Photographers' Blog

Falkland Islanders take on an Argentine Pope

By Marcos Brindicci

Port Stanley, Falkland Islands

Czech journalist Jeri Hasek appeared in the hotel lobby saying to some of us Argentines, “You have a Pope! An Argentine Pope!”

The truth is, here in the Falkland Islands some swearing was heard after the news. I have to admit that, no matter what your opinion on the church and religious matters are, it is kind of exciting to learn that someone from your country gets to be Pope. But as an Argentine, I know this will boost our ego, and that can’t be good.

I left the hotel to find my co-workers from Reuters TV to tell them the news and I ran into Patrick Watts, a Falkland Islands journalist. Patrick told me, “Well, you can’t have the Falklands, but at least you got yourselves a Pope.”

Two Chilean journalists drove around town to break the news to us. One of them said, “God, if you Argentines thought you were the best before, now you’re going to be unbearable.” A British journalist just said, “Sorry, bad luck for you, guys.”

Of course, I couldn’t help but think about how the story was going to be covered in Buenos Aires and that my colleague there was going to have to work hard to find things related to Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis. Many Argentine journalists in the Falklands to cover the referendum started saying that this would probably make our job in Buenos Aires more difficult. I know that we Argentines usually complain about just about anything, but I believe this brings us a new story to cover in Argentina, and that’s exciting.

An endangered priesthood

Tagaytay city, Philippines

By Erik de Castro

I woke at dawn to the sound of a bell ringing and Gregorian Chant music at the Saint Augustine Minor Seminary compound on Mindoro island in the central Philippines. It was still dark as dozens of seminarians in the first phase of a 12-year journey to priesthood walked towards a chapel for their morning prayers and a mass.

I walked to the same chapel 41 years ago and left after more than two years in the seminary.

As I walked with them in the chilly air, I felt the seminary’s sprawling compound was so big now compared to the time I was there. Since 1962 when the seminary opened, there have been 1200 seminarians who have passed through, according to Father Andy Lubi. So far it has produced 72 priests, some who have already left for a variety of reasons. From the 100 recruited during an annual vocation campaign, 12 is the average number of candidates that enter the seminary per year.

Baby-kissing Popes

By Max Rossi

There’s a man in this world that kisses more babies than any mother over the course of her life: the Pope.

Following the Vatican for more than 15 years I can absolutely say that John Paul II and Benedict XVI have kissed more babies than any other public figure in the world. It’s a common scene for the faithful to literally throw their babies to the Pope as he walks by or is driven by in the Pope mobile during general audiences or a pastoral visit.

Having a child blessed and kissed by the Pope is an unbelievable goal for a mother or father. And for a photographer it’s almost always a good shot especially when the baby is not so “old”. A newborn is totally unaware of what is going on but when a one or two year-old child is given to the Pope something brilliant can happen.

How I became a pilgrim

I grew up in a country with deep Catholic traditions. I was just a year old in 1978 when Polish cardinal Karol Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II. It was a huge surprise in the then‐communist country, a satellite of the Soviet Union, that a son of Polish soil could become the head of the Catholic Church – which was painfully divided by the Iron Curtain.

Over the years, it became a natural feeling that the pope was Polish. The words ‘pope’ and ‘Pole’ becoming synonyms in my mind. John Paul II visited Poland eight times as the pontiff but I only had one chance to see him live when his papa‐mobile passed my home in 1991. I was 14 years old and took a picture of the event.

Unfortunately, during my professional career I never took a picture of Pope John Paul II. My first such assignment came only after the late pope passed away and I was sent to Rome for his funeral. It was a really hard time with no sleep, no time for eating or bathing. I just wandered about taking pictures of thousands of pilgrims sleeping along the Vatican streets and waiting for several days to attend the funeral ceremony. The air was full of grief. I also queued for hours to get to the St.Peter’s Basilica following an endless stream of people who wanted to honor John Paul II and to take a picture of his body exhibited to the public.

An act of God

I’d been looking forward to it for weeks, the flights were booked, passes applied for and I’d even had my suit dry cleaned especially. One of the reasons I became a press photographer and a big factor in why you aspire to work for Reuters is to shoot major figures and stories, both in the world of news and sport, around the globe. Despite ticking off various world leaders, sporting greats, world cups and Olympics, I’d never photographed a Pope.

Pope Benedict XVI nods off during a mass at the Granaries in Floriana April 18, 2010. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
Pope Benedict XVI nods off during a mass at the Granaries in Floriana April 18, 2010. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

So when I was asked to join the Reuters team covering his trip to Malta I jumped at the chance. This was an opportunity to see first hand how the Pope was dealing with the media spotlight he and the Catholic church are currently under, and also to familiarize myself a little with Vatican protocol ahead of the Papal visit to the UK later this year.

The Papal visit

An interesting challenge is how to tell the story without including the subject in the photographs. It’s interesting because, by avoiding the obvious and familiar, sometimes a greater sense of the occasion, and the emotions involved,  can be conveyed.

For example, take the current visit by Pope Benedict XVI to the United States.  Clearly the Pope was the centre of attention, and there are very good photographs of him that were taken and published in newspapers and on websites around the world. Photographs of him bring pleasure and comfort to millions.

 The fact that he is in the States is of interest too, and it is important to take photographs that locate him there. On the other hand we are familiar with photographs that show the Pope in person, and what strikes me when looking at the Reuters coverage of the current visit is just how much the passion, reverence and joy felt by so many, can be conveyed in photographs that don’t show him in at all.