Photographers' Blog

Libya, Goran and the photo that went around the world

Chief Photographer Steve Crisp tells how this picture from Goran Tomasevic appeared Monday on front pages across the world.

Vehicles belonging to forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi explode after an air strike by coalition forces, along a road between Benghazi and Ajdabiyah March 20, 2011. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

“Goran, as ever, was up at first light and on the road heading south from Benghazi after the first night of western bombing. The Reuters multimedia team came upon a convoy of troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who had been attacked. Goran carefully took up a position near the smoldering vehicles when munitions exploded and so was able to capture a wide selection of dramatic and iconic pictures. This coverage was the climax to Goran’s outstanding front line reporting from the rebel advance, retreat and western intervention.

Vehicles belonging to forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi explode after an air strike by coalition forces, along a road between Benghazi and Ajdabiyah March 20, 2011. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

His images scored an amazing number of online and newspaper front pages worldwide, with this defining moment published as widely as another historic Reuters war picture, a 2003 photograph of a U.S. soldier standing beside the toppled statue of Saddam Hussein – a picture also shot by Goran Tomasevic.”

A selection of newspapers around the world carrying Goran's image.

For more information on Goran, here is a selection of his work with comments on Full Focus.

The Gulf War remembered

I bolted up from a deep sleep to the sound of my phone ringing in my hotel room in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

I looked at my clock it was 4am. I fumbled for the phone in the dark knocking it to the floor. After at least three more rings I finally got my hand on the receiver and answered. The calm voice at the other end was Photo Editor Herman Beals on our Washington, DC Picture Desk. “How ya doin?” he asked “I have been trying to get through to you for an hour”. I have no recollection of what my rebuttal was. “Andy, they are bombing Baghdad”, “Uhhh??” was my only answer. Crap!!, I had just slept through the first two hours of the Gulf War.

As I found out later I had not only slept through the uncountable number of fighter jets taking off nearby, that would literally vibrate my room but the loud wail of air raid sirens all around the hotel combined with the apparent pounding on my door of hotel staff. It was expected that once the bombing had commenced in Iraq there was high expectation Iraq would answer with a large Scud attack thus sending everybody to the air raid shelters minus yours truly Rip Van Winkle.

Souvenirs of War: Purple Hearts, Prosthetics and Phantom Pains

“I teared up…and didn’t cry again for 40 years.”
–Combat veteran Bob Ness after a close friend died next to him in Vietnam.

A spooked soul lives behind the troubled eyes of a combat soldier.

A U.S. soldier of 2-12 Infantry 4BCT-4ID Task Force Mountain Warrior takes a break during a night mission near Honaker Miracle camp at the Pesh valley of Kunar Province August 12, 2009. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Whether returning from the battlefields of Kandahar, Kirkuk, Khe Sanh, or Korea, weary veterans come home with that same intense and unnerving stare…dark, swollen lines surround exhausted eyes that dart in and out of distant shadows; eyes searching for ghosts waiting to haunt the last shreds of sanity remaining inside a terrorized mind.

A U.S. Marine from Bravo Company of 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, gestures during a gun battle in the town of Marjah, in Nad Ali district of Helmand province, February 13, 2010.  REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

Veteran’s call it “the thousand yards stare.”

That playful bravado and bulletproof swagger shared on the flight overseas melts into a pool of lies once the first ear-piercing “snap” chasing the tail of a hungry bullet misses a lucky helmet; that innocent belief of invincibility is quickly replaced with the frostbitten truth that the hunter becomes hunted in battle.

Seventy-two shattered dreams

Carlos, a migrant and three-time deportee, commented to me, “I’ve been there and back, too. I’m a migrant and I want a better future.” Carlos’ brother is one of the 16 Hondurans whose bodies were repatriated on September 1st after being found among the 72 immigrants executed by a drug cartel in Tamaulipas, Mexico, as they neared the border with the U.S.

I couldn’t help thinking of a recent magazine article about 800 expatriate soccer players in Europe and how, according to the author, their story might open doors for other foreign “workers” in this globalized world. It struck me that while many of those athletes were born in the slums of Latin America just like most of the 72 dead migrants, the difference was that their talent made it good business for them to cross borders.

At the same time any number of talented musicians from Peru or Bolivia, artists from Ecuador, craftsmen from Guatemala, farmers from Honduras, or laborers from El Salvador, either die while emigrating towards a better life in the U.S. or survive there with a feeling of well-being thanks to their material gains, but suffering the pain of having been uprooted. They are all migrants just like Carlos who go and return tirelessly, with the conviction that comes from having been propelled from their homes by failing economies. The enormous obstacles make me believe that they won’t have the same luck as those who entertain us with their passes and goals.

Life and death on a medevac helicopter

An Afghan man suffering from multiple stab wounds is loaded onto a medevac helicopter near the town of Marjah in Helmand Province, August 21, 2010. REUTERS/Bob Strong

Taking pictures of people who are suffering and in pain is never an easy experience. From the jump seat in the back of a Blackhawk medevac helicopter, a constant stream of injured, dead and dying men and women passed in front of me during a recent week-long embed. The wounds were as varied as the patients; an Afghan soldier with kidney stones to a Marine whose legs had been nearly severed by an IED blast.

An Afghan man holds his daughter onboard a medevac helicopter after she was shot in the ear during a gun battle between Marines and insurgents near the town of Marjah, in Helmand Province, August 21, 2010. REUTERS/Bob Strong The medevac helicopter crews were part of the 101st Airborne Division based at Camp Dwyer, a dusty Marine base in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.  During my one week embed with Charlie Company, I would generally work from 6am until it got dark around 7:30pm. The busiest times of day seemed to be in the morning and then again in the afternoon, but calls were received 24 hours a day. About 50% of our patients were Afghan nationals, both military and civilians; with injuries ranging from amputated limbs blown off by IED’s to stab wounds from domestic disputes. The military medical facilities offer the same level of care to locals and soldiers alike, in no small part to gain a bit of good will in this hostile and volatile province.

One morning I was in my tent when the call went out over the radios, “Medevac Medevac Medevac” I joined the crew as we sprinted to the helicopter and within minutes we were airborne. The noise inside was deafening, and earplugs brought the level down to a dull roar. After about 15 minutes, the pilot increased our speed to around 175 mph (280 km/h) and we dropped to tree-top level for our final approach. The helicopter rotors kicked up a cloud of dust as we touched down and the flight medic jumped out to help board the wounded.

Glorifying the war or praying for peace?

On August 15, a few days after U.S. atomic bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, then-Japanese Emperor Hirohito announced in a rare public broadcast that the nation had surrendered.

This surrender ended the Pacific battle of World War II and liberated Koreans from Japan’s often-brutal 1910-1945 colonization.

Since then, August 15 has stirred different feelings in the two neighboring countries: bitterness of defeat for one, joy of independence for the other.

Witness from the Hurt Locker

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.

Those left behind: The legacy of Arlington’s Section 60

Larry Downing is a Reuters senior staff photographer assigned to the White House. He shares that duty with three other staff photographers. He has lived in Washington since 1977 and has been assigned to cover the White House, since 1978. President Barack Obama is the sixth president Larry has photographed.

“People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”  George Orwell

Veteran’s Day is a time to remember “All gave some….Some gave all.”

Before reaching the new gravestones in Arlington National Cemetery’s ‘Section 60’ it’s easy to recognize why a simple, quilted, patch of green grass and white stones buried alongside the quiet banks of the Potomac River troubles the heart.

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.

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.

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