In Out – the Brexit Vote Six Months On

by Andy Rain

epa05656181 A b/w version of epa05259839 EU IN and OUT bar coasters are pinned to ale taps at a pub in Westminster, London, Britain, 15 April 2016. The EU referendum campaign officially kicked off the same day with the 'Britain Stronger in Europe' and 'Vote Leave' to begin criss crossing the UK in order to get their message to the voters. Britain will vote on 23 June 2016 wether to remain in the EU or to leave. EPA/ANDY RAIN

epa05656181 A b/w version of epa05259839
EU IN and OUT bar coasters are pinned to ale taps at a pub in Westminster, London, Britain, 15 April 2016. The EU referendum campaign officially kicked off the same day with the ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ and ‘Vote Leave’ to begin criss crossing the UK in order to get their message to the voters. epa/Andy Rain

It was like that old party song the Okey-Cokey. Put your left arm in, your right arm out, in out, in out, shake it all about….. But this wasn’t a party. This was serious politics. A nation voting In or Out of the world’s largest trading block. In the lead up to the June 23rd vote, campaigning had become
dirty, nasty politics….the gloves were off. Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage in support for ‘Leave’ travelled the country, as did the Prime Minister David Cameron who led the ‘IN’ campaign.

US President Barack Obama intervened with a visit to Downing Street calling for a ‘Remain’ vote. The tabloid Sun got involved as it blazoned its front page with the lead, ‘Queen Backs Brexit’. And so it was on that Friday morning June 24th the country awaited a decision that would
change the face of Britain and its people for decades to come.

I woke at 4.30am that morning and turned on the television set. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The BBC’s David Dimbleby was calling it for Leave. Leave had won! The United Kingdom
had voted to leave the European Union, he went on. Scrambling to put my clothes on
and get my gear together, I headed out into a murky summer’s morning to the home of Boris Johnson. When I arrived at 5.15 am there were five or six photographers gathered outside Johnson’s home.

By 7am that number had grown to some sixty or seventy people. Photographers, broadcast media and bystanders. Shock and dismay lingered in the fresh morning air. By 8am Prime Minister David Cameron was delivering his statement of resignation in the street at Downing Street. Jostling for positions we all awaited Johnson’s departure. Was he Prime Minister in waiting, crossed everyone’s mind. We all thought it. Few muttered it.

Boris exited his home amidst the chaos of a media scrum and a country that had changed over night. He swept passed us. The police line between him and us. Disbelief covered his face.
For the first time Boris said nothing. “Wanker”, shouted a man from across the street.
“ You’ve ruined my future Boris”, shouted another. He was gone. Anger was all that remained.

In Downing Street there was a deep sense of shock. A sadness hung over the media as if everyone’s mother had died.

In the hours and days that followed senior politicians grappled for power. Theresa May was In and David Cameron was Out. ‘Brexit means Brexit’ we were told, and we’re going to make the best of it! A team of Brexitiers was formed to drive us forward.

EU politicians wasted no time with visits to Downing Street. Theresa May welcomed President of the European Council Donald Tusk to No.10. There was no room for pleasantries or warm words. ‘You must invoke article 50’, shot Tusk, with a steely stare. May grimaced unable to look him the eye. In those weeks over the summer of 2016 politics had never been so exciting, so explosive. That simple choice between IN or OUT had become more complex, divisive and painful than any of us could have imagined.

End.’

epa05656142 A b/w version of epa05171798 British Prime Minister David Cameron walks out of No. 10 Downing Street to deliver a statement on his EU deal in London, Britain, 20 February 2016. Cameron briefed his cabinet on the EU deal and announced the date for Britain to vote in a EU referendum for 23 June 2016. EPA/ANDY RAIN EPA/ANDY RAIN

epa05656142 A b/w version of epa05171798
British Prime Minister David Cameron walks out of No. 10 Downing Street to deliver a statement on his EU deal in London, Britain, 20 February 2016. Cameron briefed his cabinet on the EU deal and announced the date for Britain to vote in a EU referendum for 23 June 2016. epa/Andy Rain

epa05656144 A b/w version of epa05422842 Media gather at Downing Street in London, Britain, 13 July 2016. Theresa May is to become Britain's Prime Minister later in the day after a meeting with the Queen and will set about building a new cabinet. EPA/ANDY RAIN EPA/ANDY RAIN

epa05656144 A b/w version of epa05422842
Media gather at Downing Street in London, Britain, 13 July 2016. Theresa May is to become Britain’s Prime Minister later in the day after a meeting with the Queen and will set about building a new cabinet. epa/Andy Rain

epa05656146 A b/w version of epa05202795 Copies of Britain's 'The Sun' newspapers are sold at a store in London, Britain, 09 March 2016. The Sun newspaper has published a story indicating that Britain's Queen Elizabeth II was backing for a Brexit on its front page on 09 March. Buckingham palace has stated that the Queen is 'politically neutral' over the EU referendum which is scheduled to be held in Britain on 23 June 2016. EPA/ANDY RAIN EPA/ANDY RAIN

epa05656146 A b/w version of epa05202795
Copies of Britain’s ‘The Sun’ newspapers are sold at a store in London, Britain, 09 March 2016. The Sun newspaper has published a story indicating that Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II was backing for a Brexit on its front page on 09 March. Buckingham palace has stated that the Queen is ‘politically neutral’ over the EU referendum. epa/Andy Rain

epa05656149 A b/w version of epa05526854 (L-R) British Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade Liam Fox, British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson and British Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis leave after a first cabinet meeting at Downing Street in London, Britain, 06 September 2016, since summer parliamentary recess. EPA/ANDY RAIN EPA/ANDY RAIN

epa05656149 A b/w version of epa05526854
(L-R) British Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade Liam Fox, British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson and British Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis leave after a first cabinet meeting at Downing Street in London, Britain, 06 September 2016, since summer parliamentary recess. epa/Andy Rain

epa05656150 A b/w version of epa05525660 Pro Brexit supporters protest outside of the parliament calling for Article 50 to be invoked in London, Britain, 05 September 2016. Brexit Minister David Davis' is delivering a statement to the Commons on the government's latest plans for leaving the EU. EPA/ANDY RAIN

epa05656150 A b/w version of epa05525660
Pro Brexit supporters protest outside of the parliament calling for Article 50 to be invoked in London, Britain, 05 September 2016. Brexit Minister David Davis’ is delivering a statement to the Commons on the government’s latest plans for leaving the EU. epa/Andy Rain

epa05656151 A b/w version of epa05525662 Pro Brexit supporters protest outside of the parliament calling for Article 50 to be invoked in London, Britain, 05 September 2016. Brexit Minister David Davis' is delivering a statement to the Commons on the government's latest plans for leaving the EU. EPA/ANDY RAIN

epa05656151 A b/w version of epa05525662
Pro Brexit supporters protest outside of the parliament calling for Article 50 to be invoked in London, Britain, 05 September 2016. Brexit Minister David Davis’ is delivering a statement to the Commons on the government’s latest plans for leaving the EU. epa/Andy Rain

epa05656152 A b/w version of epa05423408 New British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) with her husband Philip (R) wave to the media upon their arrival at No. 10 Downing Street, in London, Britain, 13 July 2016. Theresa May has become Britain's Prime Minister - succeeding David Cameron - after a meeting with the Queen and will begin building a new cabinet. EPA/ANDY RAIN

epa05656152 A b/w version of epa05423408
New British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) with her husband Philip (R) wave to the media upon their arrival at No. 10 Downing Street, in London, Britain, 13 July 2016. Theresa May has become Britain’s Prime Minister – succeeding David Cameron – after a meeting with the Queen and will begin building a new cabinet. epa/Andy Rain

epa05656155 A b/w version of epa05603306 Outgoing British Prime Minister David Cameron (C, back to camera) is accompanied by his wife Samantha (R) and their children as they hug on the doorsteps upon their departure from No. 10 Downing Street for the last time, in London, Britain, 13 July 2016. Britain's current Home Secretary Theresa May was to become Britain's new Prime Minister later in the day after a meeting with the Queen. EPA/ANDY RAIN

epa05656155 A b/w version of epa05603306
Outgoing British Prime Minister David Cameron (C, back to camera) is accompanied by his wife Samantha (R) and their children as they hug on the doorsteps upon their departure from No. 10 Downing Street for the last time, in London, Britain, 13 July 2016. Britain’s current Home Secretary Theresa May was to become Britain’s new Prime Minister later in the day after a meeting with the Queen. epa/Andy Rain

epa05656160 A b/w version of epa05420880 Prime Minister in waiting Theresa May (C) is applauded as she delivers a statement outside parliament in London, Britain, 11 July 2016. May is expected to become Britain's second female Prime Minister on Wednesday, 13 July 2016. Others are not identified. EPA/ANDY RAIN

epa05656160 A b/w version of epa05420880
Prime Minister in waiting Theresa May (C) is applauded as she delivers a statement outside parliament in London, Britain, 11 July 2016. May is expected to become Britain’s second female Prime Minister on Wednesday, 13 July 2016. Others are not identified. epa/Andy Rain

epa05656161 A b/w version of epa05237461 UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage poses for pictures with supporters outside the Electoral Commission in London, Britain, 31 March 2016. EU-exit campaign Grassroots Out (GO) submitted its application to the Electoral Commission for designation in the EU referendum. Britain will vote 23 June wether to remain or leave the EU. EPA/ANDY RAIN

epa05656161 A b/w version of epa05237461
UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage poses for pictures with supporters outside the Electoral Commission in London, Britain, 31 March 2016. EU-exit campaign Grassroots Out (GO) submitted its application to the Electoral Commission for designation in the EU referendum. epa/Andy Rain

epa05656162 A b/w version of epa05387894 Copies of the London daily newspaper the Evening Standard run the Brexit story on its front page in London, Britain, 24 June 2016. London's financial centre has reacted negatively following the news that Britain voted to leave the EU. Prime Minister David Cameron has also stated he will resign. EPA/ANDY RAIN

epa05656162 A b/w version of epa05387894
Copies of the London daily newspaper the Evening Standard run the Brexit story on its front page in London, Britain, 24 June 2016. London’s financial centre has reacted negatively following the news that Britain voted to leave the EU. Prime Minister David Cameron also stated he would resign. epa/Andy Rain

epa05656163 A b/w version of epa05387258 Former London Mayor Boris Johnson departs his home in London, , 24 June 2016. Britain's Leave Campaign won the UK EU Referendum by 52 to 48 per cent 24 June. Prime Minister David Cameron has anounced his resignation effective October 2016, EPA/ANDY RAIN

epa05656163 A b/w version of epa05387258
Former London Mayor Boris Johnson departs his home in London, , 24 June 2016. Britain’s Leave Campaign won the UK EU Referendum by 52 to 48 per cent 24 June. Prime Minister David Cameron has anounced his resignation effective October 2016. epa/Andy Rain

epa05656164 A b/w version of epa05387938 Reporters watch British Prime Minister David Cameron announce his resignation on their mobile phones outside the home of Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson in London, Britain, 24 June 2016. London's financial centre has reacted negatively following the news that Britain voted to leave the EU. Prime Minister David Cameron has also stated he will resign. EPA/ANDY RAIN

epa05656164 A b/w version of epa05387938
Reporters watch British Prime Minister David Cameron announce his resignation on their mobile phones outside the home of Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson in London, Britain, 24 June 2016. epa/Andy Rain

epa05656174 A b/w version of epa05272214 British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) welcomes U.S President Barack Obama to 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 22 April 2016. President Obama is on a three day visit to the UK where he will also meet with the Queen in Windsor. EPA/ANDY RAIN

epa05656174 A b/w version of epa05272214
British Prime Minister David Cameron welcomes U.S President Barack Obama to 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 22 April 2016. President Obama is on a three day visit to the UK where he will also meet with the Queen. epa/Andy Rain

epa05656175 A b/w version of epa05170829 'Grassroots EU Out' demonstrators dressed in costumes depicting British Prime Minister David Cameron protest on Whitehall in London, Britain, 19 February 2016. Cameron is hoping to get a deal on EU reform at the EU Summit as talks continue into the night. EPA/ANDY RAIN

epa05656175 A b/w version of epa05170829
‘Grassroots EU Out’ demonstrators dressed in costumes depicting British Prime Minister David Cameron protest on Whitehall in London, Britain, 19 February 2016. Cameron is hoping to get a deal on EU reform at the EU Summit as talks continue into the night. epa/Andy Rain

epa05656176 A b/w version of epa05205923 London Mayor Boris Johnson delivers a 'Vote Leave' speech in Dartford, Kent, south-east Engand, 11 March 2016. Britain will vote in an EU referendum June 23 whether to stay in or to leave the EU. EPA/ANDY RAIN

epa05656176 A b/w version of epa05205923
London Mayor Boris Johnson delivers a ‘Vote Leave’ speech in Dartford, Kent, south-east England, 11 March 2016. B. epa/Andy Rain

epa05656177 A b/w version of epa04912319 UKIP leader Nigel Farage speaks during the 'EU NO Campaign' in London, Britain, 04 September 2015. Farage is calling for Britain to leave the European Union. Britain is to hold an in out referendum on the EU by 2017. EPA/ANDY RAIN

epa05656177 A b/w version of epa04912319
UKIP leader Nigel Farage speaks during the ‘EU NO Campaign’ in London, Britain, 04 September 2015. Farage is calling for Britain to leave the European Union. Britain is to hold an in out referendum on the EU by 2017.epa/Andy Rain

epa05656178 A b/w version of epa05530026 British Prime Minister Theresa May (R) welcomes President of the European Council Donald Tusk (L) to 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 08 September 2016. May and Tusk held talks on Britain's exit from the European Union. EPA/ANDY RAIN

epa05656178 A b/w version of epa05530026
British Prime Minister Theresa May (R) welcomes President of the European Council Donald Tusk (L) to 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 08 September 2016. May and Tusk held talks on Britain’s exit from the European Union. epa/Andy Rain

epa05656180 A b/w version of epa05247934 A Vote Leave campaign poster on a window ledge at the Vote Leave offices in London, Britain, 07 April 2016. Britain will hold a referendum on wether to remain or leave the European Union 23 June 2016. EPA/ANDY RAIN

epa05656180 A b/w version of epa05247934
A Vote Leave campaign poster on a window ledge at the Vote Leave offices in London, Britain, 07 April 2016. Britain. epa/Andy Rain

Life in Douma, Syria

by Mohammed Badra

A Syrian takes a selfie next to an unexploded bomb buried in the tarmac of a road in the rebel-held area of Douma, outskirts of Damascus, Syria, 05 November 2015. epa / Mohammed Badra *** Local Caption *** 52439894

A Syrian takes a selfie next to an unexploded bomb buried in the tarmac of a road in the rebel-held area of Douma, outskirts of Damascus, Syria, 05 November 2015. epa / Mohammed Badra

Douma, north of the capital of Syria in Damascus, is the biggest city inside eastern al-Ghouta, controlled by forces fighting against the Syrian government. For the last four years, Douma has been out of the Assad regime’s control. And since then it has been shelled and bombed from forces loyal to the government.

