Photographers' Blog

The last theater in town

Powell River, Canada

By Andy Clark

As far back as I can remember, history has always fascinated me. Though my specialty as an amateur historian has been military history, just about anything that occurred prior to my birth has had my undivided attention. Recently while having a coffee with a friend, he mentioned he had been to a town north of Vancouver called Powell River and had happened to visit a local movie theater. He went on to say matter of factly, that the theater had been continuously running since it was built many years ago.

“Stop right there,” I said. “Did you take any pictures of the place?” Yes, he had and he pulled out his laptop to show me.

Powell River is a small community on the British Columbia Sunshine Coast and accessible only by water. To get there requires about two hours travel by car and a couple of hours crossing on two different ferries from Vancouver. The town was born around 1910 after a pulp and paper mill was built beginning in 1908. At one time the Powell River Company Mill was the largest of its kind in the world supplying paper to one out of every 25 newspapers in the world. In 1913, a small wooden theater was built to offer the locals entertainment that included silent movies, vaudeville shows and even local boxing matches. The town’s people decided to have a naming contest for the theater leaving their suggestions in a ballot box at the company store. A very popular public figure in Canada at the time was Princess Patricia of Connaught, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Princess Patricia was living in Canada at the time while her father The Duke of Connaught served as Governor General in Ottawa, Canada’s capital. Thus, the new theater was named the Patricia.

A new building was constructed in 1928 to replace the original tall narrow theater known to shake and rattle in high wind. It even had bats darting around in the ceiling during performances, forcing the audience to duck and cover their heads. In July 1928, workers broke ground on the new place. But this time, the building was constructed of brick, mortar and stucco. Four months later on November 6 the new Patricia Theatre opened for business. Eighty-five years later almost to the day on a dark and damp evening, I showed up at the Patricia.

As most photographers know, assignments can look or sound good on paper but until you actually get there and see, one never knows for sure. I had gathered a pretty good idea from my friend’s photos and after chatting with the current owner Ann Nelson by phone the theater sounded like a real gem of history. I was not to be disappointed. Just walking up to the theater for the first time was like stepping through a rift in time. The inside was another world. Mural paintings on the wall, wooden trim and of course the rows of old theater seats from the private boxes in the back to the foot of stage. Across the stage hung the original curtain still in place. Made to order in Seattle and shipped by boat one would not have been surprised if Al Jolson himself had stepped from behind the French Velvet to sing a song or two.

‘Till the cows come home

Gruyeres, western Switzerland

By Denis Balibouse

In summer, some go to the seaside or countryside, visit a new city or country, but some choose to live a different way. The Murith family will not have a day off: they will work 15 hours a day, seven days a week from mid-May to mid-October.

I’ve known the Muriths for more than 10 years. Last December I called them to discuss the idea that I would photograph them over the 2013 summer. We met for lunch and over a meal I found out that Jacques, who is turning 65 (the official retirement age in Switzerland) was in the process of handing down his farm and its cheese-making business to the sixth generation: his 23-year-old son Alexandre. I was intrigued by this news, as I’ve been thinking a lot about agriculture in Switzerland, and how it faces a somewhat uncertain future, partly because the country is surrounded by EU nations with lower production and land costs, making it a tough way to earn a living. Despite this, exports have grown over the last 10 years and production has focused on quality.

I was struck by the intense concentration required during the six hour process. Because they’re working with what is essentially a living thing, every second counts: one minute too long and the cheese may be unsuitable for maturation, ruining hours of hard work. Every element, such as the temperature of the milk in the morning and the weather add a different combination of factors. Jacques’ senses were on alert: touch, sight, smell and taste especially. All the knowledge of the craftsman came in to play as he made the cheese. It’s not something you can learn in a book.

The horses of Portugal

Queluz, Portugal

By Jose Manuel Ribeiro

They look like the last aristocrats.
They are treated with the most respect and tenderness.
They have the best diets and food.
They have fancy shampoo baths before showing up.
They have the best shoemakers.

They have healthcare 24/7.
They dress the way their forefathers did in the 18th century.
They have gentlemen’s hairdressers.

They are all males living at the Royal Palace of Queluz, 20 kms (12 miles) north of Lisbon, the same palace that received past Kings, Queens and Presidents during their state visits to Portugal.
They have care takers and horsemen all around, proud to be a part of the Equestrian Art Portuguese School.

Riding the Moscow metro

Moscow, Russia

By Lucy Nicholson

London has the world’s oldest underground rail system; Tokyo’s metro has employees to push people into packed trains; New York’s subway is an ethnic melting pot. Hidden beneath the streets of Moscow is something completely different. To step onto the Moscow metro is to step back in time and immerse yourself in a museum rich in architecture and history.

Opened in 1935, it is an extravagant gallery of Communist design, full of Soviet artworks, Art Deco styling, statues, chandeliers, marble columns and ceiling mosaics.

GALLERY: INSIDE THE METRO

Built under Stalin by some of the best Soviet artists and architects, the metro transports 7-9 million people a day, more than London and New York combined. It costs 30 Rubles, around $1, for a single ride. We were given metro passes with our credentials when we arrived to cover the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Moscow. On the first day, I caught the metro back to our hotel with a group of Reuters photographers, when we missed the last media bus.

