Photographers' Blog

Demolition of a gypsy community

Madrid, Spain

By Susana Vera

I remember the first time I saw Milagros Echevarria. She was in her house slippers, battling with the rubble piled up outside her home, with only a simple broom as a weapon. It was like watching David face Goliath.

The short, sturdy woman was working doggedly. She would only stop to remove rotting garbage from the debris and toss it into a nearby dumpster. “If I don’t do this every day, rats are going to eat us alive”, she told me. In the months that followed, I witnessed the same scene over and over, even when the rubbish threatening to invade her home had become the actual remains of the house itself.

GALLERY: GYPSY COMMUNITY DEMOLISHED

Milagros moved to the Spanish gypsy settlement of Puerta de Hierro in 1974, as a young girl of 12, still wearing pigtails. At the age of 13 she married her cousin Antonio Gabarri and by 14 she was pregnant with their first child, Carolina.

Gabarri’s parents were some of the first settlers in Puerta de Hierro, an area north of Madrid bordered by trees, a busy road and a sewage treatment plant on the banks of the Manzanares river. Like their parents before them, Milagros and Antonio decided to make a house for themselves where their family could be raised. “We had to sleep in our van for months while we were building it. Some of our relatives used wood in their houses, but we built ours out of brick. We wanted it to be permanent”, said Milagros. And so they did. It took them years of hard work and every penny they had to fulfill their dream.

Milagros’ life came full circle on July 17, 2012, when she found herself sleeping next to her husband in their cramped van once again. But this time they were 37 years older and they were not alone; their four children, the children’s spouses and their twelve grand-children were with them. The whole family had become homeless when a bulldozer demolished the only roof they had over their heads.

A day with Mitt Romney

Reuters photographer Brian Snyder spent a day behind the scenes with Mitt Romney, documenting his campaign.

By Brian Snyder

Photographing Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney as he campaigns across the United States is often about trying to find the candidate amongst all of the supporters and entourage around him. We see him at rallies surrounded by hundreds or thousands of enthusiastic supporters, at off the record stops in an uncontrolled swirl moving around a restaurant among unsuspecting diners, in a motorcade of a dozen vehicles, and on airport tarmacs while a parade of staff, security and press load onto the campaign plane. We are always in a crowd with more photographers, U.S. Secret Service agents and campaign staff all working in small spaces.

GALLERY: A day with Mitt Romney

But stepping one layer inside that, to document a “day in the life” of the candidate and the campaign, revealed an unexpected calm.  Governor Romney spent time talking to one or two advisors, joked in a room alone with his closest aide, and watched a video feed by himself as he was introduced to take the stage at a rally. There was space.

Two Candidates… Smiles Apart

By Larry Downing

The final Presidential debate between incumbent U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney is only a few short autumn days away and a great chance to somehow connect with and persuade undecided voters to punch their ticket on Election Day 2012.

Both men have so far scored high marks as fearless debaters eloquently pointing out the glaring weaknesses and flaws hiding inside the “other” party’s ideologue with precise, intellectual arguments measuring up to the price of their Harvard University degrees. It has also proved to be a stress test for each one to be seen as polite while on a national stage, yet, still aggressively arguing their own passions and at the same time remembering there is no more promise of campaigns tomorrow once the votes are tallied.

And both have proven themselves as equally impassioned candidates grinding through this endless campaign season leading up to November 6th. Two ambitious politicians consumed by their own determination to convince voters to let their families move upstairs at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the next four years by singing party lyrics to anyone carrying a microphone. These two foes are politically polar-opposites linked together by their joint willingness to invite the sharp, concentrated lights of the national news media into their personal space to snoop around much like the late night reality shows.

An eternity with Mitt Romney

By Brian Snyder

Here’s something almost everyone who covers a U.S. Presidential campaign says or thinks, “That event yesterday/last week/last month seems like an eternity ago.” That’s certainly how Mitt Romney’s formal announcement of his candidacy at Scamman Farm in Stratham, New Hampshire June 2, 2011 seems.

SLIDESHOW: CHRONOLOGY OF ROMNEY’S CAMPAIGN

But that’s recent history. I was surprised when I looked into the Reuters archive and saw how far back my coverage of Romney extends:

From the early days of the current election cycle in New Hampshire in 2011:

Back to unsuccessfully chasing the Republican presidential nomination in 2008:

And further back to Governor Romney, signing into law the now contentious healthcare reform legislation that would attempt to provide health insurance for all of Massachusetts residents in 2006:

The cycle of poverty and pregnancy

By Erik de Castro

It was a few minutes before 6 a.m. when I arrived at the dwelling of Liza Cabiya-an, 39, and her 14 children. Liza was pouring coffee on a plate of rice as her five small children, including her youngest 11-month-old baby, huddled on the floor around her waiting to be served their breakfast. On a good day, Liza says breakfast would be pan de sal, or the classic Filipino salt bread, which they dip into hot instant coffee.

While the small children have their breakfast, Liza’s nine other children were still asleep, shoulder-to-shoulder, in a room of approximately 9-square meters.

The only appliances they have are the television and a DVD player. The glassless window provides natural ventilation to the space. Liza’s family lives on the third floor of a three-story tenement in a slum neighborhood in Paco, in the Philippines capital Manila. I had to go up a narrow wooden ladder to reach their dwelling. Residents of the tenement share the same toilet, which is on the second floor. Liza complains that there are nights when they have to endure the stink of the toilet, which is not regularly cleaned.

