epa presents a collection of the best photos of 2014 highlighting a few of epa’s Yearender 2014 images including pictures that defined 2014. The selection is as diverse as the year itself. epa photographers have captured events around the globe: the Ukrainian Revolution, the Israel-Gaza conflict, the Ebola outbreak in western Africa, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the FIFA Soccer World-Cup in Brazil and fashion shows around the world – to name but a few. In order to get the whole picture, we recommend you take a look at our more comprehensive Yearender 2014 collection.
By Yannis Kolesidis
The mine looks like a huge city which daily mutates. As it is endlessly extended, the roadmap constantly changes. The roads that take you from one place to another disappear. New roads are created that will later also disappear and so on. Charavgi, the “ghost” village that was expropriated along with its inhabitants who were removed to extend the mine, stands like a scene from a movie. In the ruined houses one can still see details that reveal a human presence: a damaged kitchen, two abandoned cups, an open window … Mines are a huge living organism inhabited exclusively by people who work under adverse conditions.
It did not stop raining during my stay in the area. Smeared faces, dirty hands, muddy boots were the everyday scenery.
The landscape around the thermal power station was grey and smoke clouds covered the sky. Nevertheless, nothing could prepare me for the working conditions there. In a dark basement, workers were cleaning the ash from conveyor belts and shoveling dust from the lignite wearing only a simple protective mask. Their blackened faces were all that stood out in the stuffy atmosphere.
You have to see it in order to believe it. Even the boss who accompanied me did not want to follow me down to the basement. “I will be waiting here to continue the tour,” he said. Before going down, I asked him if I needed to wear rubber boots and a mask so as not to get dirty. “No, it is not necessary,” he replied. When I came out, my shoes were full of mud and my clothes dirty. My face was black and had I not been wearing a mask, I would not have been able breathe.
These people have the most dangerous jobs, risking their lives by working under abominable conditions. And it is thanks to them that our lives have become simpler so that by flicking on a switch we can flood our lives with light.
The full feature package can be viewed and downloaded here.
By Tolga Bozoglu
On April 10 this year, epa photographer Kerim Okten died in a tragic motorcycle accident. Kerim’s friend and colleague, Tolga Bozoglu, remembers him:
I met Kerim for the first time in a Turkish newspaper called Yeni Yuzyil* (New Century) in 1994. When we first started, we were both young and inexperienced. All the photographers in the newspaper had many years of experience, but were merciless in their behavior towards us. Whenever we carried out an assignment they always screened our films before us, ridiculed our photos, then threw the films in the trash bin. Instead of weakening us, this attitude and treatment gave us more energy to work even harder and constantly improve ourselves. We were always willing to go out for news items nobody else cared for in the newspaper. This hostile environment brought us closer together. We started supporting each other in everything we did.
Kerim had an extraordinary talent in photography. When you worked with him, even if you had the exact same equipment in the exact same situations, he would come back with totally different photos and frames that you would not have noticed before. Which left you wondering “How on earth did he do that?”
But he knew that it wasn’t enough to be talented, you also had to keep educating and bettering yourself. Kerim was always open to learn and above all he wanted to teach and pass on his knowledge to anyone eager to learn. He had so much intellectual capacity and used this ability in his photos. Because of this his photos had different meanings to different viewers. He was so good at telling a story in his photography even if it was an ordinary, standard assignment. In fact, for him there was no such thing as a standard situation.
Kerim taught me so many things and he was my best friend. He never hurt anybody or said anything bad in his life. He was always cheerful and spread positive energy around him. I do miss him so much.
*Yeni Yuzyil was a Turkish newspaper published from 1994 to 1998.
A selection of Kerim’s best photographs can be found here.
A journey to the Eastern Cape in search of Mandela’s legacy
by Kim Ludbrook
The wall of flowers outside Nelson Mandela’s house in Houghton, Johannesburg growing bigger every day is a memory still vivid on my mind: Thousands of people from all walks of life had taken time out of their days to lay flowers, write a poem, leave a card, a photograph or simply stand and look on as each in their own way paid respect to a great soul, leader and human who had died in the house days before aged 94 on 5 December 2013.
The burial of Mandela took place in his home village of Qunu. There was very little accommodation to be found in the area at the time as innumerable guests, security personnel and media representatives had occupied the “normal” rooms in town. So the epa coverage team decided to rent a hut from the Zenani family on a ridge very close to the burial site of Madiba.
With the Zenani family in mind I decided to return to Qunu and the Eastern Cape almost exactly a year later. The idea was to shoot a portrait series on the normal men and women in the poor rural communities of Rhodes, Hogsback, Coffee Bay and Nieu-Bethesda and to find out how they remembered Mandela one year after his death. I wanted to touch base with the heart and soul of the area Mandela originated from and which he had once described as “the sweet home where I had spent the happiest days of my childhood.”
What ensued was an amazing 3000 km journey of discovery of my own country.
Using a Canon 5D Mark III, 35mm F2 lens and a hand held LED lighting system, the images where all shot hand held aiming to show the environment as much as possible in these portraits. Working in rural Africa often means hiring a ‘fixer’ or helper not only to find the people you want to photograph but most importantly to translate from local Xhosa tribal language into English. South Africa has 11 official languages.
The basic framework of the story was to ask one identical question to all the tribesmen and women: ‘What does Nelson Mandela mean to you…”
What I found was an incredible love for Nelson Mandela that runs deep in the veins and souls of every person interviewed. The exact answers can be found in the captions of the series here.
One of the barriers that needed to be overcome while on this assignment was the cultural difference between ‘western’ views and that of local Xhosa tribes people. For instance before walking in the huge mud huts that are the norm in the area around Coffee Bay, one has to take off ones shoes and leave them outside the hut. Men have to sit on the right hand side of the hut and women on the left.
Most of the time, as soon as they heard my story and the idea behind the portrait series, they would start to talk and give me their life story from the bottom of their hearts.
Many people here had never been photographed or seen themselves in images before. Hence, it is not surprising that a camera looking at them often leaves them very nervous and ‘stiff’ in the portrait. In order to overcome this initial unease, I just kept trying to make them feel good and showed them their images as soon as I had shot a couple of frames. Most of the time this worked wonders and they were overjoyed to see their own pictures.
Mandela brought a ray of light to my country at a time when a full blown racial civil war was a possibility. I hope these images can in some way bring the memory of the great man in the forefront of our minds as well as provide a moral compass for us all on how to live our lives: forgiving, loving and sharing.
By Dedi Sahputra
I first became acquainted with Mount Sinabung in my senior year in high school in 2002. I spent my holidays there, hiking with my friends. In college I joined the Ranger Gunung Sinabung (RGS), an environmental community that also volunteers on rescue operations in Sinabung. When I began my job as a photo journalist in 2006, I kept in contact with my colleagues in RGS.
In August 2010 Mount Sinabung started to show significant changes; in 2013 the volcano erupted and become a danger to the villagers in the area. The experience I had and my knowledge of the villages around the volcano made it easier for me to get good, safe shooting positions.
It was almost midnight on 08 September when I got the first information from my contact in Karo, a small town in North Sumatra province, saying that the Sinabung volcano activity was increasing. I arrived in Tanah Karo around 1:00 a.m. The sky was so bright, no clouds or fog so I could see the mighty volcano clearly. As luck would have it, there was a lunar eclipse, making the sky even brighter. I tried to find a good shooting location and decided to go to Tiga pancur village, located some six kilometers from the crater.
After arriving in the village, I prepared all my equipment, a Canon EOS 7D camera with a 70-200 mm lens, a tripod and a cable release, as the volcano’s activity increased. This excellent position gave me a good distance, clear visibility and almost aligned me with the crater. At 02:00 a.m. Mount Sinabung started to erupt, spewing hot material and ash up to the air. The activity continued to increase so I kept shooting with the 70-200mm lens and 800 ISO setting until I had the best frames. The bright, cloudless sky was the key factor that helped me catch this spectacular moment of the volcanic eruption. It is one of my best ones from Mount Sinabung.
And it was an amazing feeling when I found that the picture was widely used by the major media, such as TIME lightbox and the New York Times Lens blog.
By Dennis M. Sabangan
A year ago, I bore witness to the immediate aftermath of Supertyphoon Haiyan in Tacloban City in the province of Leyte. The strongest storm recored ever at landfall had decimated this once vibrant place in the Philippines. Now, as the anniversary of the calamity nears, I once again headed to Tacloban and saw that though things have much improved, the scars left by Haiyan still run deep.
