Photographers' Blog

Spain’s austere life

By Marcelo del Pozo

My photo story on Spain’s Austerity Squatters is a somewhat humble tribute to women.

SLIDESHOW: LIVING IN A GHOST BUILDING

When I entered the occupied building, I found a group of women with insurmountable courage and strength; women struggling for dignity; women fighting for their families to not live on the street after their eviction; women, often unemployed, without economic resources.

The first night I spent with them, without asking me beforehand, they gave me a plate of ratatouille. Thanking them, my first reaction was to tell them that I was not hungry, but the reality was different – I was starving. I found it uncomfortable to eat a meal in a place where food and resources were scarce, but I thought it would do more harm to reject this ration, that was offered to me with much affection and pride. I ate and it was extremely tasty.

I experienced great human moments, when their eyes shone with the shy hint of tears. I loved seeing their mouths draw into a smile as they asked me if I believed that the occupation would be a success. I said yes, this looks great.

Little by little, I began engaging with them. I felt honored when they confessed that I was the only journalist allowed to move freely around the building. They said they felt very confident with me. I think that’s one of the best rewards that a photographer can get, confidence.

Iconic cafe faces uncertain future

By Andrea Comas

After 124 years Madrid’s historic Café Gijón is facing uncertainty. The lease on the establishment’s popular terrace has expired and Madrid’s City Hall has put it on offer to the highest bidder. It just may be another sad story of how the crisis is ravaging Spain.

The Café Gijón opened in 1888 and soon became an important meeting place for intellectuals of the time, like Santiago Ramon y Cajal, Ramon Valle-Inclan, Pio Baroja. Later Nobel laureate Camilo Jose Cela became a regular and his book “The Hive” was inspired by the café. Throughout its history, the “tertulias” or, gatherings of leading artistic, cultural and political people, have never ceased. Currently the café is frequented by contemporary writers such as Francisco Umbral and Arturo Perez-Reverte among others.

When our TV crew told us they planned to do a story about Café Gijon, I was reminded of the first time my father took me there for dinner with acquaintances. He told me it was a very famous café where intellectuals had their gatherings and debates. I can’t recall ever having seen anything like that. But in my imagination the Café Gijón became something symbolic, something special. It was as if you received a dose of culture just by entering.

Women take the bull by the horns

By Jose Manuel Ribeiro

“Hey, sports fans, think you’re tough? Then try out a growing Portuguese pastime that is like playing rugby with a runaway refrigerator. It’s bull tackling, and nearly 1,000 enthusiasts, or “forcados,” from all walks of life love to jump into the ring for a head-on collision with a maddened bull. A mixture of sport, spectacle, high testosterone machismo, male bonding and, some say, art, the rough-and-tumble event is as unique to Portugal as port wine or codfish ice cream,” Reuters Lisbon chief correspondent Ian Simpson wrote in August 2005.

At the time, if anyone mentioned the notion of women trying out to be a “forcado” you would have said they were dreaming or had no idea of the inner workings of the Portuguese bullfighting world.

But six years later it is no longer a dream as a group of young and graceful women tackle the bulls in central Portugal.

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.”

Prime position for a bullfight

by Jon Nazca

Spanish banderiller Pedro Muriel is gored by a bull during a bullfight at the Malagueta bullring in Malaga August 22, 2010. Banderillers are bullfighter's assistants whose role is to weaken the bull's massive neck and shoulder muscles using harpoon pointed sticks known as banderillas (little flags). Muriel was gored in the right thigh but his wound is not serious, said his manager Ignacio Gonzalez to the magazine Mundotoro. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

It’s Sunday, and the last bullfight of the week.  People from Malaga are exhausted from so many days of fiesta and bulls. There isn’t much traffic around the bullring so I get there earlier than other days.

The temperature is a suffocating heat and not too many people are there yet, only a few brave souls sitting in the stands waiting for the bullfight.

I take my time, I’m a little more relaxed than other days, and try and take some pictures of people in the stands.  My attention is directed at three women, who appear to be from another region.  An old man waits, looking impatiently at his watch.  I direct my attention to him, as he sits surrounded by so many numbers painted on the stands.

Testing angels at the Pamplona bull run

By Vincent West

Yes, the fish are dead, and they are obviously painted, thus objects of aesthetic contemplation.
- Alberto Rey

Runners lead a Jandilla fighting bull into the bullring during the last running of the bulls of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona July 14, 2010.  REUTERS/Joseba Etxaburu

That may or may not be the sort of thing that springs to mind when you are lying in bed at 3.30am, sweating, and imagining ways to chop the cable of the sound system that sends throbbing bass pulses through the walls of the hotel. One thing is certain however; you will be wondering and worrying about how today’s “encierro” will turn out. It’s why we are here. Ever since Hemingway’s Bill Gorton declared “These basques are swell people”, increasing numbers of unwary visitors have flocked to Pamplona to see whether or not the angels are on their side. They test it every morning at eight o’clock, from the seventh to the fourteenth of July.