China’s “wonderful” Communist village

By Jason Lee

Growing up as a Chinese national, I leaned a lot about Communism through text books. On Monday it only took a one and a half hour flight and one hour drive to travel from China’s modern cultural and political center, Beijing, to the small communist society at Nanjie Village.

Honestly, I didn’t expect it to be so easy. There were no entrance tickets, no security guards, and no one had to check our vehicle. We drove all the way to the village center, where a giant statue of the late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong stood in the middle of a square, waving at me. Next to him were four portraits of his communism comrades: Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. The loudspeakers at the square repeatedly played the classic revolutionary song “The East Is Red”; the same song played in outer space in 1970 after China’s first satellite was put into orbit.

GALLERY: WHERE MAO LIVES ON

The entire Nanjie village consisted of dozens of factories and several main streets. Faces of Mao Zedong were everywhere. There were very few people or cars on the street, which might have been the reason why all the traffic lights in the village were not working, not even at the crossroads. I jumped up and down with my cameras in the middle of the street to get good angles, which could easily get me killed if I were in a different town. But luckily the people of Nanjie seemed to move at a slow pace and be pleasant.

Hard to ignore… the teleprompter

By Kevin Lamarque

Teleprompters; as much as the audience, the image makers and even President Barack Obama himself may wish these devices were truly invisible, there are times when the teleprompter cannot be ignored.

SLIDESHOW: OBAMA AND TELEPROMPTERS

For photographers, the teleprompter is most often seen as a nuisance, something that hinders their shot. With teleprompters to his left and right, Obama seemingly never looks directly ahead. His head shifts from side to side, at times giving the impression he is watching a tennis match as he delivers his remarks. Photographers naturally gravitate to the 45-degree angle in order to capture Obama looking down the barrel of the lens as he reads his speech. This usually works, assuming the teleprompter is composed out of the frame. Sometimes, the President is framed clearly through the teleprompter glass and can actually make a desirable image.

At a recent campaign event in Columbus, Ohio, the teleprompter appeared different. This rally was outside on a bright and sunny day and an opaque teleprompter was in place, not the transparent model we mostly see. As I moved around, I realized I could not see the President behind this teleprompter, and it caught my eye. Moving into just the right angle, I shot many frames until Obama’s head was completely obscured by the teleprompter, giving the impression that he and the teleprompter were somehow one. Obama’s light colored shirt added to the effect.

Strip club visit (It’s a political assignment)

By Brian Blanco

“No Honey, really, it’s a POLITICAL assignment related to the upcoming RNC.” I could see a familiar smirk slide into place on my wife’s face as I explained exactly where, and what, I’d be shooting later that evening.

As a photojournalist based in Tampa, Florida, one of the most important political battleground areas of, arguably, the most important political battleground state in national politics, my wife has become accustomed to being an “election-season widow” for long stretches at a time as I cover the myriad of predictable bus tours, stump speeches, rallies, and debates that crop up in my coverage area. Strip clubs however… well that was a first for both of us.

With the Republican National Convention coming to Tampa, a city somewhat notorious for, or at least noted for, it’s strip clubs, there was a story to tell about the clubs’ anticipated surge in attendance during the week of the convention. This was a legitimate politics story and I was just the man to shoot it. Exactly how I would shoot it, well, that was another story all together.

A surprisingly quiet ousting

By Marcos Brindicci

It was another one of those calls asking me, “Could you go to…”, one of the situations that photographers long for.

A new presidential crisis in Paraguay seemed ready to become a violent one because all the elements were there; armed clashes between landless peasant farmers and police had ended with 17 people killed (11 farmers and 6 policemen), the interior minister had resigned, and Congress was voting to impeach President Fernando Lugo. I cancelled my trip to northern Argentina for a rugby test match and booked the first flight to Asuncion, the next morning. As I arrived, I headed straight for Congress, where demonstrations were already underway as the impeachment trial began.

The impeachment trial happened lightning fast, as Congress gave Lugo only a couple of hours to prepare his defense. The Senate voted 39-4 to remove him the day after lawmakers in the Lower House agreed in a sudden, near-unanimous vote to impeach him. I had my tear gas mask with me, and Reuters’ veteran Paraguay photographer Jorge Adorno and stringer Mario Valdez were ready, but nothing really happened. At one point, as I was waiting at the Presidential Palace for Lugo to appear, we got word of clashes developing in front of the Congress, but it was just a small incident that was short-lived.

Caught with Obama in a downpour

By Jason Reed

It happens about once a year. If he had waited two more minutes the pictures would not have happened but Mother Nature had other ideas. It was time for a good old soaking at an event featuring President Barack Obama.

The forecast had called for hot and humid conditions on the second day of a two-day campaign swing through Virginia, where the first ominous signs were the crash of thunder in the distance as Obama stopped at a roadside vegetable stand to pick up a crate of tomatoes for the family. On the way to the outdoor campaign rally in Glen Allen, lightning flashed in front of the motorcade. We arrived at the venue with heavy, ominous clouds and some light sprinkles that we all hoped would quickly subside. No one except the Secret Service were carrying rain jackets (they must have all been boy scouts – “Be prepared”). Not even the President was prepared to deal with the next half hour.

With the press gathered in front of the stage in our cotton short sleeve shirts, the light sprinkle, which had been just a small nuisance, quickly turned into a full deluge that would be familiar to anyone who has ever lived in monsoon-prone regions of southeast Asia. (Stand under a bathroom shower fully clothed and turn the water pressure to maximum. You get the drift.) Now grab about $20,000 worth of camera gear and start taking pictures.

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