I still remember my arrival at the Tacloban airport, just a day after the typhoon hit. The damaged terminal was where many residents congregated, all hoping to hop on a C-130 plane out of the devastation. To this day, the port remains busy, as a continuous stream of foreign and local aid workers flow in and out of the province.
The city itself, which had once been flattened, no longer looks like it had been bombed. But the space where the remains of thriving fishing villages once stood is now occupied by thousands of tents that temporarily serve as home for the storm’s survivors. Until now, 14,000 families have yet to receive permanent housing — but still, they are the lucky ones.
Supertyphoon Haiyan claimed over 6,000 lives, many of whom were placed in mass graves. Last year, bereaved relatives had already erected makeshift crosses for their dead loved ones in Palo town. Now, flowers have begun to bloom over all the graves.
A sense of normalcy has begun to return to Tacloban. Of the eight cargo ships that had washed ashore on Barangay (Village) Anibong, only three remain; two are in the process of being dismantled, while one has been deemed sturdy enough to return to the sea.
The debris that once littered the city’s streets are being cleared, little by little. Still, it’s surreal to remember the devastation wrought by Haiyan. A year has passed, but residue of the tragedy still remains. Despite this, I saw that hope and progress are overcoming the grief dealt by the disaster. It will be a long time before the city is fully back on its feet, but it’s clear that its residents are determined to rebuild a better Tacloban.
#12 – Joshua Cator: Typhoon Haiyan survivor Joshua Cator in November 2013 and November 2014. Joshua Cator lost twenty-three relatives including his mother and younger sister. credit: epa / Dennis M. Sabangan
By Dai Kurokawa
As a child growing up in a highly industrialized society, it had always been my dream to see the wild animals in their natural habitat of the African Savannah or the Amazon rain forests. When the media in Japan started talking about disappearing rain forests in the 1980s, I simply thought that it was not “fair”: Why might my generation be banned from ever seeing them just because some people were cutting down trees for money? I used to ask my parents and they would tell me that I had to do something about it if I wanted to see these animals in the future.
These childhood memories resurfaced in December 2012, when I met a high ranking man from an international wildlife NGO and was later told that this very person was said to be deeply involved in poaching and trafficking of ivory. I was puzzled that people in a position to protect animals are the ones actually involved in killing them.
Poaching had already been a big issue in Kenya/Africa at that time so I thought this was a good chance to do something meaningful both personally and professionally, and started my research and preparation in mid 2013.
Poaching is not a sport but an environmental crime. In Kenya, about 280 elephants and almost 60 rhinos have been killed by poachers in 2013 according to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Elephants and rhinoceros are targeted for their tusks and horns. Ivory is used in mass productions for souvenirs and jewelry. The tusks of one elephant are worth tens of thousands of euros. Especially Asian clients pay good money for rhino horns to use in their traditional medicine as it is believed it can cure almost everything. But actually, biting nails would have the same effect. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) estimates that the illicit wildlife trade is worth at least 14 billion Euros per year, ranking it the fourth largest global illegal activity. And Somalia’s Islamist militant group al-Shabab is believed to derive some 430,000 Euros a month, or up to 40 percent of its revenue, through the ivory trade to fund their terrorism activities, as claimed by wildlife NGO Elephant Action League (EAL).
As a wire photographer, I didn’t have the luxury of spending seven consecutive days on a feature story. Therefore the story had to be worked on an on/off basis. To take a photograph of a poached rhino in Lewa, for instance, I acted on a tip off from a local source. As soon as I heard the news, I hit the road to Lewa.
For me, this is one of strongest pictures in this series because it’s rare to get these pictures in Kenya, and it took a lot of preparation and setup. Authorities never want you to photograph them for fear it would make them look like they weren’t doing their job.
I covered the rangers in Maasai Mara because I wanted to show what is actually being done on a daily basis on the ground, as opposed to “official” PR events that are actively promoted by authorities. Through my contacts inside the KWS, I was invited and allowed to cover the chip implanting operation.
I was surprised to see how many resources – time, money, people and their expertise- are devoted to put one microchip into one rhino – while on the other end of the spectrum some poachers use very basic and primitive techniques to kill animals and are so successful at it and often walk free even when discovered.
From talking to rangers, poachers, conservation activists and members of local communities, I have come to think that no matter how well their rangers are equipped or how much international campaign they put out, the big task of conservation will be impossible without engaging local communities more closely and team up with them as partners. After all, it would be impossible for poachers to operate without being tipped off by the local population and insiders who are aware of rangers’ patrol routes, times, number of rangers etc.
For one thing, the local population in the poaching prone areas are the ones living side by side with the animals and often with first-hand information regarding illegal activities. Yet some of them are reluctant to help authorities because they feel let down by the government in the first place. They believe authorities only care about the animals’ welfare, and neglect theirs. For example, the Maasai herdsmen are banned from grazing their cattle inside the parks so as not to bother wild animals or disappoint tourists. When wild animals kill their people or their cattle, they are rarely compensated. So locals come to feel unfairly treated in the name of conservation. I think it would be important for the government to listen to the locals’ concerns and make them feel they will actually benefit from conservation.
And here is some more food for thought: In his book “2052 A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Yeaers”, Norwegian scholar Jorgen Randers gives readers his personal advice on how to live happily in the future- “Don’t teach your children to love the wilderness” and “If you like great biodiversity, go see it now”
“When you see your child sitting in front of the computer and think that she should rather be by the campfire in the great outdoors, you should constrain your temptation to interfere. By teaching your child to love the loneliness of the untouched wilderness, you are teaching her to love what will be increasingly difficult to find. And you will be increasing the chance of her being unhappy- because she won’t be able to find what she desires in the future world of eight billion people and a GDP twice that of today”.
Despite my childhood worries, my generation has been lucky enough to be able to witness the great biodiversity of the world. But what about our children? Will they be lucky like us? It’s up to all of us and our responsibility to prove Mr Randers wrong.
By Sedat Suna
Once I learnt that I was supposed to go to the Syrian border I called the local journalists and the people I knew in the area. I started arranging for accommodation and transport, and left for the border near Kobane. When I first arrived, the intensity of the conflict was still rather low, so I concentrated mainly on covering the refugees who had entered Turkey. I did so for a week and a half. When the situation worsened and combat action increased, I started to take photos of the refugees during the day and then turned to the combat area near the border.
I set up my daily plan, made contact with the people at the border and was informed by them before any action took place. In a second phase, the fighting moved closer to the border, so I decided to cover the conflict from the vantage point of a hill from where Kobane city could be seen best. Once the US-led coalition started bombing, I mostly took pictures in the safety along the border line.
In all my moves, security came first. Once safety was established, I set out to work. That was the theory. However, on the first day of bombing, bullets sprayed the hill I was working on and one of the bullets got stuck in the very place where I had been sitting just a few minutes earlier. The day all the journalists had been kept away from the frontier zone, three howitzers hit the ground near where we used to be standing.
I did not go there after that time for security reasons. While border clashes near Kobane were continuing, the protests in the city center continued to escalate. I was getting information from the local press, going to the regions of protests to take some photos and turning my back to the frontier zone right after that. After the tent city for the refugees in Suruç had been set up, I went there in the evenings. In brief, I divided my days into three parts: In the mornings, I took pictures of refugees, then moved on to the clashes along the border line and in the evenings before sunset, I worked in the tent cities. All in all, I spent 18 days in the frontier zone near Kobane.*
*stop press: Since writing this, Sedat Suna was called back to the area covering the situation in Kobane and the refugee camp in Suruc.
By Erik S. Lesser
Several years ago I had a brief encounter with Oktoberfest in the quaint north Georgia town of Helen. Now that I work for a company with headquarters in Germany, I decided to take another jaunt to the Alpine village.
Once a sleepy logging town in the Blue Ridge Mountains, city business leaders decided in 1968 that an economic face-lift was needed to bring in the tourists and money. They were correct, and while some people make fun of Helen, many others enjoy visiting for the day or longer. Most of all the economic revival has created many jobs.
Now in their 44th year, far behind Munich, Oktoberfest and all things Bavaria is big business in Helen. Candy shops, German and northern European themed restaurants, imported gifts and even an Heidi Hotel dot the landscape. Helen is even a sister city with Füssen, Germany.