Douma has been besieged. There is not enough food, no potable water, no medicine, no electricity, no fuel and no real education system.  In other words, you can say, no life.

This is what I’ve learned from the four years of documenting here in my country, where people have lost everything – their country, their jobs, their future and most of them have lost many people they loved. But the people here have a spirit that can’t die, because the person who has survived a bombing, can live forever, and the child who can smile after losing one of their family or friends, cannot be sad anymore.

Syrian children standing by a wall, Meda'a, Outskirts of Damascus, Syria, 12 May 2016. epa / Mohammed Badra *** Local Caption *** 52753590

Syrian children standing by a wall, Meda’a, Outskirts of Damascus, Syria, 12 May 2016. epa / Mohammed Badra

Substitutes reacting after their team-mates scored a goal during the first school football tournament, in the rebel-held city of Douma, Syria, 20 April 2016. Twelve teams took part in the first school football tournament that started on 16 April 2016. Ten days later the tournament was postponed after the fragile ceasefire between the government and rebel groups was breached by a wave of violence and several parts of Eastern Ghouta were targeted by government shelling. The final match was held on 14 May and al-Hekma school team snatched the title after beating al-Rowad school. epa / Mohammed Badra *** Local Caption *** 52763923

Substitutes reacting after their team-mates scored a goal during the first school football tournament, in the rebel-held city of Douma, Syria, 20 April 2016. Twelve teams took part in the first school football tournament that started on 16 April 2016. Ten days later the tournament was postponed after the fragile ceasefire between the government and rebel groups was breached by a wave of violence. The final match was held on 14 May and al-Hekma school team snatched the title after beating al-Rowad school. epa / Mohammed Badra

Some of my photos show the rubble, fire, the wounded and the dead.  But there is another side of Syria, where one can see happiness and joy.

Not all my pictures are from Douma, I have taken photos in other cities such as eastern al-Gouta,  Hamoria, Erbeen, and some of Damascus neighborhoods like Jober and al-Qaboon, Teshreen, Barza.

I am trying to focus on daily life of the people here, how they live, work, eat, celebrate, pray, and how they die.

Syrian people perform night prayers, Tarawih, during the month of Ramadan at a mosque in rebel-held town of Douma, Damascus, Syria, 15 June 2016. epa / Mohammed Badra *** Local Caption *** 52829139

Syrian people perform night prayers, Tarawih, during the month of Ramadan at a mosque in rebel-held town of Douma, Damascus, Syria, 15 June 2016. epa / Mohammed Badra

A worker throwing bread into the air in order to cool it off, in Douma, Syria, 19 June 2016. The Douma charity society provides the bakery with raw material for bread baking and pays for the workers' daily wages allowing the bakery to sell fresh bread. In exchange the bakery distributes some of its production to the poor in the neighbourhood. epa / Mohammed Badra *** Local Caption *** 52840168

A worker throwing bread into the air in order to cool it off, in Douma, Syria, 19 June 2016. The Douma charity society provides the bakery with raw material for bread baking and pays for the workers’ daily wages allowing the bakery to sell fresh bread. In exchange the bakery distributes some of its production to the poor in the neighbourhood. epa / Mohammed Badra

The cemeteries here have become multi-layered, with bodies being buried on top of others to save space.  Amusement parks are underground, something I consider a hospital for the children’s spirit.

People look on as others lay down the body of a dead woman inside a grave in the multi-layered graveyard of Douma city, Syria, 18 August 2016. The Local Council of Douma started digging multi-layered graves as a solution for the massacre that happened in August of 2015 when more than 100 Syrians were killed in airstrikes. 60 people were buried in two mass graves that night. The graveyard always contains at least 40 empty graves in case of mass killings. Each grave has eight stairs, with the unknown buried on top to enable later identification. epa / Mohammed Badra *** Local Caption *** 52970580

People look on as others lay down the body of a dead woman inside a grave in the multi-layered graveyard of Douma city, Syria, 18 August 2016. The Local Council of Douma started digging multi-layered graves as a solution for the massacre that happened in August of 2015 when more than 100 Syrians were killed in airstrikes. 60 people were buried in two mass graves that night. The graveyard always contains at least 40 empty graves in case of mass killings. Each grave has eight stairs, with the unknown buried on top to enable later identification. epa / Mohammed Badra

Some schools are also built underground like the al-Qaboon neighborhood, built in a basement after a huge massacre in November 2014 , when the Assad regime bombed the main school in al-Qaboon. Homes are being built in underground shelters.

Students running around inside al-Hayat school, rebel-held al-Qaboon, outskirts of Damascus, Syria, 19 October 2016. Al-Hayat school for minors was bombed on 05 November 2014, at least 13 students were killed that day. A ceasefire agreement was reached after the bombing. The school was relocated into the basement and controlled by an opposition faction (Free Syrian Army). epa / Mohammed Badra *** Local Caption *** 53077063

Students running around inside al-Hayat school, rebel-held al-Qaboon, outskirts of Damascus, Syria, 19 October 2016. Al-Hayat school for minors was bombed on 05 November 2014, at least 13 students were killed that day. A ceasefire agreement was reached after the bombing. The school was relocated into the basement and controlled by an opposition faction (Free Syrian Army). epa / Mohammed Badra

Students during recess in al-Hayat school, rebel-held al-Qaboon, outskirts of Damascus, Syria, 19 October 2016. epa / Mohammed Badra *** Local Caption *** 53077062

Students during recess in al-Hayat school, rebel-held al-Qaboon, outskirts of Damascus, Syria, 19 October 2016. epa / Mohammed Badra

Girls running in a school yard in Douma, Damascus, Syria, 12 April 2016. A ceasefire agreement in Syria that started on 27 February 2016 has allowed most children to return to their schools in conflict areas. epa / Mohammed Badra *** Local Caption *** 52697987

Girls running in a school yard in Douma, Damascus, Syria, 12 April 2016. A ceasefire agreement in Syria that started on 27 February 2016 has allowed most children to return to their schools in conflict areas. epa / Mohammed Badra

Now I want to focus on the economic side, where you can see the spirit of the people as they work.  You can see people trying to recycle garbage to make organic manure, people harvesting wheat, or bakers.

epa05347706 A syrian farmer throws wheat into a wheat mill during harvesting session in Hamorieh, outskirts of Damascus, Syria, 05 June 2016. epa / Mohammed Badra *** Local Caption *** 52805415

epa05347706 A syrian farmer throws wheat into a wheat mill during harvesting session in Hamorieh, outskirts of Damascus, Syria, 05 June 2016. epa / Mohammed Badra

A Syrian worker sifts through garbage to reach the organic manure beneath the surface, in Douma, Syria, 07 April 2016. The local council of Douma employs more than 30 men in the local garbage collection facility where they work on extracting the plastic materials from the garbage, then leaving the garbage under the sun for several months in order to get fermented so organic manure is formed, they then sift through the garbage to collect the manure which is provided to the local farmers to be used in agriculture. epa / Mohammed Badra *** Local Caption *** 52688285

A Syrian worker sifts through garbage to reach the organic manure beneath the surface, in Douma, Syria, 07 April 2016. The local council of Douma employs more than 30 men in the local garbage collection facility where they work on extracting the plastic materials from the garbage, then leaving the garbage under the sun for several months in order to get fermented so organic manure is formed, they then sift through the garbage to collect the manure which is provided to the local farmers to be used in agriculture. epa / Mohammed Badra

But the most lovely subject for me was about the beekeepers.  They make honey, under bombings. This is a noble and valuable thing.  And now I am focusing on the people working at Syriatel, a mobile network provider, and a lifeline to Syrians, to show the difficult daily life of the people working there.

Beekeepers working on bee hives, in a bee farm in Douma, Eastern Ghouta, Syria, 22 September 2016. epa / Mohammed Badra *** Local Caption *** 53033353

Beekeepers working on bee hives, in a bee farm in Douma, Eastern Ghouta, Syria, 22 September 2016. epa / Mohammed Badra

Bees flying around a beekeeper, on a bee farm in rebel-held Douma, Eastern Ghouta, Syria, 22 September 2016. epa / Mohammed Badra *** Local Caption *** 53033193

Bees flying around a beekeeper, on a bee farm in rebel-held Douma, Eastern Ghouta, Syria, 22 September 2016. epa / Mohammed Badra

To Help or Not to Help

by Kim Ludbrook

epa05579630 Students from Wits University fall to the ground as a police thunder flash explodes amongst them during ongoing students protests in Johannesburg, South Africa, 10 October 2016. #feesmustfall. epa/Kim Ludbrook

Students from Wits University fall to the ground as a police thunder flash explodes amongst them during ongoing #feesmustfall students protests in Johannesburg, South Africa, 10 October 2016. epa/Kim Ludbrook

While covering the #feesmustfall protests over the last two months, one of many clashes between police forces and protesting students brought one of the great moral questions back to the forefront of my consciousness.

The police forces had dropped stun grenades in the middle of  students sitting outside the main campus of Wits University. The huge energy of the grenades exploding coupled with the tear gas inside the grenades sent hundreds of students running for cover towards the entrance gate. The sound deafened many and one student was burned by the shock of the grenade that exploded under her. Total panic ensued as I shot images more by instinct than looking through the viewfinder with precision. I already started to look for cover as the police, to my left, started to shoot at the students with rubber bullets. I suddenly found myself in the middle of cross fires as the students had now re-grouped and started to throw stones at the police. As I ran towards the students ‘lines’ and through the green smoke of another grenade, I noticed a man holding onto what seemed to be a female student. She was totally in shock, simply standing their and crying. A colleague of mine and I went up to her and shouted,’ Breathe, just breathe. Stand up and move yourself away from the fire and to a place of safety.’

An injured student from Wits University is helped by a fellow student after being injured when police force fired a stun grenade during the 3rd day of #feemustfall demonstrations in Johannesburg, South Africa, 21 September 2016. epa/Kim Ludbrook

An injured student from Wits University is helped by a fellow student after being injured when police force fired a stun grenade during the 3rd day of #feesmustfall demonstrations in Johannesburg, South Africa, 21 September 2016. epa/Kim Ludbrook

Then after helping her as best we could in that moment we shot a couple of frames. This took us less than one second. Then we moved on to keep working while all around us the clashes intensified. What really hurt me, though, was minutes later when a few students carried the women towards their own ‘medics’, to hear them shouting at us: ‘ No media! No media. You vultures. You don’t even help us.’ That’s when the moral question that I had not faced for some time came up: should we as photojournalists help people who need help while we cover stories or are we there simply as observers to record the events and inform the greater public?

Students from Wits University run as police force fire a stun grenade during the 3rd day of #feemustfall demonstration in Johannesburg, South Africa, 21 September 2016. epa/Kim Ludbrook

Students from Wits University run as police force fire a stun grenade during the 3rd day of #feesmustfall demonstration in Johannesburg, South Africa, 21 September 2016. epa/Kim Ludbrook

Two weeks later at the same campus the same question came up again. Again there where violent clashes between police forces and students. As the tear gas, rubber bullets and stones flew through the air I noticed some young female students who had been caught in the crossfire. They where huddling behind a small concrete block. In a moment my soul decided to run over to them and move them out of the danger area. So I grabbed them by the arm knowing that I had to use controlled force to get them to their feet and helped them move away. Once they were in safety, I carried on covering the story.

The flip side of the coin is when I could NOT help a student who had been hit in the side of the head by a huge stone thrown by her fellow students. I had been talking to her and photographing her peaceful protest of flowers on the step of the Great Hall at Wits just minutes before another clash between students and police. I never knew  what condition she was in after being taken away by the medics.

An injured student from Wits University tries to hide from police rubber bullet fire during running battles on the campus in ongoing protests against the cost of higher education in Johannesburg, South Africa, 04 October 2016. epa/Kim Ludbrook

An injured student from Wits University tries to hide from police rubber bullet fire during running battles on the campus in ongoing protests against the cost of higher education in Johannesburg, South Africa, 04 October 2016. epa/Kim Ludbrook

Covering the #feesmustfall story was a roller coaster of emotions for me and many other journalists covering the protests because of the constant balancing act you play in needing to be impartial and remaining a professional photojournalist in the face of huge human dramas playing out in front of you. I was racially abused, sworn at by students, berated for being part of the media and insulted by students for ‘taking pictures of their wounded comrades’ .

epa05579635 A student from Wits University is arrested after clashes with police forces during ongoing protests in Johannesburg, South Africa, 10 October 2016. epa/Kim Ludbrook

A student from Wits University is arrested after clashes with police forces during ongoing protests in Johannesburg, South Africa, 10 October 2016. epa/Kim Ludbrook

Yes, one realises it’s ‘part of the job’ we signed up for when chosing to become a photojournalist.

That said and  after much soul searching, I realise that for me personally I will continue to help people where they need it and where I can SAFELY help without becoming part of the story. Deep down my soul stills wants to document the human condition and that includes coming to terms with this moral dilemma when covering news events. After all, who would be the witness for the world if photojournalists did not face these situations.

