THOMAS PETER, Germany
“It was a sunny and calm Monday afternoon when I flew in a German army transport helicopter above a flooded region north of Magdeburg, the capital of the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt. The Elbe river had swollen to over seven meters above its normal levels and broken its banks and a dyke near the village of Fischbeck. Farmlands, forests and whole villages were inundated by its waters. Hundreds of people had to flee their homes.
Strapped to a bucket seat I sat beside the helicopter’s open sliding door and surveyed the water landscape below me: sunken buildings, tree tops and the tops of abandoned cars dotted the glistening, caramel-colored surface of the deluge. Here and there a street or a pristinely groomed hedge rose above the water as a reminder of the human order that had been submerged by the force of nature.
One week earlier I had waded through flooded villages upstream. Up to my waist in water I photographed the efforts of rescue teams and volunteers trying to contain the rising river and evacuate trapped inhabitants. When covering a natural disaster of this kind you have to be in the middle of it to capture the emotional dimension of the tragedy.
Yet a bird’s-eye view is equally as important. For only from above can you show the extent of a flood. Or as in the case of this picture, by picking certain graphic details, you can bring the absurdity of the situation to the viewer’s attention. When the world in which we are ensconced so happily with all our man-made facilities becomes submerged by dirty water, everything assumes an unreal quality. When people’s homes turn into forlorn boxes surrounded by a freak lake that stretches to the horizon, you understand that the order we take for granted is a mere illusion in the face of nature’s caprices.
At some point the helicopter made a right turn, dipping the side I was sitting on deep below the horizon. And there it was right below me, the epitome of the absurd flood picture: the baby-blue oval of a swimming pool evenly surrounded by muddy water. I trained my 300mm lens straight down and composed as well as I could, which was a challenge in the soaring air stream that nearly snatched my camera out of my hands. I fired off some 10 frames before the chopper leveled out. The picture was gone. No one else on board had seen it.”
DARRIN ZAMMIT LUPI, Malta
“The young man was just another of the hundreds of asylum-seekers I’ve photographed arriving in Malta over the years, sometimes disembarking from the boat that rescued them when their rickety vessels ran into trouble while crossing the Mediterranean, or sitting on a bus while waiting to be driven away to police headquarters for processing by immigration officials. But with a momentary glance, all that changed. His gaze straight at me was piercing and haunting, tearing through my camera lens and into my mind’s eye, burrowing itself deeper into the innermost recesses of my psyche.
I tracked him down, met and interviewed him about a month later at a detention center. Seventeen-year-old Mohammed Ilmi Adam, from Mogadishu, fled Somalia to try to find his parents who he believes escaped to Europe when he was just a child. He had no recollection of seeing me shooting his picture when he arrived here – but he was glad I did. “Maybe my parents or someone who knows them will see me and recognize me,” he said.
Though I often photograph arriving would-be immigrants, it’s very rare that I’m able to speak to them afterwards and gauge their reaction to beingphotographed. Hearing what Mohammed had to say gives shooting these pictures a stronger sense of purpose than ever before, however remote the odds of his finding his parents through the photo may be.”
CARLOS BARRIA, China
“As part of a long project on love in China I came across a mass wedding event being held in a shopping mall. The idea behind my photo project was to explore what it’s like being young in China and dealing with intense social pressure to get married. It’s not just parents who are impatient for their children to marry. Even local governments sometimes get into the act. This event was organized by the Shanghai government to promote the institution of marriage.
In China, there are several factors that prompt people to take this issue so seriously. The one-child policy, combined with an increasingly modern lifestyle, has brought birthrates down while China’s elderly population grows. Analysts say China will need a big work force to support its seniors.
I went to this event looking for an image which would explain to me why so many Chinese say they’re having a hard time finding the right partner. One of the things that had grabbed my attention was the way that many young people seemed to have a hard time interacting with one another. At the same time, they’d been exposed to a romantic ideal of love that may have seemed frivolous to older generations.