I don’t own a pair of Lederhosen and luckily they are not required. There are plenty of people who proudly wear Lederhosen and other German-style clothing, but you also see locals wearing cowboy boots. In fact, there are many people who return year after year, paying the entrance fee to the Festhalle to raise their commemorative mugs and steins to German toasts and participate in polkas and the chicken dance and celebrate their heritage. There are even retired couples who have moved to the area to be closer to the action and volunteer.
Other German traditions are heartily celebrated in Helen throughout the year including Fasching and the dropping of the Edelweiss on New Year’s Eve.
So, willkommen to a little taste of the German Alps in the southern United States.
The full feature package is available on our website: www.epa.eu
epa’s New York Bureau Chief on the annual whirlwind
By Justin Lane
In the General Assembly Hall, I’m wondering aloud if that guy walking through the room isn’t the President of France and hey, isn’t he shaking hands with the Foreign Minister of Germany who just said hello to that prime minister I’m having a hard time immediately identifying? It’s a study of excess – too many leaders to keep careful track of, too many security checkpoints, and too many journalists from around the world who all woke up too early.
The first few days are always a dance of scheduling as we try to determine how to be in all the right places. There are four of us: myself, Andrew Gombert, Jason Szenes and Peter Foley. Four of us to identify and cover leaders from the 193 member countries. It’s like a game, racing to identify the major political players. And of course, it’s an amazing thing to be a small part of an opportunity to share a room with some of the most powerful people in the world.
The best part of these events are the small unpredictable moments. Of note to me this week was a Security Council meeting held on Wednesday, chaired by President Obama.
Among those in the relative intimate space were the presidents of France, Chile, Argentina, the Prime Minster of the United Kingdom, and the King of Jordan. At one point in this high-level meeting on worldwide terrorism, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner took out a small container of snacks—I think they were nuts—and offered them to her delegation and to a few other leaders, who politely declined. She then left them on her desk. Just one small moment.
I loved it.
We need to deliver the expected pictures, the handshakes, the overalls of a world figure leading the hall but it’s the moments like the President of Argentina offering snacks from her purse to Obama that make the early mornings and hectic long days most worth it, when we can humanize the enormity of the event.
By Omer Saleem
It all started when the monsoon system entered from the Himalayas on 03 September and triggered torrential rains in most populous province of Punjab and disputed Kashmir region. By the evening reports of causalities from rain related-incidents started to come in.
Over the next three days the rain never stopped for a single minute. Lahore City, the provincial capital of Punjab province, had all major roads inundated.
Traffic was jammed at all major roads by the afternoon.
As the rains continued for the last 24 hours, most people opted to stay at home. Nevertheless some parents were anxious to take their children to school.
It was my first experience in covering flooding, standing in the middle of an inundated road, holding an umbrella with one hand to cover my gear and capturing images with the other.
After three hours I came back home to file my images, but for the whole day even when I slept I felt as if it continued to drizzle on my face.
By that evening the death toll reached 100 with unconfirmed reports that neighboring India would release the flood water into Chenab river of Pakistan — another blow to an already devastated situation.
Flash floods during the monsoon are common in Pakistan, where the worst deluge in 2010 submerged one-fifth of the country, killing more than 1,700 people and affecting more than 20 million people. This time residents had the same haunting memories of 2010 but were not willing to leave their homes where their life’s earnings are their cattle and belongings. These people have lived for generations in such a simple lifestyle, without access to clean drinking water or other basic needs. Most work as farmers cultivating the major crop of the region, rice and wheat. However this flood also destroyed cultivated land along with crops.
On 5th September our coverage expanded to other cities of Punjab province where people started to flee following flash floods. I went to Jhang district some 250 kilometers from Lahore.
In Chiniot city I accompanied the colleagues of Rescue 1122, the provincial government’s rescue agency that helped evacuees from flooded villages near the Chenab River, then further on to Jhang City where the army was called in.
It is not always easy to get access to such rescue operations conducted by the Army, so I was grateful when the army major in charge of the operation granted me permission to go on board with the proviso that we not interview victims.
Pakistan Floods: shooting pictures from a helicopter
It is quite risky to photograph aerial views standing at helicopter door where sheer wind pressure can pull you out. The only remedy you have is to get a hold onto a cord with one hand and shoot with the other.
Finally the efforts paid off. We were the only agency to have the privilege to show the aerial views of the flooded areas to the world.
The next few days we continued to cover the floods as they reached the historic Multan city of Punjab province some 400 kilometers from Lahore City. Luckily this time the Army accommodated the media on their helicopters, and I had a warm welcome from Army pilots who recognized me.
Flooding in Pakistan has now begun to subside as raging waters headed towards the Arabian Sea in the south. Sadly nearly 320 people died and another three million were affected, with some 45,000 houses damaged and roads, bridges and crops destroyed.
By Nic Bothma
A royal African welcome greeted me in Perpignan by French police who escorted me out of the arrivals lounge and took me to a room to search my luggage. It made me feel at home! We got chatting and once they realised I was a photographer attending the 26th edition of the Visa pour l’Image, the premier international festival on photojournalism, they smiled, stopped searching and welcomed me into Perpignan.
There is a lot happening in Visa pour l’Image’s professional week and impossible to take it all in. But we tried.
One of the highlights for me was seeing the Vietnam war through the eyes of Vietnamese photographers Doan Cong Tinh, Chu Chi Thanh, Mai Nam and Hua Kiem. The world’s perception of the war was largely shaped by the imagery provided by American photographers. Under extreme conditions these Vietnamese photographers worked and produced an excellent photographic record of events from a very different perspective. I wonder how things would have turned out if their images had received a global audience like the Americans and not surfacing at a photojournalism festival 50 years later.
One night whilst having dinner these humble gentlemen walked past our table and we were able to shake their hands and have a chat through their interpreter. It was a very special moment and a veteran American photographer dining with us was brought to tears after meeting them.
It was an honor and a privilege to attend this years Perpignan festival with friends from epa Frankfurt and around the world. I saw a host of excellent photography and attended inspiring talks and presentations. The only thing missing for me was a show of our brother Kerim Okten’s work. Kerim was the finest photographer to grace epa and I would have loved to see his work shown there. Perhaps it can sometime in the future.
By Kim Ludbrook
If you don’t like hard work, living in 25 hotels in three weeks, driving 10.000 km in total and working from the back of a motorcycle careering through the French country side; don’t apply to cover The Tour de France!
Nothing prepared me for the incredible event that is The Tour de France 2014.
In our first three days of coverage in England, an estimated three million people stood by the side of the road to watch the world’s best cyclists ride the 101st Tour.
epa has three photographers covering the race and one professional motorcycle rider.
During each stage the two photographers in the car drive to the finish of that day’s stage and start to edit the images coming from the photographer on the motorcycle.
They also photograph the winner of that stage crossing the line and the podium because each day of the 21-day race has a podium ceremony.
The photographer on the motorcycle covers the start of the stage with features, while on the bike he shoots the action of that day’s stage as well as feature images of the riders cycling through the landscape. The backseat of the motorcyle is his office for the day because he shoots and edits on the camera while riding at 50-60km/h and then transmits via 4G card and wireless transmitter attachment to the camera. The images are sent via FTP to the photographers editing his work at the finish.
Covering the race from the back of the motorbike is without question one of the hardest but most rewarding experiences I have had in my career.
It is really taxing on the body and very tiring in the mind as you are not only concentrating on shooting and editing but also trying to follow the events of the race with Guy, the professional motorcycle rider.
Guy is critical to the coverage as he has covered 20 TDF and not only knows cycle racing and its nuances but also all the riders, teams and many of the passes. He has race radio on his motorcycle so as the race progresses he is not only visually looking at break-aways and crashes but also listens to race radio who inform teams, media and TDF staff what is happening on the course.
While working in the peleton there are ‘regulators’ riding motorbikes who control the movement and access of the photographers, team cars and TV cameras covering the race. There are strict rules that we are not allowed to break.
This is all for rider safety and also to make sure that there are no motorbikes in the live TV shots that are beamed to millions around the world.
Like any outdoors sport covering cycling means that you are working in every weather condition from rain and cold to sun and heat: The Tour de France 2014 is like a 3,664km long ‘stadium’.