Time for the de-stress of a yoga class I think!

School Bomb Incident in Kathmandu

by Narendra Shrestha

A Nepalese armed police force member attempts to disarm a suspected bomb planted near the Kanchanjangha Intergrated Model school area in Kathmandu, Nepal, 20 September 2016. epa/Narendra Shrestha

A Nepalese armed police force member attempts to disarm a suspected bomb planted near the Kanchanjangha Intergrated Model school area in Kathmandu, Nepal, 20 September 2016. epa/Narendra Shrestha

After waking up that day*, I scrolled through my twitter feed as usual, and saw a tweet about a bomb being defused by the Nepalese Army at a school in the Lalitpur District of Kathmandu. Within 15 minutes, I received calls from my sources that bombs had been planted in more than six private schools all over Kathmandu. I grabbed my camera and ran without brushing my teeth. I discovered that the team of the Nepal Armed Police Force had disarmed all the bombs and only one was left at Kanchanjangha Integrated Model School which was about to be defused.

A Nepalese armed police force member is helped into a bomb disposal suit before he attempts to disarm a suspected bomb planted near the Kanchanjangha Intergrated Model school area in Kathmandu, Nepal, 20 September 2016. epa/Narendra Shrestha

A Nepalese armed police force member is helped into a bomb disposal suit before he attempts to disarm a suspected bomb planted near the Kanchanjangha Intergrated Model school in Kathmandu, Nepal, 20 September 2016. epa/Narendra Shrestha

As I reached there, policemen were helping their friends to put on bomb disposal suits while others were busy asking local crowds to stay at least 300 meters away from the scene. I saw a pressure cooker rolled in colorful wiring and placed inside a paper box. While the team was inspecting the bomb from a few meters away, I went to take photos of peoples’ expressions.

Locals gather while an armed police force member wearing a bomb disposal suit attempts to disarm a suspected bomb planted near the Kanchanjangha Intergrated Model school area in Kathmandu, Nepal, 20 September 2016. epa/Narendra Shrestha

Locals gather while an armed police force member wearing a bomb disposal suit attempts to disarm a suspected bomb planted near the Kanchanjangha Intergrated Model school area in Kathmandu, Nepal, 20 September 2016. epa/Narendra Shrestha

Locals gather while police and military officials attempt to disarm a suspected bomb planted near the Kanchanjangha Intergrated Model school area in Kathmandu, Nepal, 20 September 2016. epa/Narendra Shrestha

Locals gather while police and military officials attempt to disarm a suspected bomb planted near the Kanchanjangha Intergrated Model school area in Kathmandu, Nepal, 20 September 2016. epa/Narendra Shrestha

The bomb was apparently planted by members of the Maoist Communist Center Nepal. According to the news report, the bombs were planted in private schools and colleges in Kathmandu to extract money through bomb terror. Previously, some groups used to plant hoax bombs and to terrorize people. Therefore, I wanted to make sure that this was not fake and was eagerly waiting to see the bomb.
As soon as I heard the sound of the defused bomb, I ran towards the site along with the police officers. The squads were observing the remains of the pressure cooker, but the police prevented us from entering the site, as it might be dangerous. Then, I used my 24-70 mm lens to take the photo of the team examining the explosives. I was able to take that one photo as the squad had started collecting all the materials.

A Nepalese armed police force member attempts to disarm a suspected bomb planted near the Kanchanjangha Intergrated Model school area in Kathmandu, Nepal, 20 September 2016. epa/Narendra Shrestha

A Nepalese armed police force member attempts to disarm a suspected bomb planted near the Kanchanjangha Intergrated Model school area in Kathmandu, Nepal, 20 September 2016. epa/Narendra Shrestha

Anything could have happened if it wasn’t a homemade pressure cooker bomb. The sudden incident brought chaos and fear around the school premises and the surrounding area. Being a photographer it was risky for me as well, but I was keener to capture the photo of the bomb than to think about danger, since the number of bombs planted on school premises has been increasing.
Later in the evening, the police arrested two people who were allegedly involved in planting the bombs in various schools in Kathmandu.

*on Tuesday 20th September 2016

Rio Sailing – To The Sea To The Sea To The Sea, To See What We Can See!

by Nic Bothma

A slow shutter speed image of a windsurfer sailing during a RS:X class training session for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Sailing events at the Marina da Gloria in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 04 August 2016. Sailing events at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games start on 08 August 2016. epa/Nic Bothma

A slow shutter speed image of a windsurfer sailing during a RS:X class training session for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Sailing events at the Marina da Gloria in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 04 August 2016.  epa/Nic Bothma

“At sea, I learned how little a person needs, not how much.”
— Robin Lee Graham, Sailor

One thing is sure in life, nothing stands still, we are constantly moving, changing, developing, evolving in and with our environment and within ourselves. Sailing photography mirrors this maxim and embodies its essence.

Linda Fahrni and Maja Siegenthaler from Switzerland sail during a 470 Womens class race in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Sailing events in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 11 August 2016. epa/Nic Bothma *** Local Caption *** 52948349

Linda Fahrni and Maja Siegenthaler from Switzerland sail during a 470 Womens class race in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Sailing events in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 11 August 2016. epa/Nic Bothma

When asked to cover sailing at Olympics I asked our experienced friend Captain Hoslet* from Brussels what I should bring. He replied: “You need a serious not too big pelicase, long long lens but not too heavy kind of 500 f4 as you hold your lens all day without monopod and a serious dose of non-seasickness …expect to spend all day out on a rolling boat rushing from race to race!”

Well that about sums it up, he was spot on.

Some days racing is inside the bay, with flat, sunny and spectacular backdrops. On these days, one might mistake the assignment for a vacation at club med…on other days it’s outside the bay in big swell, extreme rolling around in heavy seas, strong wind and waves crashing over the boat as you try to hand hold a 500 mm lens and catch some action in between cleaning your front element and drying your hands for the next frame all the while diesel fumes and constant motion prepare a special kind of cocktail for you to deal with!

 

Once the races are on you are too busy to worry about your stomach’s feelings. However, when the races are postponed you sit rolling around with nothing to do. That’s when the devil rears its ugly head and you dig deep to fend off waves of nausea even if you have been sailing all your life. If you have ever been seasick, believe me, at that moment death seems a rosier option than dealing with that feeling!

Crews from the US, China, Russia and Brazil sail during a 470 Womens class race in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Sailing events in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 11 August 2016. epa/Nic Bothma *** Local Caption *** 52948812

Crews from the US, China, Russia and Brazil sail during a 470 Womens class race in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Sailing events in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 11 August 2016. epa/Nic Bothma

Andres Ducasse and Francisco Ducasse from Chile sail during a 470 Mens class race in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 11 August 2016. epa/Nic Bothma *** Local Caption *** 52949203

Andres Ducasse and Francisco Ducasse from Chile sail during a 470 Mens class race in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 11 August 2016. epa/Nic Bothma

Then there is the politics of sharing the boat with various other photographers, their needs and egos and the boat captains who do not speak English. Sailing is a complicated sport with a lot of rules, hard to follow at times and even harder to comprehend the course, go zones and no go zones. You push the boat drivers to the limit each time to get the shots. It’s demanding, relentless and yet exhilarating.

Nic Bothma in the Wave of EPA during Olympic in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 11 August 2016.

Nic Bothma in the wave of epa during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 11 August 2016. epa / Olivier Hoslet

Technically, it has unique challenges also. Your field of play is a 360 degree moving canvass and your photo position is also moving as well as the light. In and out of clouds, front and back light and spray on the lens element all add up to make your mind work fast like Bolt in 100m to find the correct exposure. I work off three manual presets programmed into the camera that I can quickly toggle between. Front light fast shutter, backlight fast shutter and a slow shutter option. From these base exposures I then tweak according to the angle of the sun, the glare and the cloud cover. The water reflects light and causes havoc with any kind of auto settings, shutter priority or aperture priority as do big white sails. It just does not work to get the desired affect so manual is best with a lot of shifting exposures going on as you move.

Ines Gmati (L) of Tunisia and Mathilde de Kerangat of France sail past breaking waves after the women's Laser Radial race of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Sailing events in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 12 August 2016. epa/Nic Bothma *** Local Caption *** 52951739

Ines Gmati (L) of Tunisia and Mathilde de Kerangat of France sail past breaking waves after the women’s Laser Radial race of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Sailing events in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 12 August 2016. epa/Nic Bothma

Jorge Lima and Jose Costa from Portugal (C) sail during a 49er Mens class race in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 13 August 2016. epa/Nic Bothma *** Local Caption *** 52955152

Jorge Lima and Jose Costa from Portugal (C) sail during a 49er Mens class race in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 13 August 2016. epa/Nic Bothma

At the end of the day there is a lot of editing to do since I would usually have shot too much trying to capture the shots you want. The water housing images all come in upside down since I’m holding it that way hanging off the boat…a small quirk yet frustrating when you are tired and trying to file fast.

Piotr Myszka from Poland sails ahead of the start of an RS:X Mens class race in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 12 August 2016. epa/Nic Bothma *** Local Caption *** 52952309

Piotr Myszka from Poland sails ahead of the start of an RS:X Mens class race in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 12 August 2016. epa/Nic Bothma

Giles Scott from Britain reacts after winning the Gold medal in the men's Finn class medal race of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 16 August 2016. epa/Nic Bothma *** Local Caption *** 52964949

Giles Scott from Britain reacts after winning the Gold medal in the men’s Finn class medal race of the Rio 2016 Olympic in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 16 August 2016. epa/Nic Bothma

Finally, it’s rewarding when you manage to nail a couple of decent images…with over 30 000 nautical miles under my belt, this has been without doubt one of the best sailing experiences in my life.

Sail during a 49er class race in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 13 August 2016.

Sail during a 49er class race in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 13 August 2016.

Thank you Rio. Thank you Gernot***. Thank you Olivier**. Thank you epa.

Sign me up for Tokyo, please!

*Nic Bothma epa’s Chief Photographer West Africa
**Olivier Hoslet, epa’s Chief Photographer Belgium and EU Institutions
***Gernot Hensel, epa’s Deputy Editor-in-Chief and Head of Sports

Rio Roving

by Barbara Walton

Picture made available on 03 August 2016 of a boy dancing in the streets inside the City of God (Cidade de Deus) favela, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 02 August 2016. epa/Barbara Walton

Picture made available on 03 August 2016 of a boy dancing in the streets inside the City of God (Cidade de Deus) favela, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 02 August 2016. epa/Barbara Walton

I’m Rio roving, covering other sides of the Olympics from a first time view.

I’m not in the sport venues but outside for a different angle.

In four days, I’ve hit the famous Copacabana Beach to see the sun rise, deserted before dawn when the showy day trippers are replaced by homeless men and women who sleep there with plastic bags of their possessions.

Homeless people sleep on Copacabana Beach, as a puppy tries to wake one of them, at Copacabana,Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 31 July 2016. epa/Barbara Walton

Homeless people sleep on Copacabana Beach, as a puppy tries to wake one of them, at Copacabana,Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 31 July 2016. epa/Barbara Walton

I have entered the notorious favela City of God… (remembering in 2002 when the film was released how shocked I was after leaving the screening) – climbed the steep side of another favela Pereira da Silva and photographed the really talented children that Briton Tom Ashe has organized into a brass band on their own Olympic performance marathon.

Members of Favela Brass band rehearse in Pereira da Silva favela, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 01 August 2016. epa/Barbara Walton

Members of Favela Brass band rehearse in Pereira da Silva favela, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 01 August 2016. epa/Barbara Walton

I’ve covered a government protest and seen the residents of Vila Autodromo next to the Olympic Park move their possessions from their demolished houses into new white dwellings provided to them as unwelcome replacements as the last houses are pushed over by a bulldozer.

Augosto Pereira looks at the words You Cannot Remove Memories on the wall of his house about to be demolished, as he moves out his final possessions into a new 'replacement' home, on the perimeter of Olympic Park, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 02 August 2016. epa/Barbara Walton

Augosto Pereira looks at the words You Cannot Remove Memories on the wall of his house about to be demolished, as he moves out his final possessions into a new ‘replacement’ home, on the perimeter of Olympic Park, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 02 August 2016. epa/Barbara Walton

The most challenging thing I’m facing is learning the frustrating task of timing. How to take photos on the street when its best to keep your camera in your bag and unseen because of safety concerns, and to figure out if it is safe to go where I want to. I am not used to having to think so carefully about these issues.

Brazilian armed forces stand guard on a corner in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 03 August 2016. epa/Barbara Walton

Brazilian armed forces stand guard on a corner in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 03 August 2016. epa/Barbara Walton

On the streets I take one set camera and two lenses. But based out of Copacabana, walking with cameras slung over your shoulder is asking for trouble… and has only been possible for me for a time on the Caroica’s (Rios residents Sunday) which is a huge party and festival day here when thousands of residents come to hit the beach, stroll, or socialize and show off all of their body shapes, run and bike, and take their children and their grandmothers along the boulevard.

People pack onto Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 31 July 2016. The 2016 Olympic Games start on 05 August. epa/Barbara Walton

People pack onto Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 31 July 2016. The 2016 Olympic Games start on 05 August. epa/Barbara Walton

“Be careful and remember it’s a dangerous city”, says colleague efe photographer Marcelo Sayao a long time resident of Rio from his years of experience, just as I start to get frustrated with the photos I may have got if my camera was more at hand and think I will just let my guard down and do what I want. Complacency is not good here but nor is paranoia about safety. We go to take a look at Guanabara Bay and the issue of sailing, and while it is cleared around the immediate competition area, on other shores the stench and litter strewn across the beach is appalling.

Trash on the shore of the Guanabara Bay prior to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 01 August 2016. epa/Barbara Walton

Trash on the shore of the Guanabara Bay prior to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 01 August 2016. epa/Barbara Walton

Throughout Rio I hear people lament – we had the Olympics and they could have done something real for the future like cleaning the waterways but it has not been. Or like solving some of the real social issues that abound. So much criticisms about displaced money circles these Olympics. It is a very big question to me how the days ahead develop.