Walking about the shopping mall, I saw a couple waiting for a mass wedding to begin. They were sitting together in a display area for living room furniture. I spent some time watching them, waiting for them to interact. After five minutes I understood that the picture that I was looking for was already there, in front of me.”
JOHN KOLESIDIS, Greece
“That morning I woke up to the deafening sound of thunder. The rain was pouring hard. I watched the rain out the window flood the surrounding streets and wondered how I could get to the office without getting soaked. After a few minutes I looked out the window again, and things had taken a dramatic turn. A bit further down the street I could see an immobilized car getting swollen by the flood. I took my cameras, and tried to get there. I walked through a small park, but that led me behind barbed wire which I couldn’t get over. I saw a woman trying to hold on to her car door, while the water was at waist level. The woman’s leg was trapped among the branches that were being washed away under her car door, and she could easily get swept away too. She was panicky, and the look on her face was crying for help. Then a man on the same side of the street climbed on top of her car and tried to help her. I took this picture behind the barbed wire, and then I tried to find a way to to get closer. When I got in front of the fence, it was impossible to get closer to her because there was a cascade between me and the woman, as she was on the other side of the road. During the whole thing the thought that the flood could wash her away made my blood freeze and I felt extremely uncomfortable as I captured this scene.”
MUZAFFAR SALMAN, Syria
“Shortly after the war erupted in Aleppo and with the outbreak of the conflict in Syria, I was determined to cover the people’s daily struggle and to transfer it to the outside world through my photos. Given that very few photographs were focusing on the humanitarian affairs, and the daily struggle of the Syrians. The main focus of the news agencies was given to the fighters on the frontline.
Once I joined Reuters, I had to move to Beirut from where I traveled to Turkey in order to enter Aleppo. I took this photo some ten days after I arrived in Aleppo. On that day, while I was sending the photos I took earlier, a huge explosion shook the house where I was staying with other reporters and photographers. I thought that a missile had targeted our building, and I rapidly ran to the scene which was approximately ten yards away from my place. Fire and destruction was all over, chaos and fear were at the highest level. People were expecting more artillery to target the scene. However, I started to take photos, and suddenly this man appeared while weeping hysterically and ripping his clothes. His friends were trying to calm him down.
I learned that the missile hit his house while he was away. Two of his children were killed.”
SAJID HOSSAIN, Bangladesh
“It was 10 pm. Suddenly, I got a call from my office and I had to move to Savar, and the Rana Plaza building site immediately. The way to Savar from Dhaka was silent, dark and full of fear. I found an ambulance heading to the site. I started to follow it on my bike. The nearer I got to the site the whole environment was full of the smell of dead bodies. I started taking pictures as soon as I reached the area. After that I took a break and sat on a pile of bricks. The rescue workers were tirelessly pulling up bodies from the rubble of the collapsed Rana Plaza building.
The sun was rising. The rescue operation continued. Suddenly a rescue worker shouted, “A body is under the rubble.” I attempted to get closer but a member of the army stopped me because of security reasons. I kept waiting and came back to the same place after a while, looking for an opportunity. The security personnel had changed over the last few hours. I continued to wait there to take a photograph.
There were some other photographers arriving from Dhaka. It was 11 am. Suddenly, rescue workers found a different body, and the photographers began taking pictures. I stayed back and slowly moved toward the body. I saw the hand of a garment worker through the rubble. It seemed like the person was struggling hard to live. I started taking pictures of the hand amid a strong dead body smell. But the security force returned and stopped me.
The whole thing reverberated in my mind on my way back to Dhaka. I was thinking how soon the other survivors would be rescued. I couldn’t remove it from my thoughts – not ever, as the tragedy of Rana Plaza cannot be erased from our minds.”
MARKO DJURICA, Serbia
“Cemeteries can be disturbing for some people. Then you hear that someone has decided to live in one, and you simply can’t believe it. Then it turns out that this man has decided to sleep in someone’s grave – now that really blows your mind.
