This week the blog should be called A Week (and a few extra hours ) in Pictures as I wanted to share a couple of images that came in late last Sunday and evaded my net as I trawled through the file. Both are from Thailand and both were shot by Sukree Sukplang. The first is a strong portrait of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej as he leaves hospital in a wheelchair to attend a ceremony to celebrate his 83rd birthday. The picture seems to me to mirror the respect that the Thai people have for their King. What makes me think this I am not sure; maybe its the side light which creates studio-like modelling on the king’s face highlighting every detail of his appearance, the crispness of the clothes, the beauty of the ceremonial medals and the rich colour of the royal sash. Or maybe it’s just the way he is looking back into the lens, his eyes full of dignity and determination.
Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej leaves the Siriraj Hospital for a ceremony at the Grand Palace in Bangkok December 5, 2010. King Bhumibol celebrates his 83rd birthday on Sunday. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang
As I write 29 men are trapped in a coal mine in New Zealand after a methane explosion at the Pike River coal mine. Sydney based photographer Tim Wimborne is at the scene. His picture of people hugging each other so tightly seems to sum up the growing despair as they cling to the hope that the men are still alive, the moment in the picture seems to go on an eternity.
Family members of miners trapped underground in the Pike River coal mine comfort each other in Greymouth on New Zealand’s west coast, after visiting the mine to see rescue preparations November 21, 2010. Efforts to rescue 29 men trapped in a New Zealand coal mine faced more agonizing delays on Sunday when authorities said they would drill a new shaft to test air quality because toxic gases made it too dangerous for rescue teams go in. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne
A salute to all those who managed to get pictures, text and video out of Myanmar (Burma) of the release of Nobel Peace Prize winner and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a truly historic moment. No foreign journalists were given visas to cover the election or Suu Kyi’s release and there’s no Internet. Respect to you all.
Aung San Suu Kyi (C) waves to supporters gathered to hear her speech outside the headquarters of her National League for Democracy party in Yangon November 14, 2010. Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi called on Sunday for freedom of speech in army-ruled Myanmar, urged thousands of supporters to stand up for their rights, and indicated she may urge the West to end sanctions. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
A continual struggle with writing this blog is trying to keep it picture led and not wander off into the top stories from the week that may not have produced the best pictures. This week in Asia we have seen the arrival of U.S President Obama in India, U.S Secretary of State Hilary Clinton doing the rounds, the first election in Myanmar for 20 years (no prizes as to who will win though) not one, but two Qantas jets getting into engine difficulty, the continuing tensions between Japan and China, the failed bid by BHP Billiton to take over of Potash, currency woes as we prepare for G20 in Seoul later this week and let’s not forget Afghanistan and bombs in Pakistan. So where to start? Mick Tsikas produced my favourite picture of the week, a fan at the Melbourne Cup; one can only admire the oral control it takes to shout in celebration while holding firmly onto a lit cigarette. I thought this was a skill that died out with the passing of Humphrey Bogart.
A race-goer cheers as jockey Gerald Mosse of France rides Americain to victory in the Melbourne Cup at the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne November 2, 2010. REUTERS/Mick Tsikas
In terms of the Ring of Fire, Indonesia had just been too quiet. Warnings that Mount Merapi, which towers above the outskirts of Yogyakarta city on Java island, was about to erupt, were heeded by some and ignored by many. On Monday, a 7.5 magnitude quake triggered a tsunami that hit the remote western Mentawai islands killing at least 343. A day later, Mount Merapi erupted, killing at least 34. It took almost three days for Jakarta based photographer Crack Palinggi to reach the scene of the devastation caused by the tsunami. Beawiharta was quicker to scene of the volcano; needless to say it’s always worth standing well back when people are evacuating from an erupting volcano. Bea’s picture screams panic, heat and noise of those fleeing as hot ash falls to earth, the drama amplified by the flash blur technique used. It is in complete contrast to the picture taken a day later of sombre near silence as rescue workers crunch through the muffled ashen landscape like newly fallen snow.
A woman covers her baby as she runs from ash falling from an erupting volcano at Kaliurang village in Sleman, near Indonesia’s ancient city of Yogyakarta, October 26, 2010. Mount Merapi erupted on Tuesday, prompting terrified villagers to flee and join the thousands already evacuated from its slopes, witnesses said. REUTERS/Beawiharta
Only days after the world watched the 33 Chilean miners emerge from the bowels of the earth, triumphant, an explosion at another mine, half a world away, is making headlines, but on a much smaller scale. The blast in China is reported to have killed 26 miners and trapped 11, with rescue attempts hampered by coal dust. Last year over 2,600 miners died in industrial accidents in China, whose mining industry is considered the deadliest in the world. The access given to the photographer is quite amazing in the circumstances.
A rescuer is seen in a tunnel of the Pingyu No.4 Coal mine in Yuzhou, Henan province October 16, 2010. An explosion in the Chinese coal mine killed at least 20 miners in central Henan Province on Saturday, state media reported. REUTERS/Stringer
North Korea opened its doors and the internet to the World’s media to allow a glimpse of the parade which marked the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party. More importantly, it gave the world its first independent look at the protege Kim Jong-un. China based Chief Photographer Petar Kujundzic took full advantage of the opportunity. The warmth of the picture of the women soldiers smiling – a rare glimpse into the world from which we normally only get formal, over compressed and pixelated images.
North Korean female soldiers smile before a parade to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea in Pyongyang October 10, 2010. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic
At the beginning of the week I had my doubts that we would actually see pictures from two major events taking place in Asia; North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party conference, the biggest held for 30 years intended to push ahead the succession process for Kim Jong-il’s son Kim Jong-Un and the opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. As it turned out, the pictures from both fronted publications around the world.
Kim Jong-un (8th L, seated), the youngest son of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-il (C), poses with the newly elected members of the central leadership body of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and the participants in the WPK Conference, at the plaza of the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang in this picture released by the North’s KCNA news agency September 30, 2010. North Korean state media released a photograph on Thursday of the reclusive state’s leader-in-waiting Kim Jong-un. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il anointed his youngest son as successor this week, promoting him to senior political and military positions. REUTERS/KCNA
This week has seen a dramatic increase in violence and tension throughout much of the Asia region, and the pictures on the wire reflect this mood. It seems that actions by not only nations, armed groups but individuals have all had a dramatic impact on the mood of the region. The weight of the news feels almost claustrophobic as I try to keep on top of what is happening.
U.S. Army soldiers from Delta Company, a part of Task Force 1-66 carry a wounded 7-year-old Afghan boy, a victim of a road side explosion, at their base near the village of Gul Kalacheh, Arghandab River valley, Kandahar province, September 18, 2010. REUTERS/Oleg Popov
As the anniversary of the 9/11 attack coincided with Eid celebrations, Florida based Pastor Terry Jones announced that he would burn the Koran as a protest to plans to site a Muslim cultural centre near Ground Zero , stoking tensions in Asia. Add into the mix millions in Pakistan suffering from lack of water, food and shelter after floods, a parliament election in Afghanistan and a U. S. -led military campaign against the Taliban around Kandahar – photographers in the region had lots of raw material to work with.
Raheb’s picture of relief and joy caught in the harsh light of a direct flash seems to explode in a release of tension as news spreads that Pastor Jones had cancelled his plans to burn the Koran. It has to be said that ironically earlier in the day in Pakistan US flags were burned in protest against the planned protest.