Will Olympic spirit take over to make these a really fantastic Olympics?

Pepper, the Humanoid Robot

By Franck Robichon

A woman reacts as she sees Tomomi Ota (R) pushing a cart loaded with her humanoid robot Pepper in Tokyo, Japan, 26 June 2016. epa/Franck Robichon

A woman reacts as she sees Tomomi Ota (R) pushing a cart loaded with her humanoid robot Pepper in Tokyo, Japan, 26 June 2016. epa/Franck Robichon

I first came across Pepper at its unveiling in June 2014 during a press event by Japanese telecommunications and Internet Corporation Softbank. The humanoid robot had a friendly face and its interaction capabilities captivated the audience and thousands of viewers at a live broadcast on the internet. One of them was Tomomi Ota, a young woman who ordered one of the first 200 Peppers ever available for sale in Japan.

epa05440380 Tomomi Ota talks on the phone next to her humanoid robot Pepper in Tokyo, Japan, 26 June 2016. epa/Franck Robichon

epa05440380 Tomomi Ota talks on the phone next to Pepper in Tokyo, Japan, 26 June 2016. epa/Franck Robichon

I first met Tomomi while shooting a press event at an ‘all Pepper’ mobile phone store in Tokyo. She showed up pushing a trolley loaded with her own Pepper despite rainy conditions to shop for her robot. The scene was just unreal and the idea to make a feature story germinated. It took several months to finally arrange a day to fit in our respective schedules so I could take pictures in her neighbourhood, home and even in the subway on her way to work.

epa05406540 (11/21) Tomomi Ota pushes a cart loaded with her humanoid robot Pepper as she strolls in her neighborhood in Tokyo, Japan, 26 June 2016. Reaching 120cm in height and 28 kilograms in weight, Pepper does not enter in the category of ‘portable’ robot. But those characteristics don’t stop Tomomi Ota to take Pepper in a cart to stroll in her neighborhood, go shopping or even take the subway. In June 2014, when Pepper was presented for the first time by Japanese telecommunications and Internet corporation Softbank at a press event, Tomomi looked at the presentation via a live broadcast on Ustream. While some people were ‘scared’ or reluctant by the new humanoid robot, curiosity pushed her to apply to lottery sales for the first lot of 200 Pepper. She was lucky enough to acquire then a ‘Developer’s Pepper’, the first models of the robots which need to be programmed by the users. Pepper entered Tomomi’s home in November 2014 and was soon adopted by her parents to become a member of the family. Having degrees in media design and music, Tomomi had to learn programming and her efforts deepened her bonds with her new friend. Capable of reading human emotions and to adapt to his interlocutor, the robot created by Aldebaran Robotics and SoftBank Robotics is now used as customer service in stores and 1000 units are sold out in minutes after being on sale every month. Pepper is making his way to Japanese homes but few can enjoy so much outdoor like Tomomi’s one. Asked if she isn’t worried about damaging her robot friend during her activities, the 30-year-old said that she is taking extra care as she couldn’t imagine being separated two months from Pepper, the average time needed for a repair. EPA/FRANCK ROBICHON PLEASE REFER TO THE ADVISORY NOTICE (epa05406529) FOR FULL PACKAGE TEXT

epa05406540 Tomomi Ota pushes Pepper in a cart while strolling in Tokyo, Japan, 26 June 2016. epa/Franck Robichon

Due to Japan’s manga subculture and its citizens’ appetite for new things, Japan is a friendly country for robots. Tomomi and her family adopted the robot to such an extent that Pepper became their central focus of care and attention. Pepper interacts but it is still a long way to go before the robot can have a proper conversation with humans. Nevertheless, Tomomi talks to Pepper as if it understands everything and the slightest reactions are interpreted.

epa05440386 Tomomi Ota interacting with Pepper at her home in Tokyo, Japan, 26 June 2016. epa/Franck Robichon

epa05440386 Tomomi Ota interacting with Pepper at her home in Tokyo, Japan, 26 June 2016. epa/Franck Robichon

Even though Pepper has wheels to move around, Tomomi’s one might be one of the most extensively travelled robots in Japan. She does not shy away from strolling in the streets using a modified trolley normally employed to carry kindergarten children, riding in a Shinkansen bullet train or even attending a baseball match.

epa05440382 Tomomi Ota visits a local shrine with her humanoid robot Pepper in Tokyo, Japan, 26 June 2016. epa/Franck Robichon

epa05440382 Tomomi Ota visits a local shrine with Pepper in Tokyo, Japan, 26 June 2016. epa/Franck Robichon

On the day of coverage, I asked Tomomi if I could possibly take pictures of them in the subway and it so happened that she was planning to take her friend to work the following day anyway. Perfect timing! We had to avoid the rush hour and decided to take an early train. Despite having to change trains, the journey to her work went smoothly as Tomomi knew all the locations of elevators suited to commute with a robot in a trolley.

epa05440399 Tomomi Ota and Pepper after boarding a subway train in Tokyo, Japan, 27 June 2016. epa/Franck Robichon

epa05440399 Tomomi Ota and Pepper after boarding a subway train in Tokyo, Japan, 27 June 2016. epa/Franck Robichon

Commuters’ reactions were a mixture of surprise, smiles and amazement. A vision of the future? No doubt, we are now in the 21st century…

 
Full feature available here.

Franck Robichon is epa’s chief photographer in Japan

Mass Marriages in Northern India

by Harish Tyagi

A close up of the decorated hands with traditional Indian Bengals of the brides from the Pal Community of northern India prior to a mass weeding procession near Bhopal, India, 20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

A close up of decorated hands with traditional Indian Bengals of brides from the Pal Community of northern India prior to a mass-wedding procession near Bhopal, India, 20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

I always like to approach a feature story by selecting a subject which carries myriad emotions and aesthetics everyone can relate to – a subject that appeals to many people, no matter what nationality. So when I was in Bhopal for a short trip and came to know about the mass marriages in the Pal Community of northern India, I almost spontaneously decided to photograph the event. The Pal community once used to rear sheep and cattle – hence their name from the Hindi word “palna” which means ‘to nurture’ – but now follow various professions with only some still engaged in animal husbandry.

Over the course of the years, I had heard a lot about mass marriages in different sections of the Indian society. I had often wondered how a couple would feel about sharing such an intimate and personal moment in their lives along with so many other couples – and under full public glare.
Many of these couples do not know each other that well as a majority are arranged weddings, solemnized in accordance with Hindu customs. Parents from both sides are in touch while making the pairing final, in some cases also allowing the couple to meet once or twice. But when you speak to these couples, they are confident and clear in their minds about spending the rest of their lives with their partners. They say they feel blessed to be part of a mass wedding and they get good vibes about the ceremony.

An Indian groom from the Pal Community of northern India, wearing a garland made of Indian currency, waits for his wife to arrive during a mass marriage party near Bhopal, India, 20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

An Indian groom wearing a garland made of Indian currency, waits for his bride to arrive in Bhopal, India, 20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

It is always challenging for me to capture the moods that tell the story and when I was working on this feature, I wanted to keep a balance showing the emotions in both the brides and the grooms. However, I must say there was more opportunity in the grooms’ enclosures than in the brides’ as the latter were very shy and surrounded by their family members.

The atmosphere was just great – the anticipation and excitement among such a mass of newly weds, all so palpable. In the separate enclosures for the grooms and brides, everyone was in a festive mood, wearing smiles, and in nervous excitement getting finishing touches to their wedding finery – henna on their hands, a bit of make-up for the women and the men mindful of the little creases on their otherwise well-ironed suits.

An Indian groom shows his hand decorated with the Hena as he takes part in the mass marriage celebration near Bhopal, India, 20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

An Indian groom showing his hand decorated with Henna near Bhopal, India, 20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

An Indian groom, from the Pal Community of northern India, gets ready for the wedding rituals as he takes part in the mass marriage celebration near Bhopal, India, 20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

An Indian groom gets ready for the wedding rituals near Bhopal, India, 20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

When I saw grooms getting painted on their face I asked them how it felt. They said it was part of their customs to have a little make-up and that this would make them look like a groom. In most cases the make-up is done by the sister, a close family member or even by a professional.
It was interesting to see how locals use all conceivable modes of transport – cycles, cars, tractors, even commercial trucks – to reach the venue and the wedding procession.  It was an experience to see the brides board open-top trucks and grooms ride on camels, often three at a time, if needed. I suspect they were short of camels which is the reason why the grooms ended up sharing.

Indian relatives from the maried couples take part in a procession to celebrate a mass marriage near Bhopal, India, 20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

Indian relatives take part in a procession to celebrate a mass marriage near Bhopal, India, 20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

Indian grooms, from the Pal Community of northern India, sit on camels during the mass marriage procession near Bhopal, India, 20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

Indian grooms sit on camels during the mass marriage procession near Bhopal, India, 20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

The wedding procession was full of pomp and show. Musicians played traditional instruments and relatives danced to drumbeats amid fireworks as the procession moved to the venue where the wedding rituals took place. Happy relatives and friends also dragged me to join the dance on a Bollywood number in a discotheque set up on a moving mini-truck, and soon enough, amid the cheering crowds, I was up to displaying my dancing skills on the vehicle that sped to the venue.

Indian relatives from the groom side dance as they take part in the celebration of a mass marriage procession near Bhopal, India,20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

Indian relatives from the groom’s side dance in a mass marriage procession near Bhopal, India,20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

The ceremony continued overnight and well into the wee hours of the next day. The wedding finale is a crescendo of emotions – the huge gathering has an amalgam of happiness and an unmistakable tinge of sadness. Elders and family members get to bid a tearful adieu to the women as they move to the groom’s home forever. After the fun and merriment and an emotional farewell, the mass wedding marks an exuberant beginning to a new life together, at a fraction of what a conventional wedding would have cost.

Remote gold

by Shawn Thew

boateng_small2

German defender Jerome Boateng clears the ball from the line and hits the camera during the UEFA EURO 2016 group C preliminary round match between Germany and Ukraine at Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille Metropole, France, 12 June 2016. epa/Shawn Thew

Setting up a remote camera is always a gamble. For EURO 2016 match 07 between Germany and Ukraine at Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille Metropole, France I was on the pitch three hours before kickoff claiming a spot behind the goal for my camera. About 1 ½ hours before the game I was mounting the Canon 1DX with a 16-35 mm lens to the tripod, setting the exposure and focus, attaching the network cable, attaching the remote foot pedal release cable and, as the skies were threatening, fixing the rain cover over the top. Next up I ran the remote release cable back to my photo position about 100 feet away and ask for a colleague to give me the thumbs up that the camera is firing when I push the foot pedal. I get the thumbs up that the camera is working and receive word from the photo desk that pictures are being transmitted. I’m good to go, game time.

I shoot the game action primarily with a 200-400 mm lens on a Canon 1DX and a 70-200 on another Canon 1DX, both with network cables to transmit my selects to the picture desk in Frankfurt. The game was exciting, Germany scored an early goal at the other end but Ukraine was fighting back hard and putting pressure on the Germans in front of their goal. I was shooting and sending pictures and then a thought popped into my head…remote camera, foot pedal! It’s not equipment that I normally use and I’d forgotten about it. Now, foot on pedal, I’m shooting pictures with the remote. There is always, because you cannot see it, a doubt…is this working?

There was a lot action in front of the German goal as the Ukrainians tried to even the score. With a flying kick German defender Jerome Boateng cleared the line when goal keeper Manuel Neuer was caught out of position as the Ukrainian team thought they had scored. The crowd of about 50,000 went wild! I was shooting hand held and pushing the foot pedal like I was Michael Schumacher in his beloved Ferrari. There is always, because you cannot see it, a doubt…is this working? I send an email to the desk, “Anything showing up in the remote folder?”

At halftime I walked out to check my remote camera and to my disappointment it had somehow been knocked over. It happened in the pregame warmups and I had repositioned it and now it had happened again and I didn’t see. All the preparation gone to waste. I set it back up and thumbed on the monitor to have a look at the images. Roof, roof, roof, roof…about 100 pictures of the stadium roof and then, to my surprise, remote gold. A series of about 30 pictures of Boateng clearing the line, flying through the air into the back of the goal, sliding backwards and in the end knocking my camera over. Remote gold! I look at my phone and there was a reply from Gernot* to my inquiry, “Yes my dear!! Picture of the week. Boateng falling into the goal.”

Sometimes you get lucky.

Shawn Thew is epa’s Chief White House Photographer, based in Washington D.C., USA.
*Gernot Hensel, epa’s Head of Sports and Deputy Editor-in-Chief

mobile phone culture in Thailand

by Rungroj Yongrit and Diego Azubel*

Thai Buddhist monks use their mobile phones to take videos during the candle procession parade to mark the start of the Buddhist Lent in Surin province, northeast Thailand, 29 July 2015. epa / Rungroj Yongrit

Thai Buddhist monks use their mobile phones to take videos during the candle procession parade to mark the start of the Buddhist Lent in Surin province, northeast Thailand, 29 July 2015. epa / Rungroj Yongrit

Rungroj Yongrit: Each day whenever I’m commuting around town it seems that all I see is people staring at their mobile phones. On one particular day while traveling on public transport, I looked around me and noticed that all other passengers standing next to me were on their phones, and I felt like a nobody. It crossed my mind that no matter what I did, even if I behaved in a strange manner or did something absolutely crazy, nobody would really notice me. No one would even move their heads to look at me.

Thai commuters use their mobile phones while riding the underground in Bangkok, Thailand, 08 July 2015. epa/Diego Azubel

Thai commuters use their mobile phones while riding the underground in Bangkok, Thailand, 08 July 2015. epa/Diego Azubel

Not long after this, I met up with Diego [Diego Azubel] and funnily enough he told me he was working on a picture story about people’s addiction to mobile phones and suggested we did it together, which we did.