That man is Bratislav Stojanovic. Aged 43, he began living in a place that people in Serbia try to avoid at night.
We spent the whole day together, walking, talking about his life, joking. Finally he’d gathered enough candles and we entered his home. I remember feeling, as I photographed him, like I was in the middle of a horror film.”
JORGE DAN LOPEZ, Guatemala
“Two nuns wait sitting in a fast food restaurant in downtown Guatemala City…”
This was the caption I used for the photograph. Maybe it was too simple, just a description. I normally don’t go to fast-food places, it’s against my personal and very particular habits, even if it can sometimes be the only option because if there’s nothing else, there will always be an open fast-food joint.
It was in one of the branches of the “Pollo Campero” in the heart of downtown Guatemala City where I took the picture. I did it without looking for it, if I’d looked for it, I would have never found it.
It was a sunny day; I was looking for some pictures with that beautiful light and the blue sky that happens occasionally in the city. I grabbed a cab and went downtown when I suddenly heard the striking sound of an ambulance’s siren which sped past, almost driving on the sidewalk. When the ambulance stopped two paramedics jumped out and went into a fast-food restaurant. My cab was stuck in traffic so I got out of the car, ran and entered the fast food restaurant before the guards could close the door.
Inside, the situation was relaxed, one of the paramedics turned out to be an old acquaintance and a friend. He always calls me when there is something interesting. He works as a paramedic and firefighter and the firefighters in Guatemala are the first ones to be everywhere.
My friend mentioned that a person had fainted but everything was under control. While he was talking to me I looked over his shoulder and saw two nuns sitting underneath photographs showing a hamburger and a fried chicken leg. I asked my friend the firefighter and paramedic “Do you see this beautiful picture?” and I took two steps forward and took the shot.
One of the nuns had already noticed and tilted her head slightly as she was somewhat disapproving of what I was doing.
I left with the paramedics, we said goodbye and I thanked them once more. I had taken a great picture and I was as excited as a child.
The simple and unexpected things sometimes taste better than anything else; it’s also a fact that every photograph will always have its special story, regardless of a simple caption.”
IVAN ALVARADO, Chile
“The fight was overly one-sided, and the student surely knew it, making him try anything. In one of many demonstrations for free, quality public education in Chile, a group of riot police surrounded a couple who stood in an embrace. I could hear the youth screaming at the police but I couldn’t see him, so I stood as tall as possible on the tips of my toes and raised my camera to photograph them as the police tried to separate them. I could see one policeman pressing his fingers into the youth’s throat, but he resisted and was determined not to be separated from his companion in spite of the tear gas cloud covering them. As a change of tactic, the officer took his fingers off the student’s throat and forced his arm between the two demonstrators right across the boy’s mouth. That was when he defended himself by biting into the policeman’s arm, protected by body armor. The policeman pressed the youth’s head against his armor, and blood began to flow from his mouth before the couple was taken away under arrest. They were still in an embrace.”
ZOHRA BENSEMRA, Pakistan
“Like any other journalist, I am always on the lookout for something new – a story never covered before, a picture never taken by any other photographer. I want to find something unique, and I want to be there first to see it.
I first came up with this idea after finding something online which immediately caught my eye. It was about Pakistani female pilots. There was an article ranking four of them among the country’s 100 most powerful women. A Pakistani female combat pilot! I knew immediately I had to meet her. But it turned out to be tricky. In Pakistan, you need permission to cover pretty much everything. This was no exception. I simply could not find a way of approaching any of the 19 female pilots without getting permission from the military. I kept trying and trying. In the end, when I had almost lost all hope, the army finally approved my request – a good six months later. A spokesman for the Pakistan air force said we were allowed to meet and take pictures of one of the pilots. It turned out to be Ayesha Farooq, the first war-ready female fighter pilot for the nuclear-armed nation. When I saw Farooq with her helmet in hand, walking with her colleagues and chatting with them next to a fighter jet, I would not have known she was a woman – if it were not for her head scarf. I was happy because I knew I had found a way of showing that a woman can do anything, anything a man can do, and often more, as long as they are not being discouraged or prevented from pursuing their passion. She climbed into the cockpit, her movements precise, and she spoke about her vocation. “Because of things related to terrorism, and due to our geographical location in the area, it’s very important that we should stay on our toes and get prepared for any bad activity going on around,” she said matter-of-factly. I believed Ayesha was a born fighter. She spoke about protecting and defending her country; the same country where women don’t have the same rights as men; the same country where women are often treated as second-class citizens.”
