Photographers' Blog

A happy snap from the land of smiles

This picture will be printed big on glossy paper, framed and hung.

Sarina and Kunisem, the Thai Muslim bride and groom, sit in golden sofa after the chief of the village of Nisha in southern Yala province was shot dead during their wedding party March 29, 2010.   REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

It’s the wedding of Sarina and Kurisem: the moment they’ve been waiting for. Excitement and pride radiates from their families as Sarina’s parents send their daughter to a good family and for Kurisem’s parents, their son becomes a man.

The photo shows happiness, joy and a hope for a better future. Two beautiful young people smile in front of a golden background, plastic flowers and gifts. A synthetic carpet covers the mud and a silent fan prevents the scene from melting in the heat of southern Thailand. Two hearts, their names and the date are written in a strange combination of languages to remind us of a happy day.

Or, maybe, the day was not that happy?

The official wedding photographer, over whose shoulder I shot this very frame, was not really interested in what was happening outside of the golden moment. However, it was what made me rush to the wedding after hearing the news of violence on the police radio. I was driving when I heard about the shooting so I rushed to the scene. The wedding photographer is accustomed to the violence; he focuses on what photos sell instead. The age-old journalism expression “No bleed, no lead” doesn’t work here in southern Thailand. In the photo album, that filtered reminder of our past, this smiling wedding portrait will be the only picture.

Shortly before this image was taken, masked gunmen riding their mopeds out of the forest raided the wedding party, shooting bullets into the skull of a chief of the village. The man, a local and well respected Muslim, was seated at the head of the table, witnessing the happy moment in the life of Sarina and Kurisem.

Thai policemen and forensic experts stand around the body of a man killed during a wedding party in the small village of Nisha in southern Yala province March 29, 2010. The Muslim chief of the village was shot dead as gunmen stormed a wedding party in Thailand's troubled southern province. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

The last picture of the village chief, before the body was wrapped in white cloths and taken for burial, was among party tables and pots in which the special wedding meal was cooking. A police photographer at the site of the bloody attack calmly recorded evidence, focusing on the wounds and bullet holes. From time to time, he looked over his shoulder at the tables covered with food – lunch time was approaching.

Witness to the violent years of Juarez

Through the shattered glass one can still see the bloodstains that tell the tragic stories of each vehicle and its occupants – the men, women and children whose bodies became the center of violent crime scenes.

Bullet-riddled vehicles sit in a police junkyard in Ciudad Juarez September 6, 2010. Confiscated in crime-related incidents, more than 2,000 vehicles, some with blood and the marks from shootouts, are stored in the yard while investigations into the crimes are conducted, according to the local prosecutor's office. REUTERS/Gael Gonzalez 

Located at the 25 km marker of the Panamerican Highway outside Ciudad Juarez, the state government’s field has become a junkyard, a vehicle graveyard. Laid out in rows, the vehicles are painted with their date of arrival as well as the number 39, police code for “death,” on their windshields.

 A bullet-riddled pickup sits with other vehicles in a police junkyard in Ciudad Juarez September 6, 2010. Confiscated in crime-related incidents, more than 2,000 vehicles, some with blood and the marks from shootouts, are stored in the yard while investigations into the crimes are conducted, according to the local prosecutor's office. REUTERS/Gael Gonzalez

Bullet-riddled vehicles sit in a police junkyard in Ciudad Juarez September 6, 2010. Confiscated in crime-related incidents, more than 2,000 vehicles, some with blood and the marks from shootouts, are stored in the yard while investigations into the crimes are conducted, according to the local prosecutor's office. REUTERS/Gael Gonzalez

The state prosecutor’s office says there are more than 2,000 vehicles in the yard, ranging from new luxury models to old junk. They are kept here for as long as the investigation into each crime lasts with most of them never claimed by the victims’ families, probably because of the memories that each one invokes. Among them are many police cars.

Bloodied streets of Bishkek

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

Kyrgyzstan-based photographer Vladimir Pirogov’s images of Wednesday’s violent clashes in Bishkek are examples of the power of photography in telling stories. Here are a selection of the best. Click here to view the slideshow of images.