Equipment wise on the motorbike I used a Canon 70-200 f4, Canon 16-35 f2.8 and a Canon 14mm with 2 Canon EOS 1DX while at the finish line I used a Canon 400mm.
What is amazing about The Tour de France 2014 is that each day of the Tour is a race on its own for the riders so it is an ever changing event with many winners, lots of crashes, lots of drama and many ‘news’ related angles on a sports event.
This year for instance saw both main contenders crashing out of the race and the images from the bike of those two crashes got the best usage around the world.
As the peleton rides through the French country side at speed the motorbikes, team cars and helicopters on course, have a life of their own. Rushing through small villages and up mountain passes watched by millions of people who stand for hours simply to catch a glimpse of this most epic of human endeavours.
Special thanks to the amazing epa Photo team of Yoan Valat, Nicolas Bouvy and Guy Devuyst for helping me through my first tour. Bravo!
By Robert Ghement
‘There’s lots of pretty, pretty ones
that want to get you high.
But all the pretty, pretty ones
will leave you low, and blow your mind.’
‘The Dope Show’- by Marylin Manson
For Brazilian people, soccer is more than just a phenomenon, it’s almost a religion.
Organizing a world cup in such a place could be compared to setting up a religious pilgrimage for
a broad mass of followers, with all its implications.
Members from various ‘congregations’ will come to support their idols and saints, full of hope and believing that their support is crucial for their beloved ones; stadiums will be their churches, and
players their hopeful healers.
Either called ‘hermanos’ or the ‘red devils’, watching the game from their seats, or at home on their couches or
trembling in front of the Fan Fest stages, soccer fans are the most important factor in a World Cup equation.
No one could deny that.
Soccer fans can be hopeful, sad, daring, bold, enthusiastic or violent, but they could not replace the Big Show!
They could just watch it, encourage it, coming to despair or exultation, but never play it.
And that’s the role of the team players. Sometimes, expert commentators refer to them as ‘the twelfth player’.
The Brazilian team had its twelfth man in every stadium they played, as they were playing all the games in their own yard.
One could call this an advantage, but ‘the twelth player’ never listens to or obeys the head coach!
Sometimes, when eager, they can do more damage than good to a team.
That was not the case with the Brazilian team, who was supported at all times consequently and religiously.
Even at 5-0, Brazilian fans still had energy to encourage a desperate ball recovery or an almost brutal stop of their opponents. But, at a certain point, their love for soccer was greater than that for their own team, when, without any warning, Brazilians started to cheer each passing shot exchanged by the German players. As if the Germans
were Brazilians and vice versa. That was beyond common belief: they praised much more the Beauty of The Game than their favorite players.
Some Brazilians were saying that the football shirts of their team were smaller than those of their opponents!
After the historic semi-final Brazil vs Germany ended, the streets of Belo Horizonte were set on fire:
parties were held on street corners in Devassi Square in a way that made you believe Brazil had won the game that night! Police were watching supporters dancing and drinking from close range, but spirits were never heated up in a bad way. From time to time, small groups of German supporters crossed masses of Brazilians. Dressed in their white T-Shirts they stood out like lanterns in the dark, drinking their beers and enjoying the street fiestas. Sometimes they were cheered by the Brazilians by voice or hand clapping, but never pushed, bullied or cursed at.
After 7 to 1.
I don’t know if seven is a magic number, but for sure Brazilian soccer fans are magic, same as the game of the German team who defeated their beloved team.
I think now, not many Brazilians believe into their own team, but for sure they will never lose faith in The Game!
I really want to make the followers of this blog understand that we as photographers are humans too, sometimes pushy, at other times stressed or impulsive. We are not just machines who push a button, but beings who care and who filter surrounding information and stimulus before transforming our perception and feelings into a digital pixel, to share our vision on soccer and the true fans who never had a chance to watch a game from pitch level!
Because we are The Transformers.
Robert Ghement is a staff photographer in Bucharest and has been with epa for 15 years.
UPDATE: Upon his return from Brazil, he was immediately called to a new assignment to cover the recent events in Ukraine.
By CJ Gunther
This was the moment I had dreamed of for over 26 years. I was going to the FIFA World Cup, Cupo de Mundo. But my flight was cancelled and I was sitting in Boston’s Logan Airport rather than flying to Sao Paulo and I wondered if I would make it to Curitiba on time.
I didn’t set out to be a sport photographer, I wanted to shoot architecture and art when I first began to make pictures. But in college I discovered that I enjoyed the sport image too, and I enjoy soccer, played it as a child and through high school, I know the game so I found it easy to shoot. I was once asked, ‘How awesome was it shooting the NCAA Final four with the UConn men’s basketball team?” – “Not as cool as it would be to shoot the World Cup,’ I answered.
In 1994, I got really close to achieving that goal. I got to shoot one of the friendly matches between Ireland and Columbia when Boston was one of the World Cup host cities. But no real matches for me. Yes, in Boston we have the occasional friendly match between some National teams, or Premiere league teams, but the FIFA World Cup is not on the line when those games are played. So the level of play is not as intense. I also got really close in 2012 when I was asked to be part of epa’s team for the UEFA Euro 2012 Cup, but health reasons kept me away.
This time I was really going. I was part of the epa team. I signed up for Brazilian Portuguese classes, I studied the culture and the politics of the country. I was going and a dream goal was going to be achieved. But here I was sitting at the airport only 20 miles from home, with no flight yet.
Having never shot a FIFA World Cup match before, I was a little anxious. This soccer was going to be a faster pace than what I had ever seen before, and unlike the majority of the other photographers in attendance, my experience level would be much less. If this were baseball, there would be no anxiety at all. Top that with going to a country where everyone tells you, ‘do watch out, you are going to be held up,’ anxiety was at a high level.
My nervousness about Brazil was relieved immediately upon my arrival. I already knew to tell everyone at the airports and immigration, ‘FIFA World Cup,’ and I would get rushed through to my connecting flights, no delays at customs. It was in the queue at the last flight check-in when I began to meet people from Curitiba and felt welcomed to Brazil. At nearly every step of the process, I was met with smiling faces, and even got the beefy security official at the Media entrance to eventually smile on my arrival each day. All of this led up to covering some of the best soccer matches I had ever been to.
My colleague Rungroj Yongrit had been to the FIFA World Cup before and met up with me a few days after my arrival. I think he tried to relieve my nervousness by suggesting an early arrival time to the media center on the day of my first match, Iran V Nigeria. It was a big day for me, and I was a bit tense. We did go too early, but soon it was time to take our positions and set up the remotes. ‘Shoot it well,’ he encouraged me.
The first game.
I know soccer and knew very well that as soon as the match started I would get into my groove and make good photos. And I did. The Australian photographer next to me at the end of the match was surprised at my enjoyment. “That was not such a fine match. The action was minimal, the play could have been more exicting, hmph,” he said slyly.
‘You don’t understand.’ I replied. ‘The best I get on a regular basis is MLS. I only see this level of play on TV. To be here and see it live in person on the pitch level! With Moses right in front of me? Boom! That was awesome.’
Now it was in the past, my first FIFA World Cup match. I was so excited about being there to work that it passed so quickly. I faired well; had good action images, covered the bases on getting the key players and plays of the game. Features before the game were hard not to find. The remainder of my time in Curitiba was a great experience as well. I met many local folks, discussed politics and football, tried the food of the region, became a regular at a pub near the Arena da Baixada even spending one evening behind the bar helping make and serve caipirinhas, was invited to several homes and explored much of the city on foot all the while photographing the people and places with never a feeling of danger.
The next two matches the nervous excitement was gone, I was no longer a FIFA world cup virgin. Honduras’ Costly celebrated his goal in front of me in the match again Ecuador.
David Villa and Iniesta toyed with the Cahill shorted Australian boys for 90 minutes. The routine feeling of those two matches was long gone when Algeria faced Russia. With the streets and stands filled with several thousand Algerians, their World Cup party started early. It was a excting match; the goal by Kokorin (RUS) and the equalizer by Slimani (AGR) on my end of the pitch, the hard fought action through out the game. Algeria advanced for the first time out of the Group Play and the fans and team celebrated as if they had won the whole of the tournament. Flares and smoke bombs in the crowd, something that would never happen in the States, added to the excitement for me – I felt as if I was in Estadio do Maracana watching Algeria celebrate the FIFA World Cup Final.