CATHAL MCNAUGHTON, Northern Ireland
“The G8 summit was taking place at a Golf Resort on the outskirts of Enniskillen, a small town in the Northern Irish countryside. I was in the area shooting security pics as Northern Ireland prepared for the arrival of some of the most powerful heads of state in the world. As I drove through the nearby village of Belcoo I did a double take as I spotted several fake shop fronts erected to cover derelict buildings to hide the economic hardship being felt in the towns and villages near the resort where G8 leaders were staying. As with a lot of photography, luck plays a part and in this instance a man happened to walk past the fake butchers shop with his dog. I shot a few frames as the rather confused canine attempted to figure out what he was actually looking at.”
PETER ANDREWS, United States
“America’s Cup is regarded as one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world. The first cup was awarded in 1851 for the race around the Isle of Wight in England. The race was won by the schooner America. The trophy was renamed Americas Cup after the yacht and was donated to the New York Yacht Club.
From the first defense of the cup in 1870 there was always one challenger, but in 1970, one hundred years after that race, multiple challengers were introduced. The challengers would run in a selection series and the winner would become the official challenger for the defender of the Americas Cup.
In 1983 Louis Vuitton sponsored the first Louis Vuitton Cup, which has awarded to the winner of the challenge series.
My picture was taken on the 18th of August just prior to race three of the final of the Louis Vuitton Cup between Team Emirates New Zealand and Italy’s Luna Rossa Challenger.
For me it was a difficult task as eleven days earlier a fellow photographer had lost his balance on the boat during one of the maneuvers and injured my left ankle. The doctors at first said that it was a sprain.
Every day I carried with me three cameras on board: two Canon EOS 1D X that my manager Pawel Kopczynski received on loan from Canon Europe armed with a 500mm f.4 lens and zoom 70-200mm f.2.8. All this was securely placed inside a large waterproof Peli Case. The third camera, in underwater housing, was a Canon EOS 1D Mark II with a 14 mm f 2.8 lens borrowed from Canon at the America’s Cup venue.
Normally, pictures taken with a 500 mm or zoom 70-200 mm lenses are beautiful but quite standard. For that reason I was hoping to be able to capture something different with my underwater gear. It was not easy to do as the AC-72 catamarans were moving very fast at speeds of over 45 knots per hour, translating to almost 80 km/h.
In order to take a picture I had to lean out of the boat and hold my camera by a long monopod, and only when our boat was not chasing the yachts. It was difficult for me as I had to pay attention to my legs too.
I normally set my camera at ISO 500 and a shutter speed of 640, using shutter priority. The conditions on the San Francisco Bay could change from beautiful sunshine to extremely foggy conditions within minutes.
The effort paid off and when I got back to shore and looked through my images I found a stunning picture of Team Emirates New Zealand. I asked my good friend Bob Galbraith if he agreed with me. He smiled and said, “You have got a winner.”
Three days later Bob took me back to the clinic that initially examined my leg but this time I insisted on an x-ray as my leg was badly swollen and purple up to my knee. The doctors were still saying that my ankle was sprained and saying that if it was going to reassure me they would do an x-ray. I was still in good spirits, joking with doctors and nurses as Bob took hundreds of pictures of me being x-rayed. Then reality hit me. I will not forget the face of the doctor saying, “Your leg is broken.” I believe that my expression was the same or worse. I had been walking and working with a broken leg for two weeks minus five days of rest after the initial exam.
