Photographers' Blog

Toy soldiers

Anzio, Italy

By Tony Gentile

A few months ago I exhibited my pictures during a photographic festival in Sicily. As I was hanging my work I was impressed by the images of another photographer which were displayed next to mine. They were war photos, in black and white, depicting World War II and I thought they were taken by an old photographer. But when I looked closer I saw that the photographer was young, and the pictures were taken only a year before. They were eerily similar to those shot during the 1940s, but the reportage concerned a re-enactment of the wartime landing of Allied forces in Anzio, about 60 km (37 miles) south of Rome.

Last week I glanced upon an announcement that the 69th anniversary of the Anzio landing was taking place, so I decided to go to take a look and cover this story. Unfortunately, due to the economic crisis, there were not many people involved in it this year but there were enough to make a picture story. While the rest of Italy was starting to celebrate the beginning of the Carnival season, these few war buffs were parading around in 70 year old army vehicles.

In the early hours of January 22, 1944, a convoy of 374 ships disembarked the 1st British Division on the coast just north of Anzio, while the 3rd American Division landed on the beaches near Nettuno (named Peter Beach and X-Ray Beach by the Allied forces). This was the beginning of Operation Shingle which had been so strenuously promoted by Winston Churchill.

Today, much is still being written and debate continues as to why the invading forces landing at Anzio did not press on to occupy Rome without delay. There were reportedly few German combat troops in the area, although a German armored division had been in the Anzio area up until only 48 hours before the landing, before being then transferred to Cassino. There is some controversy over whether the American general leading the invasion, General Mark Clark, had failed to charge ahead, possibly giving an opportunity for German Field Marshall Albert Kesselring to lock them into the beach head, as well as allowing German forces to escape to fight another day in his drive to liberate Rome.

After 69 years it is quite a spectacle to see as many as 40 military enthusiasts taking part in a re-enactment of the landing, proudly donning the uniforms of U.S., British, and German SS soldiers. They not only look like actors in a movie scene but also feel the history. And at the end of the day they appear to be just big boys who continue to play with toy soldiers.

A city divided and paralyzed by politics

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

By Dado Ruvic

Mostar; where half of its heart has stopped beating

At the entrance to the city on the left side, the beautiful slopes of mountain Prenj greeted me proudly defying the environment and covered in snow. All the splendor of colors and suns’ rays that penetrated through it was broken after I saw a house that was completely destroyed in the war beside the main road. Even twenty years later the house had not been restored. For me, this city has always been beautiful, complete with the most beautiful bridge in the world – the Old bridge.

However, when we traveled to the other side of the bridge, the city was spooky. There were dilapidated buildings and ruins where just dogs and ghosts of the past lived. After twenty years they still carried the weight, pain, suffering and wounds that will never heal. I’m sure that the younger generation will not be poisoned by nationalism; they don’t have to watch buildings being destroyed by bullets every day.

Surely they wonder though and certainly hate grows. There comes that poison called nationalism, perhaps. I wonder all the time, while I’m walking, taking photographs. I felt so proud as I photographed the old part of the town, because I could show the world one of the most beautiful cities in the world. But the pride, the joy, the happiness just disappeared when I realized the harsh reality – I had to show the other parts of the city. My soul was hard as I photographed half reconstructed, and in most cases never renovated, buildings. I listened to the stories of people selling souvenirs and random passer-bys as they talked about the divided city; about “them” on one side and “those” on the other side. All the beauty disappeared.

In the darkest corner of my soul

By Dado Ruvic

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Bosnian war.

I was only three years old when the war broke out. Although I was only a child, I keep the dark images of horror, blood and the suffering inside me, buried deep in the darkest corner of my soul. I was only a child, but the memories of war will never fade away. It is something all of us carry as a burden on our souls, each every one of us in our own way.

Regardless of my memories, I try to do my job impartially and without any influences. I want to see things rationally. I want to cover the stories that matter; the stories that carry the message. I want to say and express what some people dare not say. The photos are not merely photos, they are tears. They are screams of the desolate despair. They are pain.

In Bosnia, more than 10,000 people are still missing and have not been found. These are not only numbers. They are someone’s children, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives. Ten thousand people still without a trace; in the darkness. Twenty years after the war, 10,000 is not merely a number. Year after year, I witness the excavation of the new mass graves. And the years go by, as if carried by the winds of sorrow.

Sarajevo, where they died with dignity

By Chris Helgren

I was trying to think of something good to write, something positive about this anniversary. But it’s just an impossible task when remembering the smell and mood of the morgues and hospitals tasked with the dirty work of the war. While I was there, I don’t think I met a single family untouched by the violence. Whether it was through loss of a relative or starvation or frostbite or all of the above, every Sarajevan had a sad story to tell. One of those who couldn’t tell me was 10 year old Elvedin Sendo, whose body was brought into the Kosevo hospital morgue with grass stains on his shoes. He was killed when Bosnian Serb shells hit his school’s playing field in the Hrasno neighbourhood, two weeks short of the war’s first anniversary.

The story of Sarajevans surviving the siege was one of community and dignity. Water lines were shattered early on, yet people needed water to survive. Sarajevo’s citizens would nervously queue to fill their containers in places known to those on the hills manning the artillery pieces. Once in a while, a mortar would land, kill a few of them, but they’d be back the next day to provide water for their families. A huge screen made of blue cloth, spanning the width of a street, was erected one year to protect pedestrians from sniper fire. Sadly, it wilted under the weight of a rainstorm within a couple of days.

