Photographers' Blog

Learning to walk again after Afghanistan

San Antonio, Texas

By Jim Urquhart

With each step he learns to take he is that much closer to achieving independence. All he wants is to once again be able to be a soldier in the infantry.

Sergeant (Sgt.) Matt Krumwiede has endured about 40 surgeries since June 12th, 2012, when he stepped on a IED while on patrol in Afghanistan.

GALLERY: AFTER AFGHANISTAN

During that time he has fought hard to regain his mobility since the pressure plate unleashed about 15 pounds of explosives that tore away both his legs above the knees, ripped muscle and bone from his left arm, taking parts of a finger and a whole finger and ripped his abdominal cavity wide open.

But, despite his injuries he wants to rejoin his fellow soldiers.

For the last year and half Matt has called Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, home. Everyday he gets himself ready and makes his way to formation with many other injured soldiers. From there he attends doctors appointments, physical therapy and occupational therapy. He is learning to walk again with the use of prosthetic legs while also waiting for his abdominal injuries to heal.

Matt grew up in Pocatello, Idaho with a twin brother named Mark. The two played lacrosse together in high school and when it came time to graduate and other students went to college or began working, Matt enlisted in the army and was soon followed by this brother.

A night in a bunker

Ilmenau, Germany

By Ina Fassbender

One Saturday morning I began to time travel for 16 hours to a place in eastern Germany, traveling to the time of the former DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik), to the time of two countries and two armies. To the bunker museum at Rennsteighoehe, in the middle of the Thueringer forest. It is owned by the “Waldhotel Rennsteighoehe”, which offers a ‘reality event’ weekend, to sleep one night in a bunker built by the ministry for national security MfS, wear a NVA (Nationale Volksarmee or National People’s Army) uniform and be treated like a former DDR soldier for the night.

I arrived in the middle of the forest with 14 others taking part in this reality event. First, everybody had to choose trousers, jackets, belts and caps. A gas mask was essential. Then a man, who looked like a major, appeared with a frightening look in his eyes and scolded us with severe words, exhorting us to find the bunker some 30 kms (18 miles) away. So we walked with our luggage through the forest. We were happy to find the bunker after only 100 meters (yards). At a closed gate a man, who had the look of a former NVA officer, welcomed us with no warm words. Rather he gave commands like in former times.

GALLERY: INSIDE A GERMAN BUNKER

At that moment I remembered my first meeting with the NVA. I visited friends in Berlin in 1986 and had to use the 200 km (124 miles) transit motorway through the former DDR. At the customs inspection I waited for many hours; don’t do anything, stay calm, don’t smile, be serious. After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, there was the moment NVA soldiers had to control me. I was in fear. They looked into my eyes, asked me where I wanted to go, how long would I stay there, what was the reason, was I smuggling something? They went away for 10 minutes with my pass. When they returned they uttered no words, inspected the car and my baggage inside and out. It took around 15 minutes and then I was on my way to Berlin. They found nothing.

Somalia’s gradual healing

Mogadishu, Somalia

By Feisal Omar

After 22 years, Somalia clearly shows signs of recuperating from the deep wounds of civil-war and insurgency.

The emergence of a recognized Somali government has positively changed life; particularly in the city which was mostly an Islamist stronghold two years ago. Somalis in the diaspora have returned for the first time and run various kinds of businesses: contemporary hotels, restaurants and shops. The arrival of Turkish companies that busily repair the ruined roads and mass construction of apartments teaches one of the rebirth of Somalia.

The court hearings and traffic police who whistle and wave police sticks to stop cars prove that there is relative law and order in the city. Although explosions can go off any moment at any place, you can still feel peace as you drive on the well-lit streets of Mogadishu as late as midnight.

Section 60 stripped of mementos

Arlington, Virginia

By Kevin Lamarque

In March of 2013 I walked through Arlington National Cemetery’s Section 60, the burial site for soldiers from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unlike most of the nearly 400,000 orderly and somber graves over Arlington’s 612 acres, the newer graves in Section 60 carried fresh reminders of lives cut too short and of too many loved ones left behind bearing unspeakable sorrow. There were immensely sad graveside moments of girlfriends, wives, children, mothers and fathers sitting, kneeling, laying beside a grave, often touching, holding or kissing the headstone of their fallen loved one. These loved ones would often leave behind mementos of all kinds, a way to keep their connection to those who departed too soon.

At that time, I documented many of these graveside mementos in a photo story for Reuters. Some of the images brought tears to my eyes…

Recently, it was brought to my attention that Arlington National Cemetery was enforcing a policy that forbids the placing of these graveside mementos. In short time, these headstones have been stripped of these expressions of love and loss. Some are saved by the cemetery, some discarded. I took a walk though Section 60 this week to witness the changes and I was saddened to see these elements of humanity swept away. Section 60 suddenly looks like every other section of the cemetery, save for the freshness of the graves. Evidence of open wounds, healing and reflection are no more.

20 years covering conflict: Goran Tomasevic

As in the ruins of Beirut, Sarajevo or Stalingrad, the conflict in Syria is a sniper’s war. Men stalk their fellow man down telescopic sights on suburban streets, hunting a glimpse of flesh, an eyeball peering from a crack, using decoys to draw their prey into giving themselves away.