My Americas Cup was over…”
RONI BINTANG, Indonesia
“The day after the big volcanic eruption of Mount Sinabung, two colleagues, a journalist from KOMPAS (a national media in Indonesia) and a freelance photographer and I drove from Tiga Pancur village, the place where we stayed while covering Mount Sinabung, to Mardingding village.
Mardingding had already been left empty by its residents. We took pictures of the impact of volcanic ash on the village. I saw a couple of red hibiscus flowers among the volcanic ash that caught my attention. I don’t know the exact explanation for this beautiful scene. I thought, maybe, the volcanic ash had covered the flowers while they were still buds, and that would explain why their color was not affected by the ash by the time they bloomed.”
CATHAL MCNAUGHTON, Northern Ireland
“Northern Ireland had endured the heaviest snowfall in living memory, leaving many of the more isolated hill farmers unable to get to their sheep which were scattered over remote moors. I joined a local farmer as he attempted to reach his flock to survey the damage and provide much needed fodder. We walked for several miles through heavy snow before we came across the first signs of the devastation. Dozens of sheep had been buried alive in snowdrifts (some as big as 20 feet) as they took shelter from the winter storm. Donal began digging into the drifts to try and locate and rescue any of his flock with many incidentally also in the final stages of pregnancy. I took pictures and helped with the digging at times but ultimately it was futile as the majority of any living sheep we did find were in such a bad state that they died anyway.”
SUSANA VERA, Spain
“My mother grew up watching the San Fermin bull runs from the same balcony on Estafeta Street from which I took the photo of Diego Miralles getting gored by an El Pilar fighting bull named “Langostero”. I have been going to that very same balcony, which happens to be at my uncle’s dental clinic, once every San Fermin festival since 2005, when I first started photographing the running of the bulls in Pamplona. But I had never documented such a terrifying moment in the past. That morning my blood froze in my veins as I witnessed for a whole minute how “Langostero” repeatedly charged at Diego Miralles, goring him three times, in his groin and legs. I never thought 60 seconds could feel so long. I kept on taking photos, trying to stay focused and still, as the drama unfolded in front of my camera. For a while I heard nothing, I’m not sure if my brain just blocked the noise off or people went mute for a few seconds. And then, all of a sudden, I heard screams and the sobbing of a young girl that had come to the balcony with her family to watch the bull run. The tears of a middle-aged woman followed. I didn’t put the camera down until I saw another runner help Diego Miralles get through the fence to receive medical treatment. Miralles could have died that morning. He said in a newspaper interview that he thanks Saint Fermin, the protector of runners, for watching over him. “Langostero”, the bull who could have killed him, was killed himself during the afternoon bullfight. The other five bulls that ran the “encierro” with him that morning met the same fate on the sand of Pamplona’s bullring.”
ADREES LATIF, United States
“On May 20, 2013, shortly after the EF5 tornado struck Moore, Oklahoma, I was en-route to cover a press conference with Yahoo Chief Marissa Mayer. Before the press conference started, I received a message from a colleague: “Are you heading to Oklahoma for the tornado?” While jockeying for a position inside the event, which overlooked New York’s Times Square, I wondered why this seasoned journalist would be inquiring about a tornado which had hit one day prior. (An EF4 tornado had struck Shawnee, Oklahoma on May 19). I ignored the text message and momentarily turned my phone on silent so as not to disturb the attendees.
About 30 minutes in, the press conference was over and I glanced to look down at my mobile phone. I was a bit surprised to find a half dozen missed calls, all from my line manager. Realizing something important had happened, I called back immediately while racing rapidly through midtown traffic towards the office. As I was made aware of the massive tornado, which had just struck Moore, adrenaline kicked in. I started thinking flights, medical kit, and every possible item I may need to report from the site of such a disaster. Medicated foot powder and extra shoelaces for some reason found themselves at the top of this particular list.
