Photographers' Blog

Taksim Square: One woman’s protest

Istanbul, Turkey

By Murad Sezer

Anti-government protests have gripped Turkey for almost two weeks, and Istanbul’s famous Taksim Square and adjoining Gezi Park have become a center of the demonstrations, with thousands flocking there to voice their opposition to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AK party.

Ayse Diskaya is one of them. She is a 48-year-old housewife, an active member of the left-wing cultural organisation Halkevleri, a women’s rights activist – and now a Gezi Park protester. Riot police cleared the square early on Wednesday but Ayse says she will return to Gezi Park later in the day.

Ayse lives in an apartment building in Okmeydani, a poor neighborhood of Istanbul, along with her husband and two sons. Until two weeks ago, her daily routine consisted of taking care of the house and working to promote women’s education. Since then it has involved heading down to Gezi Park to protest against the government and helping out with a stand that Halkevleri set up there.

Ayse has taken part in the Gezi Park demonstrations because of her involvement with women’s issues. She is worried about new policies brought in by the Islamist-rooted ruling party, which she thinks will have a negative impact on women. “I’m against the government because their approach to women issues is not modern,” she said.

She is not alone in her concerns: many secularists in Turkey have expressed worry about education reforms, which critics accuse of promoting an Islamic agenda, as well as new abortion laws and legislation to restrict alcohol sales. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan denies their accusations of authoritarian behaviour.

Cross-country protest

By Thomas Peter

“It feels good to walk in nature after so many months of boredom in the Immigration Holding Centre,” said Sallisou as we walked along a poplar-lined alley in the sleepy hinterland of Potsdam-Mittelmark, a rural county just outside the German capital of Berlin. Two weeks earlier, the smiling man from Niger had joined a 600 km (372 miles) foot march of refugees. With every county border they crossed, they were breaking a state order that restricts their movement to a territory around their camp. At present, Sallisou was eagerly filming the procession of refugees with a small video camera.

“Since I have been on this march, my days have a purpose again. There is so much to organize and we do it ourselves. We work as a team. Being on the move feels like I have a home again,” Salissou said.

For these people whose stories of displacement and rejection are as varied as the places they come from, ‘home’ means self-determination, the feeling of being needed and the knowledge that they are heading for some sort of reachable goal, all of which they have not had since they fled their countries.

Occupying Starbucks

By Paul Hackett

I left the Occupy protest camp at St Paul’s cathedral in London to go to Starbucks to file the pictures that I had taken. As I walked through the door I saw this man sitting there; of course it made me smile. I took a few images of him and then a member of staff put their hand over my lens. I knew that I had something, so it was fine. I sat close to him, got his name (Adam Murray) and sent the picture in. It was with the office a few minutes after I took it – I wish they were all that easy!

Chile’s dog days

By Ivan Alvarado

Today it seems the dictatorship ended only recently….

A newspaper front page shows a dog participating in the demonstrations in Chile. It seems that anything can happen these troubled days around the world, so between slogans and statements it makes sense to write a blog about street dogs and demonstrations.

“Free quality education.” – Student movement
“Nothing is free in life.” – President Sebastian Pinera
“Education should not be for profit.” – Student movement
“Gang of useless subversives.” – Carlos Larrain, president of the ruling party
“We don’t need mediators, and especially not from the Catholic Church.” – Camila Vallejo, student leader.
“It’s going to fall, it’s going to fall….the education of Pinochet.” – Demonstrators.
“Education is a commodity.” – President Pinera.
“The government exaggerates the students’ claims to demonize them.” – Mario Waissbluth, expert on education.
“The only thing they [the demonstrators] want to do is destroy the country and us.” – Chile’s National Police.
“I’m a gardener and I want my son to be an engineer.” – Street graffiti.

With the camera on manual mode, shutter speed 1/1000, and my view limited by a gas mask, my 70-200mm lens changes focus with agility and it seems most often to lock on a dog running in and out of its view trying to capture a water jet aimed by riot police at hundreds of student protesters of diverse origin, all of them united under the conviction that a better education in Chile is possible.

Seven months atop a crane

With almost seven months atop a crane, a 51-year old woman trade unionist is staging a solo protest to end layoffs at a shipyard in South Korea.

Kim Jin-Suk, 51, climbed the 35-meter tall crane in the Yeongdo shipyard of Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction (HHIC) in Busan, the hub of South Korea’s shipbuilding industry on January 6 this year and has been there ever since to protest against what she says are “mass layoffs” at the country’s former biggest shipbuilder.

Her sit-in protest is helping to revive trade unionism in a country that was once a byword for violent clashes between workers and police, but which under conservative President Lee Myung-bak has seen the unions adopt a back seat.

Spain’s spontaneous street revolution

What soon became known as “The 15M Movement” and its camped-out protesters labeled “The Indignant” caught me, and the rest of Spain, totally by surprise. As one demonstrator’s sign read “Nobody expected the Spanish Revolution” couldn’t have been more true! The surprise came not from the lack of a cause for protest, in a country in which the unemployment rate of 22% is the highest in Europe, but rather the spontaneity of the movement, its resolve to stick it out through weeks of massive outdoor camps in city squares across Spain and its ability to remain a largely peaceful demonstration.