Bittersweet was the feeling the next morning, headed back to Boston, but my children wanted me home, and the television there is big enough to make me feel like I was still on the pitch. Thanks Gernot.
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By Dennis M. Sabangan
Weeks before we left for Brazil, an American photographer gave a warning through his Facebook account that some of his cameras and equipment for the World Cup were stolen in an airport in Brazil.
That this scenario is devastating to a photographer is a gross understatement, since so much of our work relies heavily on the proper set of tools in our arsenal. The loss of equipment is crushing since it affects not only his profession but also his psychological welfare.
Learning about the theft took me back to my 2001 war assignment in Afghanistan. After the 9/11 attack in America, a few days before the Capital of Kabul was set free, other Filipino journalists and I secured a vehicle to get around the city. The only way we communicated with our driver was through sign language and hand gestures. He couldn’t speak English nor could we speak Pashtun. Despite that, we bravely entered Kabul, leaving our fate in the hands of some higher being. Batman, maybe. Unfortunately for us, no one seemed to be listening to our prayers that day, as five armed Afghans stopped our vehicle between Kabul and Jalalabad.
I whispered to my fellow journalists, “Damn, I think this is where we will die. But it’s so cold, at least we won’t even rot”.
There we were at gun-point and forcefully held up. Thankfully, I brought three wallets. I deceived them with my “Philippine Dollars”– in reality worth a lot less in their currency. I also had a similar experience when I entered Jolo, Sulo and entered the camp of the bandit group Abu Sayyaf to accompany the negotiator to free some German, African, Finnish, Malaysian and Filipino captives. The terrorists forcefully asked for my equipment. Good thing that those weren’t mine. Still, these are moments that we would never in our wildest dreams wish to happen. Yet perhaps due to the twisted nature of fate, we can’t avoid such mishaps.
So instead of being depressed, or be rattled in these situations, I believe these are opportunities where we can learn, and develop the critical skills needed to survive, whether in a literal sense, or a professional one.
Such is the irony that when things fall apart, we as people and as photojournalist get put together.
Anyway, the FIFA World Cup.
June 9, 2014, we arrived in Sau Paolo after more than 24 hours of flying. I flew with my collegues, Rungroj Yongrit from Thailand and Mast Irham from Indonesia. We met in Singapore before going to Brazil. From there, we ventured to our own assignments, they will go to Manaus while I will go to Belo Horizonte.
The air of excitement over a big coverage hung above us when we met. Yet along with that, there was also another feeling–the underlying fear of what we may experience when we get there.
From Sau Paolo, I flew to Belo Horizonte. Even then I admit I felt fearful bringing my equipment out. It’s my habit that all my important things, particularly cameras, lens and some clothes are hand-carried so that whatever happens with the equipment I check in, it’s not something that I will primarily need covering the World Cup.
In Belo Horizonte, I was with my partner Peter Powell from Liverpool, Great Britain, from where modern soccer emerged. Peter is passionate over and familiar with covering football. It’s perhaps understandable that he asked me if football was a popular sport in the Philippines.
I said that boxing and basketball are the most popular sports in the Philippines. But in recent years, some provinces and sectors have begun to appreciate and keep a close watch on football. I even joked that if our former colonizers had taught Filipinos how to play soccer instead of basketball, then Lionel Messi of Argentina with a height of only 5’7” or Neymar of Brazil with 5’9” would have a Filipino to match their skills. Still in a country that is heavily influenced by American culture, basketball continues to be the sport of choice, no matter that Filipinos lack the height to be truly competitive at it.
At the World Cup, our first coverage was Match 5, Colombia vs Greece, where Greece lost with the score of 3-0. But it wasn’t just the losing Greeks who cried that night. Along with them were two photographers from an International agency, after two sets of lens and cameras were stolen – a unit of Canon 1DX 400mm, 1DX and 70-200 were lost from inside the Media Center despite it having tight security.
Their gear was stolen while they were editing at the Stadium Media Center. It certainly sparked paranoia in all of us there. After all, who else can enter the media center aside from accredited FIFA officials and the media? Minutes after the incident, everyone was already alerted.
I was going to the canteen when a photographer informed me that somebody lost equipment. I immediately went back to my desk and kept all my things in my bag and locked it. It is annoying and heart-breaking that this kind of situation can occur. For us in such an active profession, it can also be paralyzing– even if you get really angry, you can’t do anything about it. Hopefully this equipment were insured and the company can easily replace them.
While reflecting on what had just happened, I couldn’t help but think that if the thief victimized some poor Filipino newspaper photographers (photographers whose newsroom change equipment more slowly than the passing of four leap years) then they would have no choice but to stare blankly at the walls. That or, the more logical alternative, they will always fall in line in the Canon Booth to have temporary equipment to continue covering the World Cup. Still, even if the equipment can be replaced, you will go nuts because you’ve already lost your footing even as the coverage is just starting.
After the second theft, you would notice that most of the journalists, especially photojournalists, became extra vigilant and careful. Sometimes even if they needed to go to the bathroom, they would bring their equipment, while others take turns in taking care of the things if people need to leave the table. With my team, we often kept our things locked, if we had to leave them. There was a shortage of lockers because everyone wanted to keep their things under lock and key, afraid that they might get stolen.
During the next days of coverage, I realized that the threat does not only exist inside the media center, but also outside in the streets of Brazil. If we needed to shoot for a feature, we would do it from inside a taxi. That’s how it really is if one isn’t familiar with the culture, even more so if the city you are covering has a high crime rate.
After staying for more than a month in Brazil, we have covered 6 matches. Nearing the quarterfinals in July 5 in Brasilia, our two teams was beefed up to four, with Shawn Thew from the US and Robert Ghement from Romania completing the lineup. We flew to Belo Horizonte to finish the last few chapters of our mission in Brazil. The semi-finals between, Brazil and Germany was particularly memorable, with Germany beating the hosts 7-1 in a crushing defeat.
All told, we will bring the memories of the 2014 World Cup with us. As for the the photographs, there is a certain joy to the feeling that we have taken part in recording history using the photographs we took during the games.
Perhaps we can’t avoid the nightmares that come, when thinking of the possibility of losing our own equipment during such an important coverage. That feeling of paranoia has been healed in part by the happy experiences working together. Even better than memories, I am thankful for the opportunity to learn even more as a sports photojournalist.
Ah, the football. The beautiful game.
As the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda said,
“You can say anything you want, yes sir, but it’s the goals that sing, they soar and descend. I bow to them. I love them, I cling to them, I run them down, I bite into them, I melt them down. I love words so much. The unexpected ones. The ones I wait for greedily or stalk until, suddenly, they drop. Vowels I love…They swallowed up everything, religion, pyramids, tribes, idolatries just like the ones they brought along in their huge sacks. Wherever they went, they razed the land. But goals fell like pebbles out of the boots of the barbarians, out of their beards, their helmets, their horseshoes, luminous words that were left glittering here. Our language. We came up losers. We came up winners. They carried off the gold and left us the gold. They carried everything off and left us everything. They left us the goals.”
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By Sara Houlison
Wimbledon. Arguably the biggest tennis tournament of the year. And my very first editing assignment for epa. Being British and having watched the Wimbledon Championships on the television every year, I was ecstatic to have been offered the opportunity to head back over to home turf for two weeks as one of epa’s two picture editors for such an exciting sports event.
At this point I am primarily a news editor on the picturedesk in Frankfurt and have spent the past two years working on news stories playing out across the globe. From time to time I am also tasked with editing sports and arts, culture and entertainment material too. But I knew the job of a photo editor in the context of the Wimbledon Championships would be an entirely different ball game, pun intended. This realisation came when my job title changed from ‘picture editor’ to ‘media support’ on my grounds pass, which left much room for interpretation as well as a few jokes from our four-strong team of photographers.
My initiation into the world of assignments involved getting a 400mm lens over from Germany as part of my hand luggage. This type of lens is huge and weighs close to 4kg. In fact, it needs a special case of its own that is the size of a small suitcase. As it was x-rayed at the airport, one of the security personnel dragged it off the conveyor belt and gestured for me to go over. ‘It’s a lens!’ I protested. ‘I know’, she said, ‘but it has to be checked more thoroughly’. I fished around for the little key that opened the lens case and opened it up in a room away from the main security area. A man conducted the thorough check, which seemed to consist of him scanning it with some sort of paper, before telling me I was free to go with my lens. Logistics are important for any assignment and my lens-carrying abilities played only a minor part in the operation of getting all of the kit that we needed over to the Wimbledon Championships.
