Photographers' Blog

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures April 3, 2011

In case anyone is in any doubt about the volatile situation many of our staff and stringers work under in Afghanistan I want to recount what happened on Saturday. Ahmad Nadeem was covering a demonstration that was sparked by the actions of extremist Christian preacher Terry Jones, who, according to his website, supervised the burning of the Koran in front of about 50 people at a church in Florida. The mood at the demonstration changed very quickly as the crowd sought a focus for their anger. Ahmad, our stringer in Kandahar was targeted. He was beaten with sticks, his gear smashed and his hand broken. Then an armed man instructed the mob to kill him. Ahmad fled for his life escaping into a nearby house where he successfully hid from the mob. Earlier in the day a suicide attack also hit a NATO military base in the capital Kabul, the day after protesters overran a U.N. mission in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and killed seven foreign staff in the deadliest attack on the U.N. in Afghanistan.

AFGHANISTAN-VIOLENCE/KABUL

Bullet holds are seen on the windshield of a car used by insurgents after an attack at Camp Phoenix in Kabul April 2, 2011. Insurgents clad in burkhas attacked a coalition base in Kabul with guns and rocket-propelled grenades on Saturday, but were killed either when they detonated their explosives or by Afghan or coalition fire outside the entrance, NATO and police said.    REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

AFGHANISTAN/

Afghans chant anti-American slogans during a demonstration to condemn the burning of a copy of the Muslim holy book by a U.S. pastor, in Mazar-i- Sharif April 1, 2011. Afghan insurgents used mass protests against Koran burning as cover to launch an attack on the United Nations building in northern Mazar-i-Sharif city, in which at least seven foreigners were killed, the governor of Northern Balkh province said. The United Nations death toll in an attack on the U.N. compound in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif could be as high as 20, U.N. officials told Reuters on Friday. REUTERS/Stringer

AFGHANISTAN-VIOLENCE/KABUL

A U.S. soldier (R) keeps watch as the body of an insurgent lays on the ground after an attack at Camp Phoenix in Kabul April 2, 2011. Insurgents clad in burkhas attacked a coalition base in Kabul with guns and rocket-propelled grenades on Saturday, but were killed either when they detonated their explosives or by Afghan or coalition fire outside the entrance, NATO and police said.    REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

The nuclear and tsunami story in Japan is also presenting an interesting set of challenges for the photographers. The reactor is now leaking radiation into the sea with two radioactive hotspots identified to the north west of Fukushima City. The leaks in the reactors are neither better nor worse - so how close would you want to get to take a picture?  If you want to help and get really close you can get a job with TEPCO as a "Jumper" and get paid $5000 and go right inside the reactor.  We of course would be more than happy to see pictures shot by a "Jumper" and the team at work. At the scene of tsunami devastation the US and Japanese military are now searching the sea for the thousands of missing bodies as the survivors try to piece together their lives, the images of this daily struggle no less powerful even though the story is now three weeks old. What was amazing to me how much dignity and respect ooze from Kato-san pictures as the Emperor and Empress visit one of the evacuation centres. For the rest of the pictures I will let them speak for themselves, words will add nothing.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures 06 March 2011

I do enjoy a coincidence. The week after calls for prodemocracy demonstrations under the social media tag of "Jasmine Revolution" and the week before  the National People's Congress (NPC), International journalists (and I of course include photographers under this title) are brought in by the authorities for "chat". During the "chat" they are reminded of the terms of their journalist visas and how quickly these visas can be revoked if the rules are broken on illegal reporting. Also outlined are places that special permission is needed to report from, Tiananmen Square heading the list. Our picture of a member of the PLA leaving the Great Hall in Tiananmen Square appearing to almost step on the photographer with this low angle picture, as I said I do love a coincidence.

CHINA-DEFENCE/

A military delegate from the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) leaves the Great Hall of the People after a meeting during the annual session of China's parliament, the National People's Congress, in Beijing March 4, 2011. China said on Friday that its official military budget for 2011 will rise 12.7 percent over last year, returning to the double-digit rises that have stoked regional disquiet about Beijing's expanding strength. REUTERS

Inside the Great Hall Jason shot this fantastic, Daliesque image of the headless conductor who appears to radiate waves from the central red star that has replaced his head. Another picture that caught my eye is the image of the patient watching the national address by China's Premier Wen Jiabao from her hospital bed. I wonder if the remote is within reach as these speeches tend to go on for quite a long time and imagine that if you are in hospital in pain there is only so much economic news you can absorb at one time ? Moving away from Beijing and the NPC I am really drawn to Aly's picture of the construction site which was shot to illustrate the housing inflation story in China (not an easy one at any stretch of the imagination). The metal reinforcement supports look like leafless trees, the solitary figure trudging through a lifeless, snowy landscape. 

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures February 27, 2011

The World's gaze at events in the Middle East was broken last week after an earthquake of 6.3 destroyed many buildings in Christchurch, New Zealand; the death toll now stands at 147 with 200 still missing. This was the latest disaster covered by Tim Wimborne. In recent weeks he has been to Toowoomba and Brisbane for the floods, Cairns for the typhoon Yasi and now NZ to cover the earthquake.  Tim worked closely with stringer Simon Baker to produce a file that saddens the heart, buildings normally seen on holiday postcards now forming the tombs of those who have died and as yet have not been pulled from the rubble. For me one of the strongest images is that of a  man picking through the rubble of what was once his home. With Tim's birds-eye view we see that nothing is really worth saving amid the dust and rubble, a photograph, a smashed lamp and a model boat.

