Photographs of the year 2011

Russell Watkins: ‘I was in Pakistan a year ago for DFID, looking at the impact of British aid in helping people affected by the floods. In northern Sindh a vast area had been flooded, but the waters had finally receded enough for local communities to start to return. While we were there the local NGOs told us about this odd phenomenon: miles and miles of flooded land, where every piece of vegetation was shrouded in these spider webs, like candy floss. It was stunning – a surreal sight. The trees were the only things above the water, so it was a very strange landscape, definitely ghostly’ Photograph: Department for International Development/Russell Watkins

Dan Kitwood: ‘In March I spent a full day at Newmarket equine hospital and was lucky enough to see three different horses undergo different surgeries. The hospital isn’t attached to the Newmarket racecourse – but it is at the centre of all things horsey. The animals come from all over the world for surgery. My understanding is that if a horse breaks its leg in a race, it’s still likely to be put down, but these were thoroughbreds that were worth treating. That said, they try to give every horse the same treatment, whether it’s a Red Rum thoroughbred or a Bridlington donkey’
Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Lucy Young: ‘I was in Tunisia covering the first election of the Arab Spring when I got the news Gaddafi had been killed. Along with some other photographers, I hired a car and headed for Libya. I found out the body was being held in the African market. There was a huge queue down the road. The guards took us down into a refrigeration chamber. It was the first dead body I had ever seen, but it was just a shell – whatever was bad was not there any more. While I was there a frail older woman was brought in and it made me realise that people needed to see he was dead, so that, after 40 years, they could see for themselves it was all over’
Photograph: Lucy Young

Fabrizio Bensch: ‘Each year in February, during the Berlin film festival, Hollywood descends upon the cold German capital. Ours is a festival for the public, where fans can get close to their stars. This picture of Kevin Spacey captures the spontaneous atmosphere. It was taken at a back entrance to the Hyatt hotel, where actors arrive for press duties. Fans wait there for hours. I was up a ladder, so I could see above the bodyguards and cars. Some actors run straight through the entrance and disappear, but Spacey took his time with the fans, signing photographs’
Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch /Reuters

Tony Karumba: ‘Sometimes Lake Natron in Tanzania is completely pink, with hundreds of thousands of Lesser Flamingos visiting the lake. It is their preferred place in the Rift Valley to lay eggs, and according to locals they have been going there for years. However, the Tanzanian government wants to build a soda ash factory there. It’s one of the most beautiful places that I have photographed. My personal feeling is that the Tanzania government should really try to abstain from interfering with the natural cycle. You touch one bit of it and that whole blend of beautiful features is threatened’
Photograph: Tony Karumba/AFP

Valentin Flauraud: ‘Almost 12,000 colourful cross-county skiers sprinkled over a winter wonderland, this is the Engadin ski marathon in Switzerland. I had hoped for sun but wind, snow and grey skies welcomed me as I got into the helicopter early that morning. My colleagues and I took off, harnessed tight, legs resting on the skids. When I stretched out to snap this picture, the soft, shadeless light gave a surprising abstract feel to the scene. I was glad to shoot a picture completely different to anything I had previously seen at this event’
Photograph: Valentin Flauraud/Reuters

Brian Rasic: ‘I had been photographing Amy Winehouse since she started, and her PR and manager organised for me to cover this gig in Belgrade. It was fairly disastrous, but we’d seen that before with her. It wasn’t new and it wasn’t anything you would think about afterwards. When she passed away, I decided to release a few more as I believed the world should see what happened there. They are disturbing photos: you could see she was troubled. When some of my colleagues saw them, they cried. I’ve been documenting music for decades, but I think those pictures of Amy will follow me for ever’
Photograph: Brian Rasic /Rex Features

Mohammad Abed: ‘I took this during the 25 January revolution. It was just before sunset, so the light was good and the colours came out well. I went up to the roof of a building overlooking Tahrir square. More and more people were arriving and you could hear them chanting below. People were filled with revolutionary feeling, but it was a joyful, vibrant atmosphere; they were excited and I was happy to be part of that moment. I was completely in awe of their fervour’
Photograph: Mohammad Abed/AFP/Getty Images

Philip Brown: ‘I was in Chittagong to cover a cricket world cup match. Early one morning, I started photographing this boy throwing a ball in the air and catching it. After a particularly high toss, the ball landed on a roof and couldn’t be retrieved. I bought a replacement and the boy began bowling with his new and more colourful ball. I positioned myself in the firing line. Later, I left a large print of this photograph in a local shop to be given to the lad’
Photograph: Philip Brown/Reuters

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