During weeks spent tracking the fluid frontline of the battle, veteran war photographer Goran Tomasevic provided daily evidence of an escalating conflict that the UN estimates has killed 100,000 people. Tomasevic photographed with exceptional proximity as combatants mounted complex attacks, managed logistics, treated their wounded, buried their dead – and died before his eyes.

This special package has been sent to coincide with an exhibition of Goran’s award winning work at Visa Pour L’image, the premiere international photojournalism festival. This exhibition was curated by Ayperi Karabuda Ecer.

Commemorating Operation Pedestal

Valletta, Malta

By Darrin Zammit Lupi

In ever dwindling numbers, elderly war veterans keep their annual mid-August appointment in Valletta’s Grand Harbour to take part in a commemorative service marking the anniversary of Operation Pedestal. Known to the Maltese as the Santa Marija convoy (as it had reached the island on the feast day of Our Lady of the Assumption, an important day in Malta’s religious calendar), Pedestal was a desperate attempt by the Allied forces to get much-needed supplies of food, fuel and ammunition to the bomb-battered island of Malta in August 1942, at the height of the war in the Mediterranean.

Malta, a British air and naval base at the time, was on the brink of starvation and close to surrendering to the Axis powers that surrounded it on all sides. The operation’s success, albeit with heavy losses, has gone down in military history as one of the most important British strategic victories of World War Two, even though it was in many ways a tactical disaster.

To commemorate the 60th anniversary 11 years ago an old school friend of mine, Simon Cusens, took it upon himself to make contact with survivors of the convoy and arrange to bring them to Malta to mark the anniversary. 105 convoy veterans attended that year, including three former enemies, watching a highly emotional re-enactment of the August 15, 1942, arrival to the beleaguered island of the tanker SS Ohio, the ship that carried the most crucial supply of fuel and is, to this day, considered to be the island’s savior.

Anxious for peace

Cizre in Turkey’s Sirnak province, near the border with Syria

By Umit Bektas

Turkey’s fledgling peace process with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group is all over the headlines. After three decades of war, 40,000 deaths and a devastating impact on the local economy, everybody seems ready for peace. TV news channels and newspapers are saturated with opinions and commentary from politicians, officials, academics and journalists on what appears to be the best hope yet of building a lasting peace agreement with Kurdish militants.

But what about ordinary people in Turkey’s southeast, those most directly affected? How do they view the peace process and how might their lives change?

Eager to find out, I traveled to southeastern Turkey to cover Newroz, the Kurdish New Year celebrations, on March 21. In the town of Cizre, near the border with Syria, with the help of a local journalist, I found the Savun family and spent the weekend with them. Theirs is not an extraordinary story, but sometimes the least extraordinary stories reveal the most.

Mali’s war: Far from over

Across Mali

By Joe Penney

Since French troops first arrived in Mali on January 11, 2013, I have spent all but one week of 2013 covering the conflict there. The first three weeks were probably the most intense I have ever worked in my life, and at times, the most frustrating. French troops hit the ground at a pace which far outstripped most journalists’ ability to cover events, and media restrictions forced journalists to focus on something other than fighting.

GALLERY: IMAGING MALI

Many other journalists have lamented the stringent media restrictions, which at a certain point meant that when the French and Malian took control of Gao, most of the journalists were blocked at a Malian army checkpoint in Sevare, more than 600km (370 miles) southwest. But after the initial push resulting in the seizure of nearly all of Mali’s territory, the jihadist groups opted for a more insurgent-like approach, targeting the Malian army with suicide bombs and surprise attacks in Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal.

It is clear that this war is not like many others. After a month of complaining that we were not given access to the frontline, on one of the first few days I arrived in Gao, the frontline came to us. We had heard lots of gunfire throughout the night and then in the morning, Malian and French forces engaged in a day-long street battle with jihadists who had taken control of several key administrative buildings downtown. The attack on Gao and other attacks, like Thursday’s in Timbuktu, show that the danger in this war is that it can erupt at any time, in any place.

Gone, but never forgotten

Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia

By Kevin Lamarque

From a distance, the graves at Arlington National Cemetery are all seemingly uniform, precise rows of white headstones as far as the eye can see. However, a visit to Section 60, burial site of those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, shows how fresh the wounds of these wars are. Many of these graves are adorned with photos, trinkets, stones, messages, keepsakes and other mementos placed atop or around the headstone. These items help form a bond to the deceased, a reminder that they are sorely missed and will never be forgotten. For each headstone in Section 60, there is the painful story of a life that ended far too soon. It is also the story of those left behind who must bear this insufferable loss. These headstones help tell a small part of this story, a story of profound sadness.

Front line female Marines

Ternate, Philippines

By Romeo Ranoco

Long before U.S. President Barack Obama allowed female soldiers to be deployed for combat duties, the Philippines has been doing exactly that for several years, in particular among those in the Marines.

I was excited to photograph some of the women during a military exercise at a Marine base south of the capital Manila. This was not the first time that I had taken pictures of female soldiers during training exercises, but I volunteered again because this time I would be documenting new recruits.

I arrived at the base in the afternoon and was immediately briefed by the training officers, discussing my interest and the pictures that I would like to take. I wanted to take pictures of female soldiers trying out to join the “few and proud” Marines, showing their capabilities and comparing their skills, stamina and endurance with male soldiers.