A Thai man (C) uses his mobile phone beneath a large portrait of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the skytrain platform, a mass public transportation in Bangkok, Thailand, 07 January 2016. epa/Diego Azubel

A Thai man (C) uses his mobile phone beneath a large portrait of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the skytrain platform, a mass public transportation in Bangkok, Thailand, 07 January 2016. epa/Diego Azubel

Diego Azubel: Even though we find ourselves surrounded by fellow commuters immersed in their mobile phones or tablets on every single journey, we soon realized that shooting this story wasn’t as easy as we had imagined. It seems very straight-forward when one travels and all there is to see are people staring down at a small screen. But as soon as we lifted our big cameras and looked through the viewfinder, one or more commuters in the frame reacted to it and the perfect picture came out like an average shot. We both agreed that the main problem was the size of our cameras, big DSLRs that tend to have an intimidating effect on most subjects. If we had used small cameras we would have been able to get much better images for this particular story.

Thai commuters use their mobile phones while riding the underground in Bangkok, Thailand, 08 July 2015. epa/Diego Azubel

Thai commuters use their mobile phones while riding the underground in Bangkok, Thailand, 08 July 2015. epa/Diego Azubel

To make our story as comprehensive as possible, we researched everything from mobile phone usage statistics to new illnesses derived from mobile phone usage all the way to accidents or even death caused by people not paying attention to the world outside their screens. We tried to visually capture as many angles as possible to illustrate all of these aspects, and for this we needed to take our time. We would make countless train journeys photographing commuters, stand for hours at busy intersections shooting motorcycle passengers and even drivers using their phones, take pictures of pedestrians crossing major roads while typing messages, sit at restaurant tables trying to catch couples appearing more interested to chat with their online friends than the person they were having a date with… And when we took a step back to observe and document it all we realized it was much worse than we had initially felt it to be. At any given moment, there are more people using their phones inside a train than those who aren’t. Almost at any restaurant table there will be a phone sitting next to the diner’s plate or worse yet, there will be someone checking for new messages.

Foreigners and Thais use their mobile phones on escalator displaying smartphone device advertisement at a shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand, 25 September 2015. epa/Rungroj Yongrit

Foreigners and Thais use their mobile phones on escalator displaying smartphone device advertisement at a shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand, 25 September 2015. epa/Rungroj Yongrit

Rungroj Yongrit: Not so long ago, I read a Thai story called “An Electricity Blackout Day” by Prapas Cholsalanon. The story is about a young, newlywed couple. The husband works during the day, and his wife is on night shifts, and they keep in touch via their mobile phones. Since they can’t share meals, she sends him pictures of the food she eats and never forgetting to retouch her own pictures with application to make her look beautiful. One day, there is a power outage in the city. The wife goes home and finds her husband in her house in total darkness. They don’t recognize each other and start accusing the other of being a burglar. Panicking she leaves the house and tries to call her husband but due to the outage there is no signal. The story ends with the husband running after her with a stick in his hand trying to hit her. I did not think it was too far fetched a story.

A Thai couple use their mobile phones at a luxury shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand, 25 September 2015. epa/Rungroj Yongrit

A Thai couple use their mobile phones at a luxury shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand, 25 September 2015. epa/Rungroj Yongrit

As photojournalists, we do not only capture news and sports photos but also look at what is going on in human life. Not every story has a photo but every photo has a story behind the photo. When you look at these photos or you look at people’s addiction to mobile phones: what do you think? Are you part of this?

A Thai couple use their mobile phone devices at a luxury shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand, 25 September 2015. epa/Rungroj Yongrit

A Thai couple use their mobile phone devices at a luxury shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand, 25 September 2015. epa/Rungroj Yongrit

Diego Azubel: As I stand in the train feeling overwhelmed by the amount of lit screens around me, I often need to remind myself not to pull out my own phone. We all have become so dependent on our phones that we are now unable to stand in a train, sit in a taxi, or wait for the bus without having a phone in our hands.

Thai commuters use their mobile phones while waiting for the underground in Bangkok, Thailand, 12 October 2015. epa/Diego Azubel

Thai commuters use their mobile phones while waiting for the underground in Bangkok, Thailand, 12 October 2015. epa/Diego Azubel

A couple weeks ago, I saw a man abusing a woman outside a train station, and to my surprise everyone around me was standing with their phones either filming or texting, but nobody did anything to stop the abuse. Not even after I intervened. What seems to be happening now is that people feel more powerful or useful by sharing events on social media rather than effectively taking action. Technology, mobile phones in this case, can surely be a great and useful tool towards a better society, but when we spend so much time behind it, it often becomes the one thing that stops us from being an active part of it.

Authors: Rungroj Yongrit (l) and Diego Azubel (r)

Authors: Rungroj Yongrit (l) and Diego Azubel (r)

*the authors of this story, Diego and Rungroj, are both epa staff photographers based in Bangkok, Thailand.

Obama’s Historical Trip to Cuba

By Michael Reynolds

Visiting Cuba to photograph the trip of U.S. President Barack Obama was both a remarkable experience and a highlight of my career in photojournalism. The images from the trip were not necessarily the most fabulous, but being there and watching the first sitting U.S. President to visit Cuba in eighty-eight years was something I will never forget.

The White House had chartered the flight that took off from Joint Base Andrews during the late afternoon of Saturday, March 19th – the day before President Obama would depart aboard Air Force One from the same location. The plane was packed full with more than sixty passengers from various news organizations.

Following an uneventful flight we arrived in the skies above Havana, only to be placed in a holding pattern. We were informed that the Havana airport was closed and we would continue to hold for up to an additional thirty minutes before making a decision regarding our fuel. Fortunately our plane was permitted to land soon after. Later I learned that we were held up due to the visit of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro who had come to Havana to shore up support on the eve of Obama’s visit.

Looking through the window as we came in for the landing I could see in the day’s fading light that although the city’s buildings had an air of decrepit age about them, many were painted in bright colors. The streets were dotted with cars seemingly lifted straight out of the 50’s. At once I could tell that this would prove to be an extremely photogenic place. That evening I had free time to stroll around Old Havana and take in a meal before working.

The first working day, Sunday 20th March, I photographed the arrival of President Obama and the First Family at Jose Marti International Airport. It seemed as though the moment that the stairs were wheeled up to Air Force One and the doors opened that it began to rain. Colleagues in Havana that later covered the walking tour were completely drenched.

US President Barack Obama (R) waves beside First Lady Michelle Obama (L) and daughters Malia (back L) and Sasha (back R) while disembarking from 'Air Force One' upon arrival at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba, 20 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

US President Barack Obama (R) waves beside First Lady Michelle Obama (L) and daughters Malia (back L) and Sasha (back R) while disembarking from ‘Air Force One’ upon arrival at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba, 20 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

 

The following morning, I opted to skip the President’s participation in a wreath-laying ceremony at Monumento Jose Marti – the memorial of the Cuban national hero, in order to photograph Obama greeting President Raul Castro and shaking hands for the first time on this trip after which there would be the official welcome ceremony.

Several of us in the traveling White House Press Corps waited for these events in a room of the Palace of the Revolution. Coffee was offered and I helped myself to the most delicious espresso I’ve ever tasted. Four times.

Obama’s arrival saw half a dozen of us rush into the room and capture the scene as President Castro and President Obama walked toward one another from across a florescent-lit room lined with plants to shake hands. What I thought would be the defining picture – the instant before their outstretched hands touched – was blocked by a translator who lacked the presence of mind not to walk between the principals and the photographers at that very moment. Fortunately, the translator soon moved and we were able to do our jobs.

US President Barack Obama (R) greets President of Cuba Raul Castro at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana, Cuba, 21 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

US President Barack Obama (R) greets President of Cuba Raul Castro at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana, Cuba, 21 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

 

At that moment it struck me how fortunate I was to be photographing this historical happening. The word “historical” is often overused and too quickly. During my career there have been events I have covered that were later regarded to be historical. This was one of the few moments that I absolutely knew was historical right then and there.

Following the meeting, the half-dozen or-so of us rushed into the room adjacent where the welcome ceremony took place so as to not miss any important pictures. Obama and Castro reviewed a Cuban military band.

US President Barack Obama (2-L) attends an official welcome ceremony with President of Cuba Raul Castro (L) at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana, Cuba, 21 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

US President Barack Obama (2-L) attends an official welcome ceremony with President of Cuba Raul Castro (L) at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana, Cuba, 21 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

 

The last day, Tuesday 22nd March, was to be the highlight of the trip, with Obama addressing the Cuban people at the Great Theatre of Havana before he and President Castro watched a Major League Baseball exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team, at the Latin American Stadium.  At the Great Theatre of Havana, President Castro was greeted by a standing ovation before taking his seat to listen to Obama’s publicly broadcast speech.

President of Cuba Raul Castro (bottom C) receives applause after arriving to hear US President Barack Obama (not pictured) address the people of Cuba at the El Gran Teatro of Havana, Cuba, 22 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

President of Cuba Raul Castro (bottom C) receives applause after arriving to hear US President Barack Obama (not pictured) address the people of Cuba at the El Gran Teatro of Havana, Cuba, 22 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

 

Coverage of the much anticipated baseball game was the most challenging of the trip. Simply entering the Latin American Stadium was difficult, to say the least, and required pushing through a crushing mass of people that were all entering at the same time. It was a potentially dangerous situation. After much effort, myself and a dozen other photographers photographed the arrival of President Obama and President Castro from a position on the field, near home plate and through the safety net. After they took their seats we all relocated off of the field.

Members of the news media make their way through a large crowd of people entering the Estadio Latinoamericano (Latin American Stadium) to watch a Major League Baseball exhibition game attended by US President Barack Obama and President of Cuba Raul Castro in Havana, Cuba, 22 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

Members of the news media make their way through a large crowd of people entering the Latin American Stadium to watch a Major League Baseball exhibition game attended by US President Barack Obama and President of Cuba Raul Castro in Havana, Cuba, 22 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

 

After the game had begun the only real vantage point to see Obama and Castro, who were both seated in the first row, was to climb on top of chairs that were already occupied.  Photographers squeezed on top of each other and around one another. People with cell phones attempted to take pictures beside photographers with 400mm lenses. It wasn’t pretty or dignified by any means, but not wanting to risk losing a shot I had no choice but to stand on top of a seat that was being used by a woman who had no view other than that of photographers and camera operators standing above her.

US President Barack Obama (L) and President of Cuba Raul Castro (R) attend a Major League Baseball exhibition game at the Estadio Latinoamericano (Latin American Stadium) in Havana, Cuba, 22 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

US President Barack Obama (L) and President of Cuba Raul Castro (R) attend a Major League Baseball exhibition game at the Latin American Stadium in Havana, Cuba, 22 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

People cheer and wave Cuban flags during a Major League Baseball exhibition game at Latinoamerican stadium in Havana, Cuba, 22 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

People cheer and wave Cuban flags during a Major League Baseball exhibition game at  the Latin American Stadium in Havana, Cuba, 22 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

Players of the Cuban national team and kids observe the playing of the Cuban national song before a Major League Baseball exhibition game at Latinoamerican stadium in Havana, Cuba, 22 March 2016.

Players of the Cuban national team and kids observe the playing of the Cuban national song before a Major League Baseball exhibition game at the Latin American Stadium in Havana, Cuba, 22 March 2016.

 

Later in the day, after Obama had left Havana, the town seemed to swell in size. I had heard a local person say that many people had avoided Old Havana during the President’s visit. Shortly before leaving Cuba, I gave a cab driver ten CUC (Cuban Convertible Pesos) and asked him to take me on a stroll.  He said he thought it was good that Obama visited Cuba and that things are going to get better here.

Taxis wait for customers in Havana, Cuba, 20 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

Taxis wait for customers in Havana, Cuba, 20 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

#colorblind

By Kim Ludbrook

A white and black student hold hands during a mass, multi racial pray group, to pray for peace and calm after clashes at the University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, 25 February 2016. epa / Kim Ludbrook

A white and black student hold hands during a mass, multi racial pray group, to pray for peace and calm after clashes at the University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, 25 February 2016. epa / Kim Ludbrook

During the last quarter of 2015, the powerful social media-driven #feemustfall campaign started to make local and international news headlines as students at all of South Africa’s leading universities protested, often violently, on campus and in the streets calling for free university education and a general ‘de-colonisation’ of the university system in the country.
In Johannesburg and Pretoria students attacked the very heart of the ANC rule, the Union Buildings. The students fought against the African National Congress (ANC) led government saying that the university fees should be free.

Some of the thousands of students and youth from political parties gather by a security fence at the Union Buildings during another day of demonstrations against fee increases at universities, Pretoria, South Africa, 23 October 2015. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Students and youth from political parties gather by a security fence at the Union Buildings during another day of demonstrations against fee increases at universities, in Pretoria, South Africa, 23 October 2015. epa / Kim Ludbrook

At the University of Cape Town, the sister #rhodesmustfall campaign witnessed the tearing down of the statue of one of South Africa’s most prominent white colonial figures, Cecil John Rhodes.
Although part of the student protest groups where white, the vast majority were black students using social media to make a point. Underneath the surface of these university protests, racial tensions rose as statues of other white political figures at campuses were defaced or torn down.

Protesting students and youths from political parties gather at the Union Buildings during another day of demonstrations against fee increases at universities, in Pretoria, South Africa, 23 October 2015. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Protesting students and youths from political parties gather at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa, 23 October 2015. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Then in early 2016 a white estate agent racially slurred black beach-goers in an apparent reaction to litter left behind after New Year’s celebrations. There has been mass reaction to her statement in social media and political quarters. Added to that, a leading ANC member called for ‘a genocide of whites’ while other racially motivated sentiments reverberated around the nation.

Recently black students, led by the opposition EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) party, and white students, backed by Afriforum, protested at the University of Pretoria. The university was shut for two weeks while each side argued over the main language of the University of Pretoria – Afrikaans. Black students demanded the right to be taught in their own language.