Within a year most families had burned whatever firewood they had around the house, and they’d then venture out to cut down trees closer and closer to the front lines. After these were gone, they burned furniture, then shoes. At a friend’s house party during the third winter, we went through his record collection and burned LP’s by Martika and Michael Jackson. “He’s pretty hot”, was the joke at the time.

Falklands at last

By Marcos Brindicci

I was almost eight years old when the Falklands War started, and the first thing I remember about those days is seeing national flags flying from houses in my hometown in Buenos Aires province. It reminded me of the celebrations during the 1978 World Cup. Though only a child, I knew the government was not very popular in those years, so I was surprised and confused by the euphoria we felt when our troops landed in Port Stanley, the beginning of a war fought by many untrained conscripts.

As an Argentine I’ve been intrigued by the Falkland Islands since our military government decided to fight over them in 1982. I’d missed two opportunities in the past to travel there for Reuters and I was thrilled with the chance to finally go.


As I prepared the trip I began thinking about what the place symbolized, especially considering the renewed diplomatic tension with Britain and the upcoming 30th anniversary of the war. At the same time I kept thinking about the islanders because although we focus on the fight for possession, we rarely think about the islanders themselves. Even now, in the minds of many Argentines, they’re not part of the discussion.

A dazed memory

By Damir Sagolj

It is twenty years since the man was killed. His remains were given different names; he became just a number in sad statistics – one of ours or theirs. Behind the broken window of his burnt home, between grave marks of innocents only ghosts live.

I don’t have any of my pictures from the 1992-95 war in Bosnia anymore. I shot many photos – mostly of dead people and destruction. Very few had any life in them. Then, just as the killings stopped and a different war continued in November 1995 I abandoned my photos; I didn’t want to have them anymore.

Not a smart move, but it was what I wanted at the moment – to forget, to put it behind, to move forward.

My journey into Syria’s nightmare

By Zohra Bensemra

The contact from Syria called: “Be ready in 30 minutes,” he said. “If you want to go, we have to go now.”

From the moment we left our Turkish hotel near the border, my colleague and I traveled on dirt roads used by smugglers and farmers around Syria’s northern frontier. The highways were busy with soldiers and shabbiha, irregular pro-Assad fighters.

Unlike in Libya, where clear frontlines divided rebels from Muammar Gaddafi’s army, in Syria, frontlines cut through villages and criss-cross farmlands in a treacherous maze. One village might be pro-Assad, the president’s picture hanging in every window, the next a solidly rebel-held town, another a mixture of communities where you could not trust your neighbor.

The essence of war

By Umit Bektas

As the medical staff rushed to prepare the seriously wounded soldier for immediate surgery, I stood in one corner of the emergency room wondering how publishable the pictures I would take of this bloody and violent scene would be and what would be the benefit of it, if they were indeed published.

No photo of the soldier who lay there covered in blood and unconscious would ever be sufficient to express his agonizing pain. There was no way I could ever sum up the earlier life of this solider, the life which would never be the same again. I could never explain why this happened to him. I could never relay in a single frame what really happened to him and what purpose his injuries would serve. For some time I watched the medical staff working frantically around the soldier, making superhuman efforts to keep him alive. Their efforts would probably save a life. What would mine accomplish? What would I have achieved if in the middle of this bloody scene I succeeded in taking a photo appropriate to be printed in newspapers and people thousands of miles away would bring into their homes to look at. What photo or photos would ever help the soldier to regain his limbs which would likely be severed very soon. I happened to catch a glimpse of the soldier’s boots lying on the floor. As the soldier was wheeled into surgery after emergency first aid, and the commotion in the room died down, I approached the bloodied boots and snapped them.

It is now more than a month since I returned from my assignment as an embedded photographer with the U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Now, as I write this blog I am looking at that picture. I want to talk about what a pair of blood-soaked boots means to me; as a human being and as a photographer.

Iraq’s youngest photographer reflects

Qamar Hashim is an 8-year-old Iraqi photographer. He tours famous streets to picture Baghdadis with his single camera and is the youngest Iraqi photographer to win several local awards, according to the Iraqi Society Photographic (ISP).

Below, Qamar responds to a series of questions.

When did you take your first photograph and what did it show?

I do not remember exactly the first picture but I had been mimicking my father since I was 4 or 5 years-old and started to take pictures of the Tigris river, the gulls, birds, old houses and heritage places.

Why do you think photography is important?

Photography is very important. It documents life and pauses time. We can show the city, life and the people.

Are you ready for your embed?

By Umit Bektas

When I was informed of the date from which I was to be embedded with a U.S. military unit in Afghanistan, I luckily had enough time to prepare. I felt I had to plan everything before I left so I drew up a “to do” list. A major item on the list was the packing of my bags.

I knew I should carefully plan what I was to take. I knew I should travel light but at the same time have everything I would need on hand. Given the nature of the assignment and the conditions in Afghanistan, it would probably be impossible to secure anything I may have left behind. Fearing that my own list may be lacking some essentials, I contacted Kabul-based Ahmad Masood and other Reuters photographers who had been embedded before me. Masood, most likely the recipient of many such queries before, promptly sent back a comprehensive document he had prepared with a list of what I needed to take with me as well as other useful information. Along with other details from colleagues, I then knew exactly what I needed to take with me.

The first priority was the security equipment – body armor and helmet. Without them in your number one bag, you can not be embedded. So I put these two items in a separate bag.