Soon, I would come to realize, Oklahoma City was not the easiest location to fly into from New York. Also, from past experience, the city in close proximity to a disaster starts running low on supplies, so it is sometimes more advantageous to fly into a nearby location and drive the rest of the way. I chose to fly into Tulsa, Oklahoma and picked up an all-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle to help navigate through the ground conditions.
I arrived into Moore, Oklahoma midday on May 21. The exits from the highways to the town were closed to all but police and rescue vehicles. After gaining access past a police checkpoint, I drove in and parked on S. Telephone Road near the Warren Theatres. My aim was to get a quick few images published. I then went for a walk and realized police were not allowing anyone to enter the nearby neighborhood, which was completely leveled. Instead of trying to enter from the main street side, which was all blocked by police, I attempted to make my way in between the homes.
I soon would come across a scene that mesmerized me. I knew I had found the background of my photograph that would prove the scale of this disaster. As families started returning to their homes to go through their belongings, I introduced myself and asked for permission to photograph on their property. After hours of waiting for ‘a moment’, a couple entered and stood against the background near where I had been patiently waiting. As they entered the space, they too seemed overwhelmed by the site and embraced. The woman in my photograph, who I would later come to identify as Danielle Stephan, had arrived with her boyfriend Thomas Layton to help recover belongings from her brother’s home. Knowing I had captured the moment I was waiting for, I immediately pulled out my laptop and transmitted the image to Reuters. Afterwards, I would continue on my way through the destruction zone, searching for other moments which I could photograph to communicate the enormity of what this community in the suburbs of Oklahoma City was struggling through.”
YORGOS KARAHALIS, Greece
“It was one of those photo shoots that you don’t really want to go to as you know you will not be welcomed as a member of the press.
A rally on February 2nd to mark the death of three Greek military officers who were killed during the crisis between Greece and Turkey over Imia, an islet in the eastern Aegean Sea, turned into a mass gathering of supporters of the extreme-right Golden Dawn party.More than 2,000 people demonstrated holding Greek flags and torches, most of them dressed in black and with an aggressive attitude towards anyone who was not clearly affiliated with their party.
This picture was taken at the end of the rally, when the Golden Dawn supporters were about to begin marching to their party’s headquarters.
Golden Dawn entered parliament for the first time in 2012 elections, held during an extremely tough financial crisis, the country’s worst since World War Two. It won seven percent of the vote and 18 seats at the 300-seat Greek parliament.”
“I went to one of the most conflicted neighborhoods to look for a story when I found Maribel, a single mother of four children, selling tortillas. When she dropped her daughter off at school, the person from the NGO who I went to the neighborhood with, told me Maribel’s story. Her husband, in a jealous fit of rage, had chopped off both of her hands in one blow.
When Maribel returned from school I asked her if she would let me photograph her and she immediately said yes.
When I went back a couple of days later, I asked her not to pay attention to me. She continued with her routine and was very natural. Little by little she told me what had happened to her. One of her daughters had seen everything.
Maribel has found a way to do her work and live her life, some things she does alone and others with the help of her family.
I asked her to pose for me in this photograph. She agreed and did so with a light smile on her face.”
LUCAS JACKSON, United States
“Doing portraits with Olympic athletes is always a treat. A lot of them bring the uniform or equipment that they will wear when competing and that’s what this is. Her helmet was specially made for her by an artist and I thought it was important to take a photograph of her with it on since that’s probably what most people will see when she is competing. The reflective nature of the helmet was somewhat difficult to work around but by using large strip lights and making sure I paid attention to where the reflections were I felt this image worked as a successful portrait even though you don’t see much of her face.”
EDGAR SU, Singapore
“Vujicic was in town to promote his motivational talk by diving with sharks at an aquarium. I knew it was going to be a great photo opportunity but the challenge was the media scrum that ensues during such publicity events. There must have been about 20 members of the media crowding behind a thick 3m by 3m glass panel to film Vujicic’s feat, getting their lenses as close as possible to the glass to cut off any reflection. Some stood on a bench shooting over the shoulders of others who were half squatting while latecomers awkwardly did their best to fit in to whatever gap there was on the glass.