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Men lay dead during clashes between riot police and anti-government protesters near the presidential administration in Bishkek.

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A protester carries a rocket propelled grenade and a riot shield during clashes with riot police in Bishkek.

Witness from the Hurt Locker

May4
Photo editor May Naji during an embed with U.S. troops in Iraq.

When I moved to Singapore, I thought I would escape the war and try to forget everything that reminded me of it.

IRAQ/SCHOOLBut watching “The Hurt Locker,” I flashed back to all the sad and terrifying memories of violence and atrocities during that time in Iraq. The movie was about an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, but it really highlighted what goes on in Iraq every day – what Iraqis and the U.S. military experience every day. I think that’s what made the movie so popular. People want to understand life in Iraq.

Even as an Iraqi who lived there and witnessed the war, it’s sometimes hard to describe — what happened, what we saw. The visions are in my mind, but it’s beyond the imagination of people who live in peaceful countries and never witness war. The movie’s most graphic images (planting explosives inside the body of an Iraqi boy; the civilian with a time-bomb strapped to his chest) were just some of the horrific things that happened in Iraq.

South Africa’s child-rape epidemic

“Don’t ask me to smile, I don’t know how to smile,” says Fumana Ntontlo, as she poses for a portrait, hands folded in her lap, on the bed of her one-room shack in South Africa’s Khayelitsha township.

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The walls and roof of her tiny home are made from corrugated metal, insulated on the inside with splintered and stained plywood, from which hangs a faded blue fabric pouch holding several pairs of well-worn shoes. Some yellowed and curling magazine pictures are taped at eye-level and a lace curtain flutters in the breeze of a small window protected by metal burglar bars. A bare bulb hangs from the ceiling by a wire.

Ntontlo is a “survivor” – the word used by health workers to describe victims of sexual violence.

My city, my work, my life

It was 11:30 at night in Ciudad Juarez just south of the U.S. border when we reporters heard on the police frequency that a man had been left hanging on the chainlink fence of the Seven & Seven bar, the same place where a few days earlier 11 people had been gunned down.

Once we were sure that the information was real, we approached the bar only after coordinating between ourselves via walkie-talkie. We arrived at the chilling scene, nervous about covering such an incident, and noticed several cars cruising the area around us.

We managed to work from a distance for a short time until the police sealed off the area, blocking our access. I managed to take several photos of the Dantesque scene in which I could see a man’s body with his hands handcuffed to the fence in the form of a crucifixion. We stayed nearby until they removed the body to be taken to the morgue.

Women’s refuge in Afghanistan

Patooni Muhanna, who works at a women’s shelter in Kabul, speaks about women’s rights since the fall of the Taliban. Patooni says that despite some positive changes, domestic violence and self-immolation are still concerns.

Follow news from the Afghan election here.

Showing the Taliban

Masum Ghar, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan

Operation in Sanjaray

Embedded with the Canadian Army in Kandahar.

On May 16th I reached the forward operating base (FOB) after traveling in an convoy of armoured vehicles that left from Kandahar Airfield.

We set out from the FOB in a different armoured convoy traveling for a “secret cleaning operation” in Sanjaray village. I was told that the only condition for me to go was to not send pictures until the end of the operation.

We followed the tracks left by the tanks in the burning desert sand, surrounded by orange-colored mountains, until we reached an improvised base belonging to the Afghan National Police (ANA). This base offers a view of Sanjaray and the entire valley.

The most difficult thing to shoot in Kashmir…

During nearly two decades of violent Kashmir conflict, I have covered fierce gun battles, between Indian soldiers and Muslim militants, suicide bombings, rebel attacks, massacres, protests, mayhem, violent elections and disasters.

But the question that always comes to mind is “what is the hardest to shoot?’

I always remember protests or riots, clashes between stone throwing protesters and gun-toting Indian troops. Stress levels quickly rise as me and my text colleague, Sheikh Mushtaq, realize that our assignment will not be easy whenever we go out, mostly on Fridays, the day when Muslims offer congregational weekly prayers, which turn into weekly protests against Indian rule in Kashmir.

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.

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