Jandilla fighting bulls run past a runner at Estafeta corner during the ninth running of the bulls of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona July 14, 2010.   REUTERS/Vincent West

The “we” in question are four photographers (there used to be more but you know how it is). Eloy Alonso, cider and civil war expert, an excellent photographer with a talent for polemic, Susana Vera, by far the most responsible of the group with a sharp eye for beautiful and creative pictures, Joseba Etxaburu, a lucky, happy, firefighter and motorbiker whose record for dramatic, often gory and distinctive images of the San Fermin festival is renowned and Vincent West, about whom perhaps the least said the better.

Another August, another tomato fight

It’s August 25, the last Wednesday of the month. Once again I’m driving towards Bunol, the village made famous by the annual ‘Tomatina’ tomato fight, to cover our summer staple.



The night before I had prepared the equipment: just one camera, a 70-200mm and 17-40mm. In the trunk of my car was 5 gallons of water, spare clothes to change into after the fight, a roll of plastic wrapping and toilet paper to clean the lens. I was accredited for a spot on the town hall balcony, on the second story. The ‘Tomatina’ consists of a crowd of 4,500 people gathering in the village’s narrow main street, and six huge trucks driving through the masses while unloading a total of 275,000 pounds of mature tomatoes. Hundreds of gallons of water are sprayed by the villagers from balconies and windows. The whole event lasts about an hour.


Until the fourth truck passes, the crowd isn’t really red, so I don’t take any pictures for the first 40 minutes. When the action begins, I shoot the last two trucks passing by. People are red, the street is covered by tomato soup and everybody is battling frenetically. Tomatoes are flying everywhere. Finally, the signal that the battle has ended comes and the hard work begins. I store the long lens in a little plastic backpack, wrap the camera and the wide angle lens with plastic. I put the toilet paper in my pocket and after 10 minutes I go down to inspect the remains of the battle.

Something for nothing?

Everybody likes something for nothing. Better still if that something is actually useful. Last week was all about a little extra content for just a little extra effort and how it pays dividends.

Babysitting
My guess is most Reuters photographers have a camera in their hand most of the time. You know, just in case. My journalist wife had to drive to the world’s largest coal port last weekend. I was babysitting. A new emission trading scheme was slated to be the following week’s main story in Australia so I grabbed toddler and cameras and off we all went. I ended up with a good carbon emissions file including an Asia picture of the week (below) in between splashing in puddles and chasing seagulls…with my son of course.

Drive-by
Two days later I headed in the opposite direction, to Canberra for the arrival of Spain’s King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia. On the way there the clouds lifted from some distant hills framing a new wind power farm. Pulling over on the freeway, a few quick frames out the other side of the car…and an image (below) included in the Best of the Week file.

Der Ball ist rund und das Spiel dauert 90 Minuten

“Der Ball ist rund und das Spiel dauert 90 Minuten” – the ball is round and the match lasts 90 minutes - words of wisdom from Sepp Herberger, known as the ’Miracle from Berne’, most famous as German national coach of the team which won the 1954 World Cup. 

The other night we had something like a miracle from Vienna – Michael Ballack struck a thunderbolt free kick to send an unconvincing Germany through to the quarter-finals of the European Soccer Championshop 2008 with a 1-0 win over co-hosts Austria. Ballack’s free kick, right-footed into the top corner and clocked at 121 kilometres an hour by a German TV station exactly describes, what acording to another German saying, is the whole point of the game, “das Runde muss ins Eckige – the round thing must go in the rectangular thing.

So that is easy enough – isnt it??

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1. Germany’s Michael Ballack (4thL) scores from a free kick during their Group B Euro 2008 soccer match against Austria at the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna, June 16, 2008.     REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach.  2.  Austria’s goal keeper Juergen Macho fails to save a free kick by Germany’s Michael Ballack during their Group B Euro 2008 soccer match at the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna June 16, 2008.     REUTERS/Christian Charisius

First impressions of a photographer’s life in Hong Kong

 Six months ago, after eight years working in Spain I began a new stage in my life as a photographer based in Hong Kong. Here are some of my first impressions. 

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HK is a cosmopolitan and very modern place with enormous malls full of posh boutiques like Prada, Armani and Chanel; deluxe cars like Ferrari, Porsche, Rolls Royce and Jaguar riding the roads; free WIFI access in the streets… all in stark contrast to the homeless people with cardboard boxes begging for dollars. 

For the lucky ones life in this incredible city is easy. It is safe, has amazing buildings, beaches, exciting nightlife, nice restaurants and very low taxes.