces took back control of the city from militant Jihadists in late January, electricity has been running only five hours a day, from 7 pm to midnight, provided by aid organizations and not the Malian government. Economic activity grinds to a halt during daytime hours, when scorching temperatures reach 45° C (113° F) at midday and not a fan moves among the 70,000 residents. Drinking water becomes like drinking tea without the tea bags, but that doesn’t matter much to the population of Timbuktu, the vast majority of which is currently fasting for Ramadan.

Only human: A photographic look at the Bush presidency

Washington D.C.

By Stelios Varias

In the eight years that George W. Bush served as the 43rd U.S. president, Reuters’ photographers were witness to big events and the daily grind that is full-time presidential coverage. Along the way, they amassed a collection of truly memorable images. As their longtime colleague and picture editor, it has been my pleasure to see their images come across the Reuters’ wire and land on the fronts of newspapers and online home pages.

With the Bush presidential center scheduled to be dedicated in Dallas on April 25, I’ve assembled a few of my favorites from our photographers.

President Bush will be most remembered for steering the United States through the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, from the day he was told “America is under attack” by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, to when he stood on the crumpled remains of a fire truck at New York’s Ground Zero and told the country through a borrowed megaphone that the United States would respond.

Different congress, different picture

Beijing, China

By Kim Kyung-hoon

In China, where the Constitution says “All power in the People’s Republic of China belongs to the People”, the National People’s Congress (NPC) is one of the most important political events in the country.

Over 2,000 various delegates including political leaders, military generals, CEOs, celebrities and even Tibetan monks gathered in the Great Hall of the People to represent their districts and discuss how to shape the future of 1.35 billion Chinese people. In theory, the NPC is the great lawmaking power in China and plays a similar role to the parliaments of its neighboring countries, Japan and South Korea, where I have worked as a Reuters photographer for the last 11 years.

Instead what I saw at this year’s two-week-long NPC in China was very different from what I witnessed in the neighboring countries, even though these three North Asian countries have been closely connected geographically, historically, economically and culturally for thousands of years.

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.

The puppet masters of Italian politics

Rome, Italy

By Tony Gentile

I have never before seen an electoral campaign based solely on the appearance of the main political leaders on television talk shows.

After disappearing from the national stage for about a year former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi now enters the houses of Italians every day, more than once a day, on the screens broadcast by the biggest TV channels. The same is happening with the others leaders including outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti.

They invade our television sets so much that one of the most important Italian satirical show decided to produce a special edition of the program called “Gli Sgommati, elektion edition”, produced by Palomar and broadcast by Sky.

A city divided and paralyzed by politics

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

By Dado Ruvic

Mostar; where half of its heart has stopped beating

At the entrance to the city on the left side, the beautiful slopes of mountain Prenj greeted me proudly defying the environment and covered in snow. All the splendor of colors and suns’ rays that penetrated through it was broken after I saw a house that was completely destroyed in the war beside the main road. Even twenty years later the house had not been restored. For me, this city has always been beautiful, complete with the most beautiful bridge in the world – the Old bridge.

However, when we traveled to the other side of the bridge, the city was spooky. There were dilapidated buildings and ruins where just dogs and ghosts of the past lived. After twenty years they still carried the weight, pain, suffering and wounds that will never heal. I’m sure that the younger generation will not be poisoned by nationalism; they don’t have to watch buildings being destroyed by bullets every day.

Surely they wonder though and certainly hate grows. There comes that poison called nationalism, perhaps. I wonder all the time, while I’m walking, taking photographs. I felt so proud as I photographed the old part of the town, because I could show the world one of the most beautiful cities in the world. But the pride, the joy, the happiness just disappeared when I realized the harsh reality – I had to show the other parts of the city. My soul was hard as I photographed half reconstructed, and in most cases never renovated, buildings. I listened to the stories of people selling souvenirs and random passer-bys as they talked about the divided city; about “them” on one side and “those” on the other side. All the beauty disappeared.

Rob Ford’s football frenzy

Toronto, Canada

By Mark Blinch

Rob Ford is a very interesting man. He is definitely not your typical mayor. At Reuters, city politics is not usually something we cover. If we do, it’s usually because of a big city election or a major mayoral scandal. In Toronto, it looks like we may be on the brink of both.

Ford was legally removed from office on Monday after a judge found him guilty of violating conflict-of-interest laws.

The controversy began back in 2010. That’s when Ford raised eyebrows by soliciting donations for his private football foundation using official city letterhead. Ford’s actions were questioned again when he took part in a council debate and vote on the matter, voting to remove the sanctions that were ordered against him.

Aboard Romney’s farewell tour

Boston, Massachusetts

By Brian Snyder

Election Day:

We received the email with the election day schedule around 1am and we weren’t even at our hotel for the night yet. The 6:55am call time for Tuesday morning would mean we would be in our hotel rooms less than 4.5 hours. The schedule indicated that the protective pool would cover Governor Mitt Romney voting in Belmont, Massachusetts and then travel to Cleveland, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for some Get Out the Vote phone calls, before returning to Boston to await the election result.

Voting in Belmont went much like it did in March when Governor Romney voted in the Massachusetts primary on Super Tuesday.

A short motorcade trip from Belmont to the airport and we were off to Cleveland, where we met up with Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan.

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