The first day of editing was an intense one, as a couple of full-time sports editors had warned. We were covering between 20-30 matches per day to begin with, shared out between our photographers, and were looking for a tight selection of solid action pictures to illustrate each match. Unlike at the desk in Frankfurt, I would see every photograph that was taken, hundreds of files at a time, either after downloading them straight from a card or having them wired directly from the courts by our photographers. I soon realised the trick to coping with the enormous volume of pictures was to sift through everything as quickly as possible, keeping an eye out for the key moments and action that stood out, dragging them into my ‘to edit’ folder. Once satisfied with an initial selection of photographs for a match, each picture would be polished as part of our post-production work, captioned and immediately sent out onto the wire. If a photographer was still filing from a match, their folder would have to be reviewed again. And with a high number of matches going on simultaneously, special care had to be given to make sure players were correctly identified.
As the tournament progressed and players were knocked out, we covered matches in greater detail, sending out more pictures as we moved onto the quarter and semi-finals. Reactions from the players and their coaches became increasingly important as emotions ran high and the finals were in sight. We were looking for clean action, complete with unimaginable facial expressions, falls, tennis balls hovering in unusual spots, as well as ‘cellies’.
I’d like to point out here some new terminology I learned during my time at Wimbledon. I’m sure all of the following terms apply to other assignments where editors and photographers are in close working quarters too:
Celly (n. sing.), cellies (pl.) – a celebratory shot. Ultimately, everything that happened during the tournament led up to infinite cellies of Petra Kvitova and Novak Djokovic lifting their winners’ trophies at the end of their respective finals. Mid-match cellies typically show players celebrating a point or winning a set.
To hose it down (vb.) – an instruction for a photographer, meaning to exhaust every possible angle multiple times to ensure that nothing is missed. Even a seasoned tennis editor would struggle to find a missing angle if a match had been truly hosed down.
Tight spot (n.) – the small space allocated to a photographer and his/her equipment in the pit by the side of a court. Otherwise, a tricky situation requiring a creative solution.
Of course, it’s wasn’t all about the cellies or hosing down the tennis action from a tight spot. The atmosphere at the Wimbledon Championships is special and calls out to be photographed. Strawberries, Pimms, Henman Hill, or ‘Murray Mound’ as it is hopefully being referred to nowadays, court covers being pulled on and off during rainy spells… The list of opportunities for features goes on and makes Wimbledon such a unique event, attracting a sizeable crowd of VIPs and celebrities. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended, as did footballer David Beckham and his wife, fashion designer and ex-Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, 2013 Wimbledon Championships winner Marion Bartoli, actors Bradley Cooper and Colin Firth, to name but a few of the famous faces who followed the action from the Royal Box on Centre Court over the course of the tournament.
After Djokovic finally finished off Roger Federer in their five-set bout and all the cellies had been sent out, he threw signed tennis balls into a crowd of adoring fans. It was time to pack our small office of laptops and monitors into a tight spot, or rather a compact box to be shipped back over to Frankfurt. Wimbledon was all over for another year. As far as first assignments go, this one was special, leaving me with some unforgettable memories from behind-the-scenes and allowing me to work with some of the finest photographers around. In classic Wimbledon style, I raise a plastic cup of Pimms to all of them.
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In this blog post epa Chief Photographer for the Indian Subcontinent Harish Tyagi tells the story of covering this year’s traditional Holi festival in India.
Barsana village in Mathura, India is famed for its unique and colorful display of the traditional Holi festival. As I left my home on the 9th of March in the early morning hours to catch this festival, my imagination was already busy weaving colorful imagery of the festivities I was to encounter. There was anticipation in the air as I pulled through the four-hour rough drive on Uttar Pradesh roads post, with another hours/1/2 hour walk finally bringing me to my destination. My cameras and gear had been well packed though I was to realize later that this was probably a good protection from rain but certainly not from the onslaught of water and color that was to greet me that day.
Narrow lanes finally led me to the square of the village proper where the traditional Holi festival is celebrated in an altogether different way. The connotations and symbolism of the unique ‘Lathmar Holi’ celebrated in Lord Krishna’s and his consort Radha’s home, is altogether different from the Holi celebrated anywhere else in India. ‘Lathmar’ literally means beating someone with sticks which is what the feisty women of Barsana (known as the birthplace of Lord Krishna’s beloved Radha) do when the men of the neighboring village, Nandgaon, believed to be Lord Krishna’s village, come calling to put color on them.
In fact this festival of plastering people with color and water stems from Lord Krishna’s antics from centuries past which are well embedded into Indian mythology and lore. Known as a mischievous and flirtatious god he is given the credit for being the first to put color on a woman, Radha, his beloved in this case. He and his friends would come to Barsana and as a symbol of protecting themselves from the Lord and his mischievous friends the women charged at them with large bamboo sticks. Though it sounds playful the festival is anything but that.
Just as I entered the village a bunch of local men came towards me and with little regard for my expensive gear smeared me with color and water from their pichkaris (little hand worked water canons). Their chants of Radhe, Radhe rang through the air and after a satisfied appraisal of my now coloured and wet clothes they proceeded to ask which TV channel I worked for. In rural India, people still believe electronic media to be quicker than print and assume anyone with a somewhat big camera is from television. Now that I very much looked a part of the celebration I was left to myself to proceed with my work, which was just as well.
I spent a good six hours in the midst of a packed crowd, often squeezed for space, often inching up very close to people who were so immersed in the gaiety they scarcely noticed my presence. This kind of an event is challenging and draining as hyper activity rings through the air and continuously one is being shuffled around. I kept myself well hydrated with the local drink Lassi, a cool soothing drink made with sweetened curd, which kept my energy levels also in check. The festival only slowed down by evening by which time everyone including me was fairly drained and exhausted. However the rainbow of colors that had dotted the air and the water canons rung thru the village even after all went home.
My next experience of covering the festival of Holi was even more memorable. On 14th of March 2014, I proceeded to cover a unique event in Vrindavan, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, which is 180 kilometers from Delhi and is also infamously known as the city of widows. The tradition of widows seeking refuge in this town harks back to centuries ago when they were more or less ostracized by society and left to lead a life of penance far removed from the joys of daily life. A second lease in terms of re-marriage was unthinkable then and even now this tradition carries on in many ways. So upon hearing that the widows, who were not allowed to earlier partake in religious festivities, would now be playing Holi I wondered what really lay in store for the day.
On reaching the place I was pleasantly surprised to see the widows laughing, joking and brimming with joy at having given this rare chance to partake in a festival. I heard many of them remarking that they had not held a water gun in their hand in years. The beautiful site of these women playing with color (they are normally banished to white clothing only) and water was a rare privilege. Though some still fought shy of participating they told me they would definitely take part next time. I was very over joyed to see an unnecessary and harsh tradition of India loosening its shackles around women destined to an otherwise grim and sorrowful fate. For me this was the ray of hope or should I say ray of color in the celebrations of Holi that marked this year.
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epa photographer CJ Gunther tells the story of the Boston marathon bombings in 2013 and the events following in the aftermath:
My assignment was another routine Patriot’s Day, covering the Boston Marathon. For the past 21 years, I’ve photographed all aspects of the prestigious race including the Start, the Men’s and Women’s elite runner packs, and the Finish Line from overhead. Since 2007, I’ve been part of the Finish Line tight pool, right there at ground level where the runners complete mile 26.2 just in front of me.
Since “Marathon Monday” is also the first day of my kids’ spring vacation, they asked if I’d make it home in time for the planned afternoon park activities. I assured them I would, since the Marathon was run like a fine-tuned machine with standard protocols and procedures that made it an annual event I enjoyed covering.
The meeting for the tight pool photographers began at 9:45 a.m. Tommy, the photo wrangler with the Boston Athletic Association, reviewed how the day would unfold, and took time to explain a few slight tweaks from the previous year. After the meeting, we took our positions and awaited the wheelchair athletes who cross the finish first, followed by the elite men’s and women’s runners. Once the winners regrouped, we then moved into position to capture the jubilation of the trophy and wreath presentation.
