Photographers' Blog

Two sides of a living God

By Navesh Chitrakar

Born and raised in Kathmandu’s Newar community I am familiar with Lord Ganesh. His elephant head attached to a human body makes him easy to identify. Ganesh is honored at the beginning of rituals and ceremonies as we celebrate religious festivals.

This month, I had the opportunity to take pictures of Living God Ganesh after I asked one of my friends who was close to the living god’s family. I was pleased and surprised that the family was willing to accept me since they don’t normally allow pictures to be taken.

The first thing I saw was a six-year-old boy sitting on the sofa and yawning. The boy was the living god but he looked totally different from how he had looked when I saw him on the streets during festivals. In his home, the sofa was his throne.

As he bathed I took some pictures, never realizing before that his hair was so long. What struck me was he was just like an ordinary child. He was very playful and would hide from his mother when she came looking for him. He did his homework and loved to draw pictures. And just like any regular child, he loved to dance.

I thought to myself what makes him a living god? Is it people’s belief or is it just tradition that has been followed from ancient times? Maybe the question will remain unanswered. For me, he was a very sweet boy kept inside a closed box. I never saw him wearing colorful clothes like other children instead he had clothes made especially for different occasions.

The view from a volcanic edge

By Dwi Oblo

I’ve known about the annual Hindu Kasada Festival for some time now.

For years, I’ve been planning to go but for the past two there have been conflicting events that I needed to cover so this was my first time attending the festival. As I wanted to provide extensive coverage, I decided to arrive a day before the festival started. Along with four colleagues, I headed to Mount Bromo from Yogyakarta. It took us nine hours to drive the 500 km (310 miles) route.

On the morning of August 15, the sunshine slowly warmed me as it reached 16 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit). Coming from Yogyakarta, this was cold for me.

Once arriving in Ngadisari, the last village before Mount Bromo, we decided to rent a four-wheel-drive Jeep. These vehicles were provided for visitors who wanted to reach the volcanic crater of Mount Bromo on foot. After the last eruption in December 2010, the track heading to the crater became sandier, which made it even harder for non-4WDs to navigate. I wore a mask and sealed eyeglasses as strong winds made volcanic dust fly everywhere. My photo equipment also had to be securely protected from the dust when it was not in use. This was the exact same situation I was confronted with when I covered the 2010 eruption of Mount Merapi.

Strange assignment: Buddhists and lobsters

By Brian Snyder

Every story and photograph that goes out on the Reuters wire has a ‘slug,’ which is a short, one or two word way of coordinating  and categorizing pictures and stories.  For example, photographs from a Red Sox baseball game are slugged BASEBALL.   But the slug for a recent story I photographed, BUDDHISTS/LOBSTERS, combined two words I never thought I would see together.

Reporter Lauren Keiper and I recently joined a group of practicing Buddhists in Gloucester, Massachusetts for a ceremony to release over 500 lobsters back into the ocean.   The ceremony coincided with the Buddhist holiday “Chokhor Duchen” or “Wheel Turning Day.”  Buddhists believe animal liberation helps them live longer, especially when performed on holidays when they believe the consequences of their actions are multiplied.  The lobsters, which would have otherwise been headed to restaurants, were bought at a local wholesaler.

Full disclosure: I’m an omnivore, and living in Boston, my diet includes lobster.

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.

Utah gets Holi, Photographer gets dirty

People throw colored powder during Holi, the festival of colors, at the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah March 26, 2011.   REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

By Jim Urquhart

The Holi Color Festival is a yearly event in Utah that for years I have known of but never attended myself. I would be reminded of it after the fact when seeing it in images by other photojournalist friends. It is rooted in a Hindu tradition of celebrating the end of winter and beginning of Spring and takes place at the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah.

What makes this festival so amazing is not just the crowds of people and the color but also that it is taking place in Utah County. The same county as the LDS Church’s Brigham Young University. In my mind, Utah County is not known as a mecca of culture and was really only a melting pot of white bread, sugar and milk. I was about to have my stereotype blown away.

Revellers cover their faces as they stand in a midst of coloured powders during Holi, the festival of colors, at Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah March 26, 2011.   REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

It has always puzzled me and in the days before the event I was asked to speak to communication students at BYU. I asked the professor of the class, who is also a good friend, why it is that so many Mormon youth and young adults attend the event. It is not part of my picture of white Utah county. He explained that the event draws the students and families from the area because not only is it an experience in another culture’s traditions but it also a safe fun outlet for them.

Religious Imam, reality TV star and dream son-in-law?

When a friend told me about the “Young Imam” reality TV show, I thought it must be just another ‘preaching and nagging’ religious program.

But when another friend of mine jokingly said “the young imams are dream son-in-laws”, I decided I should take a peek into this phenomenon. While I could understand why Mawi became a heartthrob of teenage girls after he won the Malaysian version of American Idol but, a religious TV program doesn’t usually catch on in Malaysia.

After locating “Imam Muda” (“Young Imam” in Malay) on one of the our cable TV channels, I found it to be interesting.

Tibetan mountain spirits

 

Every summer the green hills of Rebkong are home to unique celebrations during which local Tibetans believe the mountain gods visit villagers -- and each other -- through human mediums.

Reuters photographer Christina Hu documents the celebrations in the multimedia presentation above. To read the full story click here.

Life with a “Quiverfull” Family – the story behind the story

Rick Wilking is a Reuters contract photojournalist based in Denver, Colorado who has been shooting for Reuters for almost 25 years based in Europe, Washington, D.C. and now in Colorado. Rick recently developed the idea of spending time documenting the lives of a Christian “Quiverfull” family who have 15 children due to their belief that all family planning is best left in the hands of God. Rick produced the following piece of multimedia video from his time spent with the Jeub family in Colorado and tells us about the experience below. -  Jim Bourg

I am convinced that the easiest part of my job is taking pictures. Coming up with story ideas, getting access and then producing the final results are MUCH tougher! That was very true with this story. I read about Christian Quiverfull-minded folks who closely follow and live by Christian scripture and biblical verses and decided to try to find one of these families to document. I begged my way into a Quiverfull forum on the web and was met there with much skepticism about letting me in. One family in Kansas said maybe and another back east said I could come by. But neither were enthused and I knew the travel budget was too tight for a trip that distant and long.

Then I found the Jeub family, only a 90 minute drive away from my home in Colorado. They too were tentative at first but let me in after seeing stories I had done recently in their area. My work documenting the headquarters of the “Focus on the Family” organization, portraying troops returning from Iraq at a nearby military base and covering “The Purity Ball”, a Christian father-daughter event all convinced them of my fairness and the integrity of my photojournalism. They said they prayed on it hard and were led to let me into their home to tell their story through pictures and sound.

Monks of the Namo Monastery – Audio slideshow

Click here or on the image above to view an audio slideshow from the Namo Monastery.