No one knew when Vujicic would dive in so everyone maintained their positions, ready for action. After 20 minutes, most of us were perspiring because it was very stuffy and some even fogged up their patch of the glass panel with their breath.
I was very lucky to have occupied a good spot – dead center – and made many frames of him enjoying his dive. I particularly like this picture of him because it looks quirky – he is hovering in the water looking at sharks that circle him under a ring of light from his enclosure while a diver climbs out on the left of the frame.”
YVES HERMAN, Belgium
“We always think twice about how much of the demonstrations and actions organized by activists and NGOs we must cover as a news agency photographer. The Femen group, in this case, contacted members of the press the day before the conference organized by the Brussels university ULB on the topic “Blasphemy offense or freedom of expression”.
Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels and Primate of Belgium Andre-Joseph Leonard was due to address the conference and Femen group members planned to protest during his speech. The Roman Catholic Church had been quite often criticized throughout the last year on their position regarding the gay community and the Femen wanted to address that issue during a protest against homophobia.
Obviously Archbishop Leonard was not aware of it and was even surprised to see a bunch of photographers waiting for his speech. I had no idea what was about to happen and I didn’t see any suspicious people among the assembly in the atrium. When Leonard started his speech four girls ran from the benches and surrounded the priest.
Spraying water with bottles shaped as the Virgin Mary, the Femen started to shout slogans against homophobia. It took just a few seconds before the activists were kicked out of the room by people attending the conference. Leonard stayed sitting and joined his hands in prayer. He did not react and waited until it was finished.
Some people in the room had very strong reactions against the activists but also against the press photographers. We were accused by some people of complicity with the Femen group. That was absolutely wrong because we were not aware of what was about to take place. Our job was to be there and report.”
A A GDE AGUNG, Indonesia
“The sun had already set over the western horizon when a number of young men started playing gamelan at a high-pitched tempo. In front of the Banjar Nagi community center two youths were busy burning coconut husks to set fires. The situation was on edge when two lights were turned off. Ten minutes later, a man voiced a strong command in Balinese, “Inggih rarisan”. The ritual had started. Upon hearing the official command, numerous bare-chested youths clad in checked udeng (traditional headgear) and sarongs rushed and kicked the piles of burning coconut husks to mark the start of the “Perang Api” tradition, the battle of fire.
I predicted this moment would happen when my eyes saw a number of men run toward the piles of burning coconut husks. I felt fortunate because I was in a good position to be able to photograph the man kicking the burning husks. Fire flew in all directions. Without realizing it my camera and my right hand were injured by the sparks. At the time I didn’t feel any pain, but my lens hood was burned.”
CHRISTOPHER VANEGAS, Mexico
“It’s not easy to document a country that is breaking apart, and even more so if it’s your own country, where you grew up and in which they taught you to serve and love. The war between the government and the drug leaders keeps the city of Saltillo in Coahuila in a constant state of terror. Some decide to be silent about it and pretend nothing is happening. I, on the contrary, always want to show the real thing through my camera.
I was on the nightshift at the newspaper when I got a report at 5.30 a.m. that several dead bodies had been hung from a wall at the entrance to a tunnel. I grabbed my gear and went there immediately. There were five people hanging from a wall, completely wrapped in bandages. They had been executed. The authorities and all the different police branches had already secured the area and it was tense, they didn’t let me pass and kept on saying “This is not a safe place for you”. They repeated it several times and yes, it was not a safe place to be but I wanted everybody to see what was happening. So I went to the opposite side to where the bodies were hanging, always attentive to who could be observing me. I could see the bodies better. One by one the bodies were lowered to the ground and taken away.
Although I have seen a lot of crime scenes it never stops impressing me. I took some images and left. It was already morning, a bloody morning.”