The last photo I shot showed both the men’s and women’s winners, arms outstretched in a pose together, smiling with joy. I then rushed to the filing center at the hotel in nearby Copley Square. I pushed my photos to the desk, checked to confirm receipt with the desk, packed my gear, and drove out of the city.
It was 1:45 p.m.
At 2:49 p.m., my routine day tumbled into chaos.
I had just met my wife and daughter at the park when a good friend from the Boston Fire Department called me. “Are you ok?” he asked. “Yea, I’m finally over my late winter cold and feeling better,” I replied. “NO! Two bombs went off at the finish line! You need to get there now!” he shouted in his unmistakable Boston accent. For a moment I paused, only to think about the gear I needed, and the best driving route back into the city. I ran to the car, and without breaking stride told my wife I’d call her shortly, trying not to show panic in my face or voice.
The next 102 hours were unforgettable. As I rushed to the scene, driving way too fast, all that was routine about Marathon Day had changed. I had no idea what to expect when I returned to the spot where I had just photographed some of the most joyous moments of the day.
I parked as close as I could, ran three blocks with my gear, and made my way to within a block of the Finish Line. I ran through scores of people who were confused, fearful, and terrified – the complete opposite of the scene I had left 90 minute earlier. I photographed shocked family members, crying children and adults, exhausted and confused runners, and abandoned belongings. I made my way to the medical tent, normally reserved to treat routine post-marathon ailments. It had been quickly converted to a triage center, where bloodied victims were wheeled in, treated, and then brought out to waiting ambulances.
Our chief photographer, Matt Campbell, was traveling back from The Masters golf tournament. When I phoned him, he answered from his seat on the plane. “BOMBS?” he repeated loudly; I reminded him that he was on a plane so he wouldn’t cause any panic. We agreed to connect as soon as he landed in Boston.
The scene for blocks was chaotic. Emergency personnel were everywhere: police, firemen, bomb technicians, Special OPS, and National Guardsmen. I wondered where they all came from so quickly. A colleague took a photo of me being shoved from the street by a Boston Police officer as we tried to make our way to the scene. There were no rules; bombs just don’t go off in the United States. Again, it was complete chaos.
I had pictures to file, which was my main concern. I went to a nearby parking garage where I could still see some of the scene, but away from the police officers who were establishing a tightly-secured area. My phone wouldn’t connect because I was receiving calls from friends and family who had seen an earlier Facebook post of me with two colleagues at the Finish Line. They know the Marathon is one of my annual assignments, and they wanted to make sure I was all right. Finally I moved my first pictures from the tragic scene, then took a moment to post on Facebook: “I’m OK. Safe.” That simple message alleviated concern from friends and family, and freed my phone for the work ahead.
Somehow in the chaos, I was able pull together a pretty good team to expand our coverage. Freelancer Dominic Chavez was nearby, at the Boston Common. Matt Campbell arrived at the airport and came directly downtown to edit, even though he had been away from home for over a week. Staffer Justin Lane drove in from New York and former staff photographer Matthew Cavanaugh drove in from Western Massachusetts. I thought of how fortunate I am to work with such a talented crew of photographers. The whole area was locked down, so we covered the basics, which included news conference updates from local, state and federal authorities, and scene setters of the chaos that still had its hold on the city.
We documented a normally peaceful city that was thrown swiftly and brutally into shock, but not inaction. Boston Strong was born.
I spent the next two days covering reaction to the tragedy, especially once the names of the three people who lost their lives were released. The little boy who was killed, Martin Richard, hit close to home for me since he was just a few years older than my daughter, and a few years younger than my son.
In the days following, I was touched by the outpouring of support, caring and compassion shown throughout the city. I photographed many of the impromptu memorials that cropped up all over the city, including outside the homes of the grieving families.
On Thursday, a memorial service was held and attended by President Barack Obama. Although we were working on only two or three hours of sleep each night, we covered every angle. Concerned about our well-being, Matt scheduled us on shifts us so we could rest. We had no idea how long we would be covering this story, and each day had blended into the next.
Another freelancer, Dominic Reuter, stepped in and I headed home to my family, just hours before the next series of fateful events gripped the city.
I received a phone call from Dominic later in the evening on Thursday. He lives on the edge of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus, and heard reports of a gunned-down MIT police officer. Dominic ran to the scene on campus, even though at the time, we didn’t know if the shooting of Officer Sean Collier was related to the Boston Marathon bombings. I edited his first photos, and then fell into bed, exhausted.
At 3:00 a.m., my wife woke to my phone buzzing. She immediately shook me awake. I was up, dressed, and answering the call in nearly one motion. Matt had been calling for almost two hours, needing me in Watertown, a neighboring city of Boston. There was a connection between the Boston Marathon bombings suspects and the shooting of Officer Collier, which had led to a shootout in Watertown between the suspect and local police. Just like four days earlier, I raced in my car to a scene well outside the norm of our usual Boston coverage.
I parked within a block of the shootout and joined a growing group of journalists covering the house-to-house search for the remaining suspect. This search continued the entire day while Watertown, Boston and several other local communities were on lockdown after Governor Deval Patrick issued a “stay in shelter” order.
Time moved slowly throughout the tense day, with occasional activity as law enforcement personnel moved from place to place. At 6:45 p.m. just before sunset, gunfire erupted and I made my way to a yard two blocks from the shots.
I stayed hidden in this yard along with four other photographers. We put our cameras on quiet mode so we wouldn’t be rousted by the police, who were only a meter or two away, separated from us only by a white picket fence. Through the fence in the growing darkness of early evening, we made images of the police at the ready; the robot used to pull the tarp off the boat that revealed suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev; and the celebratory gestures by the special operations squads leaving the scene after Tsarnaev surrendered.
Finally, it was over. Boston Mayor Menino’s voice came over the police scanner, thanking everyone involved.
When I turned, my colleagues (who were also my competition), had left to file their photos. I stayed, however, because I knew there was one more shot I needed to make: the ambulance that had arrived only moments earlier which surely was called to carry away Tsarnaev.
There were so many strobes from the police vehicles flashing that it was hard to see. In the dark, it was tough to determine if the image was in focus. I kicked open the gate in the fence, and slowly squeezed off a number of frames as the ambulance turned away. I saw Tsarnaev through the window, his head bloodied. Now it was really over and I filed my final photos.
The events of that week resulted in the loss of life for four people, and forever changed the lives of many more who sustained life-altering injuries. Thankfully, horrific events such as these are not common in the United States, but we’re reminded too often of the unfortunate reality that innocent lives are lost and affected around the world every day. In fact, just yesterday [14 April 2014] in Nigeria more than 70 people were killed in a bomb blast at a bus station, while more than 125 others were injured.
I am thankful that this type of coverage is not the norm for me. This year, I hope we have another routine Marathon Day – or as routine as it can be the year following the tragic events that forever altered our city. Matt and Justin will return and freelancer Herb Swanson will join the coverage team. Security will be tight, and police presence will be at a high level, but the determination of the runners and the spectators to enjoy the day will Boston Strong.
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by Tanya Zenkovich
It started in July 2013 when I got to know that I’ll be a part of the epa team for the Sochi Olympic Winter Games 2014. It was to be my most serious assignment ever.
Sochi met me with palms and a very pleasant weather contrast: while in Minsk it was –18 Celsius, in Sochi it also felt like being 18 degrees, but now above zero. At the very beginning I couldn’t escape troubles though. A wrong accreditation pass was given to me at the airport. Anyway, I thought that standing in a line at the accreditation center to get a correct card, wasn’t the worst thing to happen.
The first challenging task for me was to cover the opening ceremony of the Games. I got a really awesome position at the stadium: it was very central and high to make good panoramic shots. After the necessary preparations (briefing, plugging a cable into the camera, sending test pictures, defining settings in the camera set, and, of course, learning the ceremony schedule by heart), I couldn’t wait for the ceremony to commence. There’s one peculiar thing about events in Sochi: when they start there’s no stopping. Therefore, to get a nice shot one has to stay focused, be creative, be prepared, do everything fast and predict what’s going to happen the next moment. Time is so fast here! So it’s very important also to have some snacks with you at your working place so as not to be out of energy, when the crucial moments come.