NEWZEALAND-QUAKE/

Resident of the beach-side suburb of New Brighton, Julian Sanderson, searches for personal items through the remains of his house, destroyed by Tuesday's earthquake, in Christchurch February 25, 2011. International rescue teams searched through the rubble of quake-ravaged Christchurch on Friday for more than 200 people still missing, but rain and cold were dimming hopes of finding more survivors in the country's worst natural disaster in decades.  REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

NEWZEALAND/QUAKE

A rescue worker (R) looks through the rubble of the Cathedral of Blessed Sacrament in Christchurch February 24, 2011. International rescuers intensified their search for earthquake survivors in New Zealand on Thursday, spurred on by reports of a faint female voice heard beneath a collapsed church, even as the official death toll of 71 looked certain to climb. REUTERS/Simon Baker

Natural disaster strikes Sri Lanka, again

The recent floods in eastern Sri Lanka disrupted the lives of more than 1 million people and forced up to 400,000 people to seek refuge in temporary shelters like huts, schools and mosques. Rice crops in the east were devastated. Many fields were flattened by the water that burst through broken dams. Standing water 4 feet deep saturated the fields for days. Much of the rice that remained standing, while it looked healthy, had no grain remaining in it. The worst-affected districts were Batticaloa, Ampara and Trincomalee and these were also regions hit hard by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and decades of separatist conflict which ended nearly two years ago.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures January 23 2011

As India heads towards their Republic Day celebrations, Prime Minister Singh makes minor adjustments to his cabinet while outside on the streets people demonstrate over food and fuel price inflation and corruption. Adnan Abidi produces a great picture as a middle-aged demonstrator gets to feel the full force of a police water canon. In stark contrast, B Mathur gets a glimpse of the dress rehearsal of the full military parade planned to celebrate India's independence where the security forces are deployed in a somewhat different manner.  Danish Siddiqui added to the file this week with a well seen picture to illustrate a government spending initiative with a man pulling a pipe across a building site, the shadow creating an eye like image that almost seems to wink at the viewer.  

INDIA/

Police use water canons to disperse supporters of India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during a protest in New Delhi January 18, 2011. Thousands of the supporters on Tuesday in New Delhi held a protest against a recent hike in petrol prices and high inflation. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

INDIA/

Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers ride their camels during the full dress rehearsal for the Republic Day parade in New Delhi January 23, 2011. India will celebrate its Republic Day on Wednesday. REUTERS/B Mathur

Choking back the horror

Five years have passed and I still find it hard to talk about the tsunami. When the subject comes up my throat still constricts, choking back the horror and raw pain that I saw and more shockingly, the way the rest of the world seemed to carry-on with daily life. Relief came – sometimes too much of it, but nothing prepares a photographer for the shock of returning to normality from a disaster zone.

I was in Phuket the day before Christmas, dodging the bullet perhaps as my ground floor room would certainly have become my tomb. Back in Singapore the news broke and I flew to Sri Lanka, arriving at the center of the destruction 24 hours after the waves. My first stop was a hospital outside Galle. Hundreds of bodies lay on the damp concrete floor, children in fetal positions next to what rescuers assumed were their parents. Some of them had bandages and IV’s telling the story of the pathetic struggle to save them, others just looked like they were asleep, still in pajamas but slowly bloating.

QUAKE LANKA

Blood and bodily fluid and the stark stench of decomposition. I worked the scene like a vulture, the lenses my shield; my shock at the scene my helmet; technical adjustments on the cameras my distraction from the horror. I edited on the fly, transmitting a few images via satphone and moving onto more death. It is only that night as I look through my day’s take that the tears come, as the reality of what I saw hits me – there is no lens now. Only the hard truth in 2 megabyte files on a dusty laptop screen.

4.25 – who values a news picture?

ATTENTION EDITORS: GRAPHIC CONTENT

A nice number 4.25, seems to sit easy on the eye, or should do except its 4:25 a.m. and the numbers are from my digital clock.

As Reuters’ chief photographer in Asia, I have a lot on my mind. The threat of conflict on the Korean peninsula after Pyongyang’s nuclear tests, fighting in Pakistan and Afghanistan, floods in India and Bangladesh, a bogus trial of Suu Kyi in Myanmar, crashing economies, H1N1, claims and counter-claims of corruption and racism, insecurity in Nepal and Sri Lanka, global warming, the risk of unrest in Tibet and of course, China, where just about anything can happen at any time.

With the decline of the traditional news market, however, I sometimes wonder who still cares about news pictures and why should they be paid for.

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.

A day at the front line in Sri Lanka

Access for foreign journalists to Asia’s longest running civil war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and government troops, is very tightly controlled by the Sri Lankan government. Getting near the front line area known as the ‘No Fire Zone’ is only possible with an officially sanctioned trip organized by the Ministry of Defence. Last Friday, April 24, I went on one.

The trip started at 3.30am, when I arrived at the military air base in Colombo. We went through 3 security checks, before boarding our plane at 6.30am. We flew north for about 30 minutes to a small airstrip at a place called Mankulam. From here, we boarded two Mi-8 helicopters. To avoid any ground fire, the choppers fly at maximum speed just above the height of the tallest trees, and when I say just, I mean scraping the leaves. This fast and furious ride lasted just 30 minutes to the town of Kilinochchi.

We had a quick briefing, and then we set off in a convoy of armored personnel carriers towards the front. The carrier that I got into was a very old, clunky thing of which there was not much evidence of suspension. The roads in the area had suffered 25 years of a civil war, and were in seriously bad condition. Myself and and a TV cameraman tried our best to grab pictures as we sped along at around 50 miles/h but we were being thrown around so much, even for me to get the camera up to my face and see through it, was near impossible. We held on the best we could, and I managed to get a few ‘usable’ frames of a scorched and destroyed landscape. Every single dwelling was either destroyed or uninhabitable. It reminded me of East Timor in 1999. Burnt out vehicles lined the road. What was most noticeable was the absence of people. There were simply no civilians anywhere.