Afrikaans students take part in a demonstration defending the use of Afrikaans as the language of choose at the University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, 23 February 2016. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Afrikaans students take part in a demonstration defending the use of Afrikaans as the language of choose at the University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, 23 February 2016. epa / Kim Ludbrook

An Afrikaans student takes part in a demonstration defending the use of Afrikaans as the language of choose at the University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, 23 February 2016. epa / Kim Ludbrook

An Afrikaans student takes part in a demonstration defending the use of Afrikaans as the language of choose at the University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, 23 February 2016. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Then one morning while covering demonstrations between the EFF and Afriforum, I suddenly saw hundreds of students over the road who started to pray together. What grew out of the tensions was a movement called #colorblind. White and black students held hands, stating that they do not ‘see’ color and that ‘we are all the same’. A small sign of hope.

Some of the hundreds of young people gather during a mass, multi racial pray group, to pray for peace and calm after clashes at the University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, 25 February 2016. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Some of the hundreds of young people gather during a mass, multi racial pray group, to pray for peace and calm after clashes at the University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, 25 February 2016. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Young people gather during a mass, multi racial pray group, to pray for peace and calm after clashes at the University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, 25 February 2016. The campus was shut down after supporters of the EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) clashed with members of the Afrikaans student community on 22 February over the EFF wanting to drop Afrikaans as the main language at the University of Pretoria. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Young people gather during a mass, multi racial pray group, to pray for peace and calm after clashes at the University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, 25 February 2016. The campus was shut down after supporters of the EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) clashed with members of the Afrikaans student community on 22 February over the EFF wanting to drop Afrikaans as the main language at the University of Pretoria. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Taiwan Earthquake

by Ritchie B. Tongo

Taiwan, authorities said. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

Rescuers continue their search for survivors on the third day from a collapsed building following the 06 February 6.4 magnitude earthquake, in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, 08 February 2016. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

On the night of February 5, I was preparing my bag for a trip the next morning to pick up an accrediation pass. I set my alarm for 4:00 A.M. and did my usual routine when waking up: check my e-mails. I received one from my colleague David Chang informing me that an earthquake had just hit Tainan, southern Taiwan, at around 3:57 A.M.  I got another one from a friend with a photo showing a collapsed building with a lot of casualties, also in that area. Since the earthquake happened very early and most people were asleep, the extent of damage it resulted in was still unknown. This prompted me to change my plan for the day, and immediately left for Tainan to see the situation personally. My first option was to travel by train or airplane but the services were not operational due to possible aftershocks. So I decided to take a cab, my third option, even if Tainan is four (4) hours away from where I was, Taipei. I was there by 10:00 A.M.

Rescuers search for survivors from a collapsed building following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, 07 February 2016. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

Rescuers search for survivors from a collapsed building following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, 07 February 2016. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

In Tainan, men in uniforms and civilians worked together rescuing those trapped in the collapsed 17-storey apartment building. According to news reports, it was the only high-rise building that had toppled as a result of the earthquake. Taiwan government has strict building standards which is the reason why not many structures were damaged.

Rescuers lift a victim as they continue to search for survivors from a collapsed building following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the area in Tainan City, south Taiwan, Taiwan, 06 February 2016. At least eight people, including an infant, were killed and hundreds injured when a 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck southern Taiwan early 06 February 2016, authorities said. A 17-storey apartment building collapsed in Tainan City's Yungkang district. It was said to be home to about 250 people in 96 households, according to the Central Emergency Operation Center. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

Rescuers lift a victim as they continue to search for survivors from a collapsed building following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the area in Tainan City, south Taiwan, Taiwan, 06 February 2016. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

That rescuers found survivors could be inferred by people suddenly becoming noisy and in a hurry. On the other hand, retrieved bodies were placed in body bags. The rescue and retrieval operations continued until morning the following day because “it took one hour to complete a search for just one household and two hours just to go forward”, said a rescuer. As for me, I decided to stay in an area near the rescuers’ command post thinking that if there would be aftershocks, I could easily respond.

City, southern Taiwan, 07 February 2016. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

Earthquake affected residents queue for water supplies following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, 07 February 2016. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

The next morning which was February 7, people were queuing to fill their containers with water. Others were waiting for updates and news if their relatives were rescued. This disaster caused a major heartache especially to the Chinese community since the Chinese New Year, a time where they were supposed to feast and be merry, was to be celebrated on February 8. Although the general atmosphere was gloomy, the Taiwanese people started moving forward facing reality and having a positive outlook. Some men and women gave bottled drinking water and food to other people while others went to temple to pray.

Rescuers continue their search for survivors from a collapsed building on the third day following the early 06 February 6.4 magnitude earthquake, in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, 08 February 2016. More than 100 people are still missing two days after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake killed at least 37 in southern Taiwan, while three people were rescued alive, authorities said. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

Rescuers continue their search for survivors from a collapsed building on the third day following the early 06 February 6.4 magnitude earthquake, in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, 08 February 2016. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

Experiencing a calamity such as this is a very difficult situation to be in. Especially in the case of earthquakes, scientists still cannot predict the precise time when they will occur. Looking at the brighter side, however, I witnessed how disasters can make strangers come closer together like families and I have seen this in Tainan. People did what they could to help; I saw men digging in rubbles and women handing out food and water. They did their share to help right away without putting themselves and their family’s safety first.

A relative (C), holding a photo of a victim, who is believed to be still trapped under a collapsed 17-storey apartment building, is assisted as she faints while approaching the site, on the fifth day of searching for survivors, in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, 10 February 2016. More than 100 people are still missing five days after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake that killed at least 41 in southern Taiwan. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

A relative (C), holding a photo of a victim, who is believed to be still trapped under a collapsed 17-storey apartment building, is assisted as she faints while approaching the site, on the fifth day of searching for survivors, in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, 10 February 2016. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

A Stranded Whale in Mumbai

by Divyakant Solanki

Indian officials carry the decomposed body of a stranded whale with the help of cranes, found near the Juhu beach of Arabian Sea shore in Mumbai, India, 29 January 2016. According to reports, around 40-feet long body of dead Whale was found near the Juhu beach, for safety measures officials removed it with the help of crane. epa/Divyakant Solanki

Indian officials carry the decomposed body of a stranded whale found near Juhu beach in Mumbai, India, 29 January 2016. epa/Divyakant Solanki

Every morning, my routine includes getting updates and news from people over the phone and checking Twitter. That day, I saw a Tweet about the carcass of a stranded whale found on Juhu beach and confirmed the news with some other friends and colleagues.

People stand around the decomposed body of a stranded whale found near the Juhu beach of Arabian Sea shore in Mumbai, India, 29 January 2016. According to reports, around 40-feet long body of dead Whale was found near the Juhu beach, for safety measures officials removed it with the help of crane. epa/Divyakant Solanki

People stand around the decomposed body of a stranded whale found near Juhu beach  in Mumbai, India, 29 January 2016. epa/Divyakant Solanki

The dead whale had been lying there for a day, and there was a large mob around the whale and more people were continuously joining. Parents were taking along their babies and young children to see the whale. People were behaving as if they were in a zoo and were taking photos and selfies with the whale in the background, not caring that they were proving to be a hindrance to the police and others who were trying to move the whale from the beach.

People stand around the decomposed body of Whale found near the Juhu beach of Arabian Sea shore in Mumbai, India, 29 January 2016. According to reports, around 40-feet long body of dead Whale was found near the Juhu beach, for safety measures officials removed it with the help of crane. epa/Divyakant Solanki

People stand around the body of Whale found near the Juhu beach of Arabian Sea shore in Mumbai, India, 29 January 2016. According to reports, a 40-feet long body of a dead Whale was found near the Juhu beach. For safety reason, officials removed it with the help of a crane. epa/Divyakant Solanki

It was difficult to determine what the balloon-like bubble coming out of the whale was. Since it had been a while since the whale’s body had been lying on the shore, it is likely that the body was swelling up due to decomposition and was filling up with methane gas. There was a risk of it bursting and the Police was quite conscious of this risk and was asking people to maintain at a safe distance from the whale in case the carcass would burst. It could have also exploded while the workers were trying to lift it using the crane to put it on the trailer and then transport it, thus spraying people with its contents.

People stand around the decomposed body of a stranded whale found near Juhu beach in Mumbai, India, 29 January 2016. epa/Divyakant Solanki

People stand around the body of a stranded whale found near Juhu beach in Mumbai, India, 29 January 2016. epa/Divyakant Solanki

Juhu beach is a famous tourist spot and is crowded on most days, but on that day, the crowd had reached huge proportions and showed no signs of control. It was good that there was police presence, otherwise there is no knowing what the people would have done. They were inching close to the whale, climbing on the crane that was there to transport it and behaving in an unruly manner. At some point, the atmosphere was almost surreal.

epa05162610 People cover their faces as they watch a decomposing carcass of a stranded whale near Juhu beach in Mumbai, India, 29 January 2016. epa/Divyakant Solanki

epa05162610 People cover their faces as they watch a decomposing carcass of a stranded whale near Juhu beach in Mumbai, India, 29 January 2016. epa/Divyakant Solanki

Not only was witnessing this situation shocking visually, but it definitely hit the olfactory senses as well. The stench was quite overpowering, and I could see a few other photographers who were throwing up as they couldn’t withstand the stench and the sight. The whale’s flesh had started decomposing and I could see blood on its body as well. All of this, accompanied by the heat, was almost too much to take. One of the major challenges was the risk of infection that came with being in close proximity to a carcass that size.

Indian officials carries the decomposed body of Whale with the help of cranes, found near the Juhu beach of Arabian Sea shore in Mumbai, India, 29 January 2016. According to reports, around 40-feet long body of dead Whale was found near the Juhu beach, for safety measures officials removed it with the help of crane. epa/Divyakant Solanki

Indian officials transport the decomposed body of a stranded whale with the help of cranes near Juhu beach at the Arabian Sea shore in Mumbai, India, 29 January 2016. epa/Divyakant Solanki

The whale was transported and buried near a village called Moragaon around two kilometer from the spot. Measures have been put in place to speed up the process of decomposition.

 

The Rugby World Cup 2015 and a very unlikely winner

by Facundo Arrizabalaga

A boy reacts after New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams gave his gold medal following New Zealand's win against Australia in the Rugby World Cup 2015 final at Twickenham in London, Britain, 31 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

A boy reacts after New Zealand’s Sonny Bill Williams gave his gold medal following New Zealand’s win against Australia in the Rugby World Cup 2015 final at Twickenham in London, Britain, 31 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

As I was waiting for my train to head to the final of the Rugby World Cup 2015, I made eye contact with a family standing on the platform. They were all wearing Australian T-shirts, were extremely friendly, so we got chatting. I told them I was a photographer for epa heading to cover the final, that I was from Argentina, and had covered the two previous games of the Wallabies. They seemed to know a lot about Rugby so I said to myself, I’d better say something interesting, otherwise I will look like a fool. “I think you are going to win tonight because you have these two amazing guys, Hooper (Michael) and Pockock (David) and together they are magical”. There was an awkward moment of silence and the man in the centre of the group (David) smiling with pride, and reaching his hand to his chest said “Thank you”. I looked surprised and all of a sudden they all burst out with laughter, “Michael (Hooper) is his son” said the man on the right of the group “and she is his mum!”. It was an incredible moment. As the train moved along, they were scanning through the pictures on my laptop.

Australia's David Pocock (R) is being tackled by Argentina's Guido Petti Pagadizaval (C) during the Rugby World Cup 2015 semi final match between Argentina and Australia at Twickenham stadium in London, Britain, 25 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Australia’s David Pocock (R) is being tackled by Argentina’s Guido Petti Pagadizaval (C) during the Rugby World Cup 2015 semi final match between Argentina and Australia at Twickenham stadium in London, Britain, 25 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Australia Bernard Foley (C) scores a try during the Rugby World Cup 2015 match in Pool A between England and Australia at Twickenham in London, Britain, 03 October 2015. epa / Facundo Arrizabalaga

Australia Bernard Foley (C) scores a try during the Rugby World Cup 2015 match in Pool A between England and Australia at Twickenham in London, Britain, 03 October 2015. epa / Facundo Arrizabalaga

 

The opening night

18th September 2015, was the opening game. It was a beautiful warm summer’s night and in South West London the atmosphere was static. England against Fiji sold out. The game was massive for the locals and the air was filled with anticipation. The whole stadium was singing England’s rugby anthem “Sing low, sweet Chariot” and it was impressive. I was ready.

Fiji Nikola Matawalu (L) in action against England Kieran Brookes (R) in the Pool A match during the Rugby World Cup 2015 match between England and Fiji in Twickenham, Britain, 18 September 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Fiji Nikola Matawalu (L) in action against England Kieran Brookes (R) in the Pool A match during the Rugby World Cup 2015 match between England and Fiji in Twickenham, Britain, 18 September 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

England Mike Brown (L) does a try saving tackle against Fiji Nicola Matawalu (C)during the Rugby World Cup 2015 match between England and Fiji in Twickenham, Britain, 18 September 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

England Mike Brown (L) does a try saving tackle against Fiji Nicola Matawalu (C)during the Rugby World Cup 2015 match between England and Fiji in Twickenham, Britain, 18 September 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Pride and the best fans in the world

As a press photographer the RWC 2015 was a gift fallen from the sky. There were literally photos everywhere, fans in the most sophisticated costumes just a minute away from the press room. It took no longer than 15 minutes to go for a wonder and come back with a set of strong fan pictures. Much has been said about the Men in Black huge intimidating war dance, The Haka but it was also moving to see the gentle giants come to tears during their national anthems, especially the Pumas.