Fishing by sunrise

Lisbon, Portugal

By Jose Manuel Ribeiro

What we don’t see, we don’t know and when we don’t know we can not think about it. But near any of us, can be some piece of news. In the darkness of the night between Golden Beach and California Beach in Sesimbra village, 40 km (25 miles) south of Lisbon, elderly retired fishermen pull long ropes and fishing nets onto the sand.

The same place during the day welcomes thousands of swimmers and tourists on summer holidays without any knowledge of what had been done before dawn.

Trapped between European Union laws, Natural Park Environment regulations, the Portugal financial crisis and their need to survive on a slim pension of between 200 and 300 euros, they keep fighting helped by younger neighbors and relatives as they practice the old fishing technique, the arte xavega. Xavega is a Portuguese word originating from Arabic meaning fishing net.

My week at the fair

Little Valley, New York

By Brendan McDermid

As a child some of my favorite summer memories were going to the fair. I’m not sure if it was the cotton candy, candy apples, taffy or fried dough that I liked best but I’m sure all of them have something to do with my memories. I grew up in Buffalo, NY (insert winter weather joke here) which hosts the third largest county fair in the United States and the largest county fair in New York State. But none of my memories are from the Erie County fair.

Growing up my family had a cabin in Cattaraugus County, New York and we’d spent a lot of time there hiking, fishing, sitting around the camp fire and generally running a muck in the outdoors. Each year we’d head over to the Cattaraugus County fair to break up our time at the cabin and to basically give my parents human interaction outside of their five kids, and whatever friends we had staying with us. Like any other fair they have rides, games, entertainment and most importantly deep fried deliciousness! So, naturally as an adult I wanted to relive all the joy and excitement of my youth. Don’t we all?

When I came up with this assignment, one of the things I really wanted to look at was the 4-H program and the kids who take part in it. Growing up, 4-H was not very popular where I lived, but I was always curious because of my experiences at the fair. This week I’ve met some amazing young people like Keenan Tadt, who competed in the English Horse Show and showed her sheep, about 15 minutes apart. She’s best seen in the competition ring wrestling her unruly sheep while still wearing her breeches and riding boots.

A farewell message to the telegram

New Delhi, India

By Mansi Thapliyal

At 10 p.m. on July 14, India will send its final telegram before the service shuts the following day, signaling the end of a service that has been going for over 160 years. It is the latest means of communication to be killed off by the mobile Internet age.

From families waiting to hear from their children who migrated to India’s cities for work, to soldiers in remote areas for whom the telegram was the only way to stay in touch with relatives, the telegraph service has been used to connect millions of people across this vast country since the mid-19th Century.

Charged per word, some messages went on and on, while others chose to write single words like “love” – a simple message to express how they felt.

One winner at the Palio

Siena, Italy

By Stefano Rellandini

Count only who gets up the “Nerbo!” Nerbo is the traditional riding whip used by jockeys at the Palio of Siena during the three laps around the square that will crown the lady of Siena until the next Palio. The Palio of Siena is an absolutely atypical race from everything that one can imagine. Horses must do three laps of the main square and the animal who arrives first with or without a jockey wins. There is no second nor third place, no podium.

I spent two days in the parish. To best understand the meaning behind Palio you have to live in the parish for all three days of the event. The two days before the race are used by jockeys to ride bareback doing trials. Horses are assigned through a raffle drawn in Piazza del Campo then each parish must recruit the best jockey around.

In the evening each parish’s alleys are filled with tables set up for dinner. All the people who belong to a parish take part. The only subject of conversation that you can hear between the tables refers to what will happen on race day. Each horse is cared for in the stable of his own parish by a groom who stays with the animal night and day without leaving, even for a minute. It’s forbidden to walk near the stable, where the horse is not to disturb.

Portugal’s love affair with canned fish

Lisbon, Portugal

By Jose Manuel Ribeiro

Canned fish: poor people’s food, gourmet cuisine, souvenir or just healthy fast food?

It was late when I arrived home, tired and starving. I opened the kitchen cupboard looking for some late-night lazy-man food, and there, they were: my friendly and colorful fish cans.

My oldest memory of canned fish brings me back to primary school when both children and teachers were asked to bring basic food that could be packed in boxes to send to starving people in the south of Nigeria during the Biafra war in the late sixties. I had not seen that many cans of fish together in my life since that day, until I visited a factory.

China’s last armed village

Basha village, China

By Jason Lee

It took more than 12 hours by plane and long-distance bus to travel from Beijing to what is believed to be the last community authorized by the Chinese government to keep guns – the village of Basha. It is in Congjiang county, a grand mountainous area of Southwestern China. The village is a relatively mysterious place to most people, even in China, mainly because of its remoteness and poor economy.

Upon my arrival I noticed instantly one of its unique privileges – the marvelous natural scenery. I didn’t hear any gun shots at that moment, but I spontaneously set my cameras to silent mode, for fear of bothering the farmers working on the fields.

I decided to take a walk around Basha, an old ethnic Miao settlement with a population of over 2,200, like a tourist before getting onto my main assignment – to photograph the gun owners. I immediately fell in love with this village as it was so pristine and clean that it seemed to be from a completely different planet. I clearly remember the scene of the setting sun on a female cattle shepherd, sitting among fields and working on her embroidery, while a boundless view of the magnificent landscape extended beyond her.