Since the crisis began in Spain, photographer Andrea Comas covered press conferences by Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, ministers announcing several major economic reforms, meetings between the main unions, employers and government, fighting between the ruling Socialists and the opposition Popular Party at Parliament, a trade union demonstration, a relatively weak general strike and, hardest of all, the unemployment lines. The economic numbers and unemployment were particularly devastating. And yet, out in the street nothing was happening. Far less happened than during the mass protests over the war in Iraq. But whoever you talked to, everyone was worried, tightening their belts and angry with the politicians and bankers.

Photographer Susana Vera recalled “On May 15, spring came and the ‘lost generation’ woke up. Like hibernating bears they stirred from their slumber with the first signs of sunshine and when they did, they took thousands along with them, all over Spain and from all walks of life. Mirroring the popular uprisings in the northern African countries these young Spaniards resorted to social networking to voice their worries over their bleak futures and their demands for real democracy. First, they marched together on May 15 in Spain’s main cities to demand a “Real Democracy” and to protest the government’s handling of the economic crisis. That same night, and spontaneously, they started camping out in packed squares in their tents and sleeping bags all across the country and vowed to camp out until the local and regional elections which were to be held on May 22.”

True or false?

If it is written in a newspaper, is it true or false?

One of the most interesting parts of our job as a photo-reporter is one of the basic principles of journalism – that is telling the TRUE and REAL STORY to newspaper readers and online viewers who were not there but want to know the real story behind the headlines.

But journalism is changing. Long gone are the days when people said “It must be true, the newspaper says so.” Especially in Italy, it looks like some reporters do not tell the whole truth. They do not look for the truth nor do they investigate to try to arrive at the truth. They look for little or wrong clues. They use it to prove their story; a biased truth. Do they do this to confuse the readers and to contribute to warped thoughts? Are the journalists simply not capable of good reporting?

I’m irritated when these types of journalists use our pictures to prove their false version of reality.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures September 12, 2010

As the anniversary of the 9/11 attack coincided with Eid celebrations, Florida based Pastor Terry Jones announced that he would burn the Koran as a protest  to plans to site a Muslim cultural centre near Ground Zero , stoking tensions in Asia.  Add into the mix millions in Pakistan suffering from lack of water, food and shelter after floods, a parliament election in   Afghanistan and a U. S. -led  military campaign against the Taliban around Kandahar -  photographers in the region had lots of raw material to work with.

Raheb's picture of relief and joy caught in the harsh light of a direct flash seems to explode in a release of tension as news spreads that Pastor Jones had cancelled his plans to burn the Koran. It has to be said that ironically earlier in the day in Pakistan US flags were burned in protest against the planned protest.

AFGHANISTAN/

 Afghan protestors shout anti U.S slogans as they celebrate after learning that U.S. pastor Terry Jones dropped his plans to burn copies of the Koran, in Herat, western Afghanistan September 12, 2010. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

from Russell Boyce:

The promise of seven blood baths in Bangkok and no violence

    With the same ghoulish intrigue that children pull the wings off a fly, the legs off spiders or as motorists slow to look at a scene of a bad accident, I waited to see the pictures from last night's demonstration in Thailand. The "red shirt" wearing supporters of ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra promised the world the sight of a million cubic centimetres of blood being drawn from the arms of his supporters and then thrown over Government House to demand that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva call an immediate election.  A million is a bold figure that I tried to picture; a thousand cubic centimetres, one litre, so one thousand litre cartons of milk.  A more compact notion of the volume would be to visualise a cubic metre of blood; or in more practical terms in the UK the average bath size is 140 litres, so that is just over seven baths filled with blood.

blood syringe

A supporter of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra donates blood during a gathering in Bangkok March 16, 2010. Anti-government protesters will collect one million cubic centimetres of blood to pour outside the Government House in Bangkok, in a symbolic move to denounce the government as part of their demonstration to call for fresh elections. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang

The pictures are amazing. The frenzy of the demonstrators carrying plastic containers full of human blood. The lines of riot police (what was going through their minds?) facing the crowd. And then suddenly the emotional release as the blood is actually poured at the gates of Government House, leaving a growing crimson pool of human blood spreading towards the feet of the police and towards the buildings of government. 

Human roadblock

I was relaxing Sunday evening killing zombies on the Xbox, when I got a news alert on my blackberry stating Tamil protesters were blocking two lanes of traffic on the Gardiner Expressway.  The Gardiner is a major freeway that goes through downtown Toronto. We don’t often see big protests or demonstrations, so my excitement begins to build.

The freeway snakes in between high rise condo buildings, and my first instinct was to figure out a way to get a vantage point up in the building to shoot the protest from a high angle.  I spotted a couple of guys enjoying a few beers on their 10th floor balcony  and shouted up. They were happy to come down and take me up to a spot overlooking the site of the protest. I took my pictures of the blockaded road, filed them, and got back down to street level to see if I could get in nice and close.

I ran up the onramp to the freeway, and spent a few minutes shooting the flags in the crowd, before making my way to the front lines. The demonstrators were peaceful, and the police seemed to be somewhat patient with the large crowd. Demonstration leaders kept the crowd calm with megaphones, telling them to keep the peace, but that didn’t keep a few aggressive situations from developing.