Argentina's players sing their national anthem during the Rugby World Cup 2015 Bronze final match between Argentina and South Africa at the Olympic Stadium in London, Britain, 30 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Argentina’s players sing their national anthem during the Rugby World Cup 2015 Bronze final match between Argentina and South Africa at the Olympic Stadium in London, Britain, 30 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Italy players sing the national anthem during the Rugby World Cup 2015 match in Pool D between France and Italy in Twickenham, Britain, 19 September 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Italy players sing the national anthem during the Rugby World Cup 2015 match in Pool D between France and Italy in Twickenham, Britain, 19 September 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

New Zealand's captain Richie McCaw (R) leads the Haka during the Rugby World Cup 2015 quarter final match between New Zealand and France at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Britain, 17 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

New Zealand’s captain Richie McCaw (R) leads the Haka during the Rugby World Cup 2015 quarter final match between New Zealand and France at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Britain, 17 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

France fans react outside the stadium ahead of the Rugby World Cup 2015 Quarter final match between New Zealand and France at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Britain, 17 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

France fans react outside the stadium ahead of the Rugby World Cup 2015 Quarter final match between New Zealand and France at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Britain, 17 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Irish rugby fans in Cardiff city centre prior to the Rugby World Cup 2015 quarter final match played between Ireland and Argentina at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Britain, 18 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Irish rugby fans in Cardiff city centre prior to the Rugby World Cup 2015 quarter final match played between Ireland and Argentina at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Britain, 18 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

France's Bernard Le Roux celebrates with supporters after winning the Rugby World Cup 2015 pool D match between France and Romania in the Olympic stadium, in London, Britain, 23 September 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

France’s Bernard Le Roux celebrates with supporters after winning the Rugby World Cup 2015 pool D match between France and Romania in the Olympic stadium, in London, Britain, 23 September 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Power and Blood

I will sit by the pitch usually an hour before kick off, this will allow me for pictures of the coaches and a quick chat with the photographers around me to try to squeeze one last piece of advice. I usually like sitting next to the experienced sports freelancers and the newspapers photographers. If you listen carefully, they will give you great tips. The game was fascinating to watch, there was drama of the highest order. No time for diving and definetely no time to arguee with the referee who is always addressed as “Sir”. Like a play of fine theatre, the 80 minutes deliver an array of emotions and by the time the curtain falls, has brought both joy and tears.

England Jonny May (2-R) celebrates scoring a try during the Rugby World Cup 2015 match in Pool A between England and Wales at Twickenham in London, Britain, 26 September 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

England Jonny May (2-R) celebrates scoring a try during the Rugby World Cup 2015 match in Pool A between England and Wales at Twickenham in London, Britain, 26 September 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Argentina's Julian Montoya (R) and Facundo Isa (L) react after losing the Rugby World Cup 2015 semi final match between Argentina and Australia at Twickenham stadium in London, Britain, 25 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Argentina’s Julian Montoya (R) and Facundo Isa (L) react after losing the Rugby World Cup 2015 semi final match between Argentina and Australia at Twickenham stadium in London, Britain, 25 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

France's Yoann Huget (C) is being comforted by team mates during the Rugby World Cup 2015 match in Pool D between France and Italy in Twickenham, Britain, 19 September 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

France’s Yoann Huget (C) is being comforted by team mates during the Rugby World Cup 2015 match in Pool D between France and Italy in Twickenham, Britain, 19 September 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

 

Cardiff, the pressure cooker.

In the Millennium stadium the atmosphere was electrifying and I have never seen anything like it. The roof was closed and my favourite game of the tournament was well under way. It was tense and exciting in equal manner and when Juan Imhoff from Argentina scored the winning try the pumas went crazy. After the game was over, they spent an hour going around the pitch greeting and hugging everyone, it didn’t matter if they were from Argentina or Ireland. It was a fine moment of sportsmanship. After two hours the game was over I was still filing and I could hear a few hard core Irish supporters singing the “The Belle of Belfast city”.

Argentina's Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (C) celebrates after the Rugby World Cup 2015 quarter final match played between Ireland and Argentina at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Britain, 18 October 2015. Argentina won the match. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Argentina’s Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (C) celebrates after the Rugby World Cup 2015 quarter final match played between Ireland and Argentina at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Britain, 18 October 2015. Argentina won the match. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Argentina's Marcos Ayerza (R) celebrates with fans after the Rugby World Cup 2015 quarter final match played between Ireland and Argentina at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Britain, 18 October 2015. Argentina won the match. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Argentina’s Marcos Ayerza (R) celebrates with fans after the Rugby World Cup 2015 quarter final match played between Ireland and Argentina at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Britain, 18 October 2015. Argentina won the match. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

The Final

Almost six weeks had passed by and 160 photographers were congregated in the main press room listening to Tony Weymouth and his team explaining the logistics before the big day: “20 photographers from the main agencies and newspapers will need a yellow arm band for the trophy shot”, “60 will be allowed for the champagne board” and so on. Finally, he said “the lap of honour it is a free for all.” We quickly drew our plan of action. My colleagues, Andy (Rain) in the main position, Gerry (Penny) would shoot from up top and me on the Champagne board. Although the throphy pictures are very important, I have learned that in such occasions there is always an opportunity to get something different, a special moment, a candid shot, that will stand out from the more sougth-after “pot shot”. It could be with the anxious families awaiting them or with the loving fans. The main problem is that it can happen anywhere.

I knew that if I was going to have a chance, I had to be quick on my feet so right after the “champagne shot” I dumped my 500mm lens on the side of the pitch and started following them on their lap of honour. I was trying to focus on the players holding the cup, but what I was really waiting for was a player to go over to the crowd. All of a sudden, I see this little boy running past me and, as quick as lightning, he jumps over the publicity boards, invading the pitch but was immediately tackled to the ground by a security guard right in front of Sonny Bill Williams. The All Black’s star picks him up and starts hugging and talking to him. The photographers allowed on the pitch rushed over and were busy taking photographs of the incident when unexpectedly the giant and the little boy started walking towards me through a tiny gap between the publicity boards. Sonny was walking with him to be reunited with his parents. The scene was set, the crowd was roaring, photographers were surrounding the two main protagonists and I was in my favourite spot of all: right in the middle of it!

A photograph made avaiable on 01 November 2015 showing Charlie Lines (C) reacts after New Zealand All Blacks player Sonny Bill Williams gave his gold medal after winning the Rugby World Cup 2015 Final match between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham in London, Britain, 31 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

A photograph made avaiable on 01 November 2015 showing Charlie Lines (C) reacts after New Zealand All Blacks player Sonny Bill Williams gave his gold medal after winning the Rugby World Cup 2015 Final match between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham in London, Britain, 31 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter to stay in touch for more insightful stories from behind the scenes.

The Golden Temple

By Raminder Pal Singh

Devotees offer prayers in front of the illuminated Golden Temple, the holiest of Sikh shrines, seen in the backdrop on the occasion of the 351st birth anniversary of the tenth Guru or master of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Gobind Singh in Amritsar, India, 16 January 2016. epa/Raminder Pal Singh

Devotees offer prayers in front of the illuminated Golden Temple, the holiest of Sikh shrines, seen in the backdrop on the occasion of the 351st birth anniversary of the tenth Guru or master of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Gobind Singh, in Amritsar, India, 16 January 2016. epa/Raminder Pal Singh

Each year, the birth anniversary of the tenth Guru or master of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Gobind Singh, is celebrated in Amritsar in the state  of Punjab, Northwest India. The Golden Temple of Amritsar is the holiest of Sikh places in the world. The religious procession is carried out on the eve of the birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh Ji who was the tenth Sikh Guru and initiated the special order or sect of the Sikhs called the Khalsa Panth. The procession is carried out in many parts of India as well but holds special significance in the state of Punjab where the population of the Sikhs is bigger.

This year marked the 351st birth anniversary of Sri Guru Gobind Singh. Sikh devotees carry the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the holy book of Sikhs, in a special golden palanquin from inside the Golden Temple premises.

Sikh devotees carry the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the holy book of Sikhs, in a special golden palanquin at the Golden Temple, the holiest of Sikh shrines during a religious procession in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016. Guru Gobind Singh Ji was the tenth Sikh Guru who initiated the special order or sect of the Sikhs called the Khalsa Panth. epa/Raminder Pal Singh

Sikh devotees carry the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the holy book of Sikhs, in a special golden palanquin at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016. epa/Raminder Pal Singh

Then a religious procession starts from the streets outside the Golden Temple in which school children and devotees take part. Devotees sing Sikh religious hymns and children from different schools, wearing traditional, religious and school uniforms take part in the procession as it passes through the streets.

A vendor sells flowers , placed on a cart in a religious procession on the eve of the 351st birth anniversary of the tenth Guru or master of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Gobind Singh in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016. Guru Gobind Singh Ji was the tenth Sikh Guru who initiated the special order or sect of the Sikhs called the Khalsa Panth. epa/ Raminder Pal Singh

A vendor sells flowers in a religious procession in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016.  epa/ Raminder Pal Singh

Because I have shot these kinds of processions many a time, every time at the back of my mind I am led by this thought how to shoot the occasion differently this time. I try to avoid cliched shots and shoot from angles which are not so common or at least which differ from what I had captured before.

Sikh children, dressed as 'Panj Pyare' or 'The Beloved Five', wearing religious attire, take part in a religious procession on the eve of the 351st birth anniversary of the tenth Guru or master of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Gobind Singh in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016. Guru Gobind Singh Ji was the tenth Sikh Guru who initiated the special order or sect of the Sikhs called the Khalsa Panth. epa/ Raminder Pal Singh

Sikh children, dressed as ‘Panj Pyare’ or ‘The Beloved Five’, take part in a religious procession in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016. epa/Raminder Pal Singh

For instance in above image, I preferred to take the shot from behind the children as the circular metal ‘Chakkar’ they wore on their turbans, to me kind of looked like halos over their heads.

A young Sikh girl, dressed in religious attire, performs the Gatka, a form of Sikh martial art during a religious procession on the eve of the 351st birth anniversary of the tenth Guru or master of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Gobind Singh in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016. Guru Gobind Singh Ji was the tenth Sikh Guru who initiated the special order or sect of the Sikhs called the Khalsa Panth. epa / Raminder Pal Singh

A young Sikh girl performs the Gatka, a form of Sikh martial art during a religious procession in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016. epa/Raminder Pal Singh

In this one, I was trying slow shutter speed to go with the fast motion of the girl performing Gatka. Luckily her face came out to be still whereas there’s kind of a blurred effect in the backdrop because of slow shutter speed.

Some Sikh groups who have trained themselves, exhibiting their skills with various weapons like swords, Chakar, sticks etc. as they perform Gatka, a form of Sikh martial art. The Sikh martial art was very popular during the era of Guru Gobind Singh and still holds a very important place in Sikh culture and religion.

A Sikh man holds a sword, partially covered with a cloth, in his mouth to exhibit his skills as he performs the Gatka, a form of Sikh martial art during a religious procession on the eve of the 351st birth anniversary of the tenth Guru or master of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Gobind Singh in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016. Guru Gobind Singh Ji was the tenth Sikh Guru who initiated the special order or sect of the Sikhs called the Khalsa Panth. epa/ Raminder Pal Singh

A Sikh man holds a sword as he performs the Gatka, a form of Sikh martial art during a religious procession in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016. epa/Raminder Pal Singh

 

Sikh children, dressed as 'Panj Pyare' or 'The Beloved Five', wearing religious attire, take part in a religious procession on the eve of the 351st birth anniversary of the tenth Guru or master of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Gobind Singh in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016. Guru Gobind Singh Ji was the tenth Sikh Guru who initiated the special order or sect of the Sikhs called the Khalsa Panth. epa/ Raminder Pal Singh

Sikh men dressed as ‘Panj Pyare’ or ‘The Beloved Five’ take part in a religious procession in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016.  epa/ Raminder Pal Singh

While shooting them this time, I got hit by a sword on my hand while a group of students were playing Gatka at the religious procession. While I was shooting, they suddenly became a bit more “aggressive”, trying to outscore the opponent and in the haste, they unintentionally hit my hand. (they didn’t even notice that someone was hit). Thankfully, it was just a minor cut and some bruises.

My favorite shot in the series, however, is this:

Indian children, wearing religious attire, take part in a religious procession on the eve of the 351st birth anniversary of the tenth Guru or master of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Gobind Singh in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016. Guru Gobind Singh Ji was the tenth Sikh Guru who initiated the special order or sect of the Sikhs called the Khalsa Panth. epa/ Raminder Pal Singh

Indian children, wearing religious attire, take part in a religious procession in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016. epa/ Raminder Pal Singh

The innocence on their faces was something so adorable and divine.

People usually are happy when I point my camera towards them during such events. Little kids are happy and when sometimes I show them their pictures after taking them, their faces are all smiles.

The atmosphere in general is obviously religious with sounds coming from different speakers playing Sikh religious hymns. It’s a happy atmosphere altogether.

Silvesterchlaeuse – “I always felt that traditions are hard to photograph”

Gian Ehrenzeller, photographer for epa’s partner agency Keystone, writes about photographing the “Silvesterchlaeuse” tradition in the canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden.

A so-called Silvesterchlaus (New Year Clause) holds on to his hat during heavy winds on his way in Waldstatt, Switzerland, 13 January 2016. epa/keystone/Gian Ehrenzeller

A so-called Silvesterchlaus (New Year Clause) holds on to his hat during heavy winds on his way in Waldstatt, Switzerland, 13 January 2016. epa/keystone/Gian Ehrenzeller

As a result of resistance towards the calendar reform, people in the Swiss canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden still celebrate New Year’s Eve not only on December 31, but also on January 13. This holiday is known as „Alter Silvester“, old New Year’s Eve. Men celebrate by dressing up as New Year’s Clauses. They wear costumes, hats, and bells and walk from house to house to sing and bring their best wishes.

So-called Silvesterchlaeuse (New Year's Clauses) dress up in Waldstatt, Switzerland, 13 January 2016. epa/keystone/Gian Ehrenzeller

So-called Silvesterchlaeuse (New Year’s Clauses) dress up in Waldstatt, Switzerland, 13 January 2016. epa/keystone/Gian Ehrenzeller

I always felt that traditions are hard to photograph. Thousands of pictures have already been taken and seen.

So I’d say I was somewhat lucky when I photographed the „Silvesterchlaeuse“ (New Year’s Clauses) in January 2016, the weather was pretty bad.