Curling Pictures and Pajamas
Most of the time I spent taking curling pictures. At first I hardly knew what it was about. Some colleagues told me this sport is boring and that it’s hard to come up with interesting angles for curling pictures; still others assured me that it’s really nuts, great and an expressive competition to cover (and some of these “optimists” even sent me Youtube lessons how to play curling). Besides, I always asked my new acquaintances among the photographers who worked in Sochi whether they had had a chance to shoot curling pictures before and (if yes) what their experience had been.
Indeed, curling turned out to be an exciting “playground” for experimenting! Multiple exposures, panning, slow shutter speed, zooming and twisting, game of shadows, different angles and an opportunity to move from one position to another during matches. My favorite team was from Norway. Because of the Norwegian team’s everyday-new funny uniform and curling slippers it seemed sometimes that the players wore trendy pajamas – a real stroke of luck for a photographer!
When I understood how a typical match develops and also found an effective algorithm of my actions for a match, life at the venue became much easier for me.
When the Games started I saw how many preparations the epa team had done in advance and how many people were involved in the process so that everything was running smoothly. I also realized that my work was only a small contribution to the huge working mechanism. And I’m pretty sure that what I could see is only the tip of the iceberg. So my task as a photographer was quite easy – just wait for a good moment and press the button.
It was a great experience for me to work with such a professional and cool team, to learn from them, and I’m very grateful to my colleagues whom I got to know there!
By Karl Sexton
Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Russia – my first ‘big’ assignment as an editor with epa. I had had some prior experience in editing in the field, having worked at a European Council Summit in Brussels in 2013. Whilst that experience gave me an insight into what was expected of me in Sochi, the weeks I spent in Russia have taught me so much more about the job we do at epa.
After nearly four years at the desk in Frankfurt, I am familiar with handling a large volume and variety of images from all parts of the world, having to stay on top of the news, and responding to clients or member agency requests, as well as to breaking news stories. However, our shooters usually submit photographs that are pre-edited. Most of the time, the photos are technically ready to be transmitted to the wire, leaving the editor to focus on caption quality, picture selection, and making sure all the angles of a particular story are covered.
The role of an editor at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic games or other such events is very different. Here, photographers send their images often straight from the camera, only a matter of seconds after the event or incident they are covering has occurred.
The shooters can transmit hundreds of raw, unedited images in only a few short minutes, and it is up to the editors in the media centre to sort through the myriad of different angles from various photographers, choose the best pictures and begin the post-production work, such as balancing colour levels and cropping, as well as captioning the photos. All of this has to be done at speed, in order to deliver a high-quality product to our clients in the timeliest fashion possible. We watch television monitors with live feeds of the events we are covering to stay on top of the action, and we use online information services to keep track of details such as results, scores, and spellings of athletes names, to name but a few.
These aspects of truly participating in the production of the image and feeling real proximity to the action are some which I have found hugely interesting, not to mention satisfying. Seeing an image in play that you have edited from a raw file to a finished product is a real source of professional pride, even if it is the photographer who (deservedly!) takes most of the glory.
Having spent the best part of a month at these Games, I have also had the immense pleasure of meeting and getting to know the people whose work I have the privilege of editing back at the desk in Frankfurt. It has been a massive learning experience and fantastic opportunity to exchange views and ideas on the job or on life, and to hear stories from colleagues and friends from every corner of the globe.
Ole Bratz, Head of IT at epa, takes us with him on a trip to Sochi. After you’ve seen the Olympics from all kinds of angles, this is a unique experience, you probably haven’t heard of yet.
The coverage of Olympic Games is challenging. The planning and preparations for the photo coverage of this major sports event started already 28 months ago, and included several visits to Sochi.
In addition to a dedicated team of professional photographers and editors, huge efforts have been made by administrative and IT teams for organizing transportation, accommodation and last but not least the technical set up. The real operation started when the freight consisting of several flight cases had been picked up in the first week of January to make its way to Sochi. That date marked the point of no return. Anything that’s missing, configured wrongly or not properly tested – too late. Luckily, the transport by truck from Frankfurt through several countries, borders and customs went well, and when epa’s IT colleagues Joerg Reuter and Helmut Emelius arrived in Sochi on January 17, all servers, computers, network equipment and several kilometers of network cable arrived in good shape and were taken into epa’s private office space in the Main Press Center. Now the advance party started organizing accommodation for the team, in this case it meant visiting construction sites, at least in the mountain area in Krasnaya Polyna, but conditions were not much better in the media accommodation at the coastal cluster in Sochi Adler. Quite on the contrary, they were terrible and only got better a few days before the opening of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Joerg Reuter, who is heading epa’s IT operations at all major sports events, successfully met all major challenges for the benefit of the entire epa team.
One important lesson taught by the Russians: Everything is ready, no problem! (Regardless the facts)
In the week before Carsten Riedel and I arrived in Sochi, Joerg and Helmut had already set up the whole temporary editorial office with workstations, servers and network. And they cabled many photo positions in the Sochi Olympic Park such as the Iceberg Skating Place, the Adler Arena, the Bolshoy Ice Dome, the Shayba Arena, the Ice Cube Curling Center and the Medals Plaza.
6000 meters of yellow CAT5 cable
The task was to connect every single of the 150 photo positions to the VLAN network which takes the photographers’ images with 100 Mbit/s speed from his or her camera to the editorial desk in the main Press Center. During the second week, after editors Gernot Hensel and Herbert Maier had also arrived, the mission headed towards accomplishment by pulling epa’s yellow network cables to all photo positions in the mountain cluster in the Laura Cross-Country Ski and the Biathlon Center, the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center, the Russki Gorki Jumping Center, the Sanki Sliding Center and the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. This became the real challenge: In addition to the actual cabling of approximately 6000 meters of yellow CAT5 cable, some in closed stadiums but mostly in the snow at downhill tracks, halfpipe, moguls, ski jump, biathlon and sliding, other obstacles like climbing or massive cable lengths of 100 meters came into play.
The Russian authorities prohibited all kind of encryption and VPN
Luckily, the timing and scheduling with photo and venue managers and our fellow agencies went rather smoothly due to the fact that we had already established a very friendly relationship with them. Security regulations were the main time consuming issue. By the way, so was our IT security. The Russian authorities prohibited all kind of encryption and VPN. Whenever we had to bring a vehicle with tools and technical equipment into an Olympic venue we were stopped at a vehicle checkpoint, although each technician had a special sticker showing a screwdriver on his accreditation pass, allowing him to carry tools, even knives. All passengers had to step out and walk through a separate mag and bag check, the car and its contents were diligently searched by police or military personnel. The Russians – smart as they are – had them all dressed in friendly looking purple Sochi 2014 uniforms. Then back in the car, after all windows, doors and hoods had been sealed with stickers, off to the next checkpoint where all seals were checked to make sure we did not open a window or anything. Those procedures felt like they took forever. When we finally reached the venue the only problems to overcome were iced cable paths, frozen pipes, snowbound network cabinets and everything else related to IT hardware and people having to cope with the snow and the cold.
The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games kick off
6 days before the Opening Ceremony, the main photo and editorial team from all over the world arrived. Now everything became really busy because as a technician you are the single point of contact for everyone. But these few days of gathering with our friends and lovely colleagues before the real show started were the most enjoyable. They were the magic and epic moments that make the european pressphoto agency family very special.
Before the official start of the games, last modifications in the picture workflow were done, lines checked, configurations tested, remote support from the colleagues at home installed and connectivity fine-tuned. Now we were ready for the show to begin…
The master mind behind all epa sports coverage is Gernot Hensel, Deputy Editor-in-Chief and Head of the Sports Desk, editing wizard, all-round sports expert and well experienced leader of those operations. He is truly in his element when it’s show time and the going gets tough. The same can be said about all colleagues whether behind lenses or in front of computer screens, producing thousands of exciting images from the competitions, even special pictures by request for our partners and clients. Some colleagues standing in the cold next to an alpine track for a whole day and others rushing from one event to the next, from early to late, all without a break or a day off. The epa team is a real dream team, producing an excellent photo coverage for its customers all over the world.
What is left for the IT is the daily duty, some support, some fixing or replacement of a cut or frozen network cable. No more challenge until the show ends with the Closing Ceremony. Then everybody will be off back home, only the rear guard will roll back the operation and bring everything back home.
And an important Russian word: “Poyekhali”, as Yuri Gagarin said on his trip into the orbit. It is used when you raise the vodka glass as well.