Instead of hitting the main tourist spot, where you can be sure to see Clauses – but also lots of tourists – I managed to find a group of Clauses who were willing to take me on their tour. Don’t get me wrong here, this New Year’s tradition is not kept alive for the tourists. It rather seems to be carried by the people. You’ll even see groups of kids dressed up as New Year’s Clauses, wandering the back-country on their own.

So-called Silvesterchlaeuse (New Year's Clauses) sing in Waldstatt, Switzerland, 13 January 2016. epa/keystone/Gian Ehrenzeller

So-called Silvesterchlaeuse (New Year’s Clauses) sing in Waldstatt, Switzerland, 13 January 2016. epa/keystone/Gian Ehrenzeller

As I arrived at the farmer’s house in the village of Waldstatt, the Clauses still sat at breakfast. The farmer’s wife offered them wine, they wished each other a Happy New Year, and then started yodeling. The farmer who invited them used to follow the tradition himself when he was younger, and joined them in their song. It is a singing without words, and frankly, it always gives me shivers.

They repeated their singing outside, forming a circle, wearing their hats and bells. Each of the hats is an artwork which each Clause crafted himself, picturing aspects of rural life. After wishing the farmer and his wife a Happy New Year, they got something more to drink, and moved on.

So-called Silvesterchlaeuse (New Year's Clauses) are on their way in Waldstatt, Switzerland, 13 January 2016. epa/keystone/Gian Ehrenzeller

So-called Silvesterchlaeuse (New Year’s Clauses) are on their way in Waldstatt, Switzerland, 13 January 2016. epa/keystone/Gian Ehrenzeller

At this point, heavy wind and some snowfall picked up. I was somewhat worried about the men as they made their way through snow covered meadows. They had to hold on to their hats, each weighing about four kilograms, while the costume overall weighs about 20 to 30 kilograms. But this moment was actually the one where I got the pictures I was hoping for.

Sound sample of jodeling Silvesterchlaeuse:

Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter to stay in touch for more insightful stories from behind the scenes.

The year in pictures, 2nd half 2015

In a sequel to ‘the year in pictures – the first half’, here are some of epa’s best photographs for the second half of 2016:

July 2015

A man passes by a graffiti made by street artist N_Grams that read ''NO'' (Nein) in German but also sounds like ''YES, IN'' in Greek language, in Athens, Greece, 05 July 2015. Greek voters in the referendum are asked whether the country should accept reform proposals made by its creditors. epa/Kay Nietfeld

A man passes by a graffiti made by street artist N_Grams that read ”NO” (Nein) in German but also sounds like ”YES, IN” in Greek language, in Athens, Greece, 05 July 2015. Greek voters in the referendum are asked whether the country should accept reform proposals made by its creditors.
epa/Kay Nietfeld

Exiled Tibetan monks attend a procession (not seen) carrying a portrait of their spiritual leader Dalai Lama during a function to mark his 80th birthday celebration at Namgyal School in Kathmandu, Nepal, 06 July 2015. Around 1,000 monks and other Tibetans gathered at the school compound to celebrate their spiritual leader's birthday. Exiled Tibetans allowed celebrating the Dalai Lama's birthday only inside school compound and refugee camps as long as the facilities do not contain slogans or banners protesting against China. Nepalese government has banned all kinds of Tibetan activities against Chinese rule in Tibet. epa/Narendra Shrestha

Exiled Tibetan monks attend a procession (not seen) carrying a portrait of their spiritual leader Dalai Lama during a function to mark his 80th birthday celebration at Namgyal School in Kathmandu, Nepal, 06 July 2015. Around 1,000 monks and other Tibetans gathered at the school compound to celebrate their spiritual leader’s birthday. Exiled Tibetans allowed celebrating the Dalai Lama’s birthday only inside school compound and refugee camps as long as the facilities do not contain slogans or banners protesting against China. Nepalese government has banned all kinds of Tibetan activities against Chinese rule in Tibet. epa/Narendra Shrestha

Residents of Dagenham and Barking look on at Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in a car following her visit to a community centre with Prince Philip in London, Britain, 14 July 2015 epa/Andy Rain

Residents of Dagenham and Barking look on at Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in a car following her visit to a community centre with Prince Philip in London, Britain, 14 July 2015
epa/Andy Rain

FIFA president Joseph 'Sepp' Blatter reacts while banknotes thrown by British Comedian Simon Brockin hurtle through the air during a press conference following the extraordinary FIFA Executive Committee at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, 20 July 2015. epa/Ennio Leanza

FIFA president Joseph ‘Sepp’ Blatter reacts while banknotes thrown by British Comedian Simon Brockin hurtle through the air during a press conference following the extraordinary FIFA Executive Committee at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, 20 July 2015. epa/Keystone/Ennio Leanza

A female migrant sits in a packed coach of the train heading to the Serbian border at the train station in Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 26 July 2015. Greece and Italy are the main entry points for Europe-bound asylum seekers and economic migrants. After they have reached the bloc, many start to make their way to wealthier countries in Western Europe. From the beginning of the year to mid-June, nearly 160,000 landed in both countries, according to IOM estimates. epa/Georgi Licovski

A female migrant sits in a packed coach of the train heading to the Serbian border at the train station in Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 26 July 2015. Greece and Italy are the main entry points for Europe-bound asylum seekers and economic migrants. After they have reached the bloc, many start to make their way to wealthier countries in Western Europe. From the beginning of the year to mid-June, nearly 160,000 landed in both countries, according to IOM estimates. epa/Georgi Licovski

An Indian woman (C) washes utensils with logged flooded water after heavy rain at Sonarpur village far south of Calcutta, India, 27 July 2015. According to reports, thousands had been evacuated from flooded areas following heavy rain. India's monsoon rains usually hit between June and September, and are vital for agriculture, but also cause hundreds of deaths each year. Weather authorities have forecast more rains in the region over the next couple of days. epa/Piyal Adhikary

An Indian woman (C) washes utensils with logged flooded water after heavy rain at Sonarpur village far south of Calcutta, India, 27 July 2015. According to reports, thousands had been evacuated from flooded areas following heavy rain. India’s monsoon rains usually hit between June and September, and are vital for agriculture, but also cause hundreds of deaths each year. Weather authorities have forecast more rains in the region over the next couple of days. epa/Piyal Adhikary

A picture made available 30 July 2015 shows officers carrying pieces of debris from an unidentified aircraft apparently washed ashore in Saint-Andre de la Reunion, eastern La Reunion island, France, 29 July 2015. A Malaysian government team is being dispatched to the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, where newly found aircraft wreckage awakened speculation over flight MH370, which went missing last year with 239 people aboard. epa/Raymond Wae Tion

A picture made available 30 July 2015 shows officers carrying pieces of debris from an unidentified aircraft apparently washed ashore in Saint-Andre de la Reunion, eastern La Reunion island, France, 29 July 2015. A Malaysian government team is being dispatched to the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, where newly found aircraft wreckage awakened speculation over flight MH370, which went missing last year with 239 people aboard. epa/Raymond Wae Tion

 Four year-old Haifa Al Atawna looks out from the window of her family's destroyed house after nightfall during a power outage, in Al Shejaeiya neighbourhood, in the east of Gaza City, 27 July 2015. Residents of Gaza, home to 1.8 Million people, have been experiencing up to 15 to 18 hours of electricity outage a day for the past two weeks due to fuel and power shortages. epa/Mohammed Saber

Four year-old Haifa Al Atawna looks out from the window of her family’s destroyed house after nightfall during a power outage, in Al Shejaeiya neighbourhood, in the east of Gaza City, 27 July 2015. Residents of Gaza, home to 1.8 Million people, have been experiencing up to 15 to 18 hours of electricity outage a day for the past two weeks due to fuel and power shortages. epa/Mohammed Saber

A wounded Israeli is rushed on a stretcher after she was attacked by Israeli extremist, during the Gay Pride march in Jerusalem, Israel, 30 July 2015. An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man stabbed four marchers in Jerusalem's annual gay parade and was arrested, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said. epa / Atef Safadi

A wounded Israeli is rushed on a stretcher after she was attacked by Israeli extremist, during the Gay Pride march in Jerusalem, Israel, 30 July 2015. An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man stabbed four marchers in Jerusalem’s annual gay parade and was arrested, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said. epa / Atef Safadi

August 2015

A firefighter helps ignite a backfire while battling the Rocky fire near Clearlake, California, USA, 02 August 2015. The fire, one of dozens raging in drought parched Northern California, has destroyed 24 residences and scorched 27,000 acres according to Cal Fire. California state governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, saying severe drought and extreme weather have turned much of the state into a tinderbox. The declaration will allow faster deployment of resources to the fire zones to which an estimated 8,000 firefighters already have been deployed. epa/Noah Berger

A firefighter helps ignite a backfire while battling the Rocky fire near Clearlake, California, USA, 02 August 2015. The fire, one of dozens raging in drought parched Northern California, has destroyed 24 residences and scorched 27,000 acres according to Cal Fire. California state governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, saying severe drought and extreme weather have turned much of the state into a tinderbox. The declaration will allow faster deployment of resources to the fire zones to which an estimated 8,000 firefighters already have been deployed. epa/Noah Berger

Migrants run on the shuttle tracks after they succeeded to jump over the fences and avoid the French patrols on the outskirts of Calais, France, 05 August 2015. The number of migrants increasing and the fact they are staying longer in the makeshift camp make the Jungle grows more organized with economic structures such as small shops and places of worship appearing as well as more sturdy places. Britain and France on 02 August had urged other EU nations to help them handle an escalating crisis over thousands of migrants stranded in the French port of Calais. epa/Etienne Laurent

Migrants run on the shuttle tracks after they succeeded to jump over the fences and avoid the French patrols on the outskirts of Calais, France, 05 August 2015. The number of migrants increasing and the fact they are staying longer in the makeshift camp make the Jungle grows more organized with economic structures such as small shops and places of worship appearing as well as more sturdy places. Britain and France on 02 August had urged other EU nations to help them handle an escalating crisis over thousands of migrants stranded in the French port of Calais. epa/Etienne Laurent

Swimmers warm up for the night session during the FINA Swimming World Championships at Kazan arena in Kazan, Russia, 05 August 2015. epa/Patrick B. Kraemer

Swimmers warm up for the night session during the FINA Swimming World Championships at Kazan arena in Kazan, Russia, 05 August 2015. epa/Patrick B. Kraemer

Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, addresses the media following a town hall meeting in Exeter, New Hampshire, USA, 10 August 2015. epa/Cj Gunther

Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, addresses the media following a town hall meeting in Exeter, New Hampshire, USA, 10 August 2015. epa/Cj Gunther

Manchester City's Vincent Kompany (R) celebrates with teammate David Silva after scoring during the English Premier League soccer match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City at The Hawthorns stadium in Birmingham, Britain, 10 August 2015. epa/Hannah Mckay

Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany (R) celebrates with teammate David Silva after scoring during the English Premier League soccer match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City at The Hawthorns stadium in Birmingham, Britain, 10 August 2015. epa/Hannah Mckay

Rescuers work among hundreds of burned cars after a huge explosion rocked the port city of Tianjin, China, 13 August 2015. According to reports, at least 44 people were killed after a large explosion rocked the north-eastern Chinese city of Tianjin Fifty-two people were critically injured out of a total of 521 people in hospital after the blast and fireball in the port city, local authorities said. epa/Wu Hong

Rescuers work among hundreds of burned cars after a huge explosion rocked the port city of Tianjin, China, 13 August 2015. According to reports, at least 44 people were killed after a large explosion rocked the north-eastern Chinese city of Tianjin Fifty-two people were critically injured out of a total of 521 people in hospital after the blast and fireball in the port city, local authorities said. epa/Wu Hong

Motorcycles lie on the street at the scene of a bomb attack near Erawan Shrine, central Bangkok, Thailand, 17 August 2015. An explosion in a busy commercial district in the Thai capital killed a yet unconfirmed number of people. Witnesses said the explosion happened around 7:15 pm (1215 GMT) at the Ratchaprasong Intersection, a business area famous among tourists and locals for a revered Hindu shrine. epa/Ritchie B.Tongo

Motorcycles lie on the street at the scene of a bomb attack near Erawan Shrine, central Bangkok, Thailand, 17 August 2015. An explosion in a busy commercial district in the Thai capital killed a yet unconfirmed number of people. Witnesses said the explosion happened around 7:15 pm (1215 GMT) at the Ratchaprasong Intersection, a business area famous among tourists and locals for a revered Hindu shrine. epa/Ritchie B.Tongo

An Indian barber cuts the hair of a labour at an open space near the roadside in Mumbai, India, 21 August 2015. epa/Divyakant Solank

An Indian barber cuts the hair of a labour at an open space near the roadside in Mumbai, India, 21 August 2015. epa/Divyakant Solank

Children cry as migrants waiting on the Greek side of the border break through a cordon of Macedonian special police forces to cross into Macedonia, near the southern city of Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 21 August 2015. Macedonian police clashed with thousands of migrants attempting to break into the country after being stranded in no-man's land overnight, marking an escalation of the European refugee crisis for the Balkan country. epa/Georgi Licovski

Children cry as migrants waiting on the Greek side of the border break through a cordon of Macedonian special police forces to cross into Macedonia, near the southern city of Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 21 August 2015. Macedonian police clashed with thousands of migrants attempting to break into the country after being stranded in no-man’s land overnight, marking an escalation of the European refugee crisis for the Balkan country. epa/Georgi Licovski

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange at the start of the trading day in New York, New York, USA, 24 August 2015. Global markets have been reacting to the economic situation in China and the Dow Jones Industrial average followed that trend losing 1,000 points in early trading. epa/Justin Lane

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange at the start of the trading day in New York, New York, USA, 24 August 2015. Global markets have been reacting to the economic situation in China and the Dow Jones Industrial average followed that trend losing 1,000 points in early trading. epa/Justin Lane

A Tv cameraman drives into Usain Bolt of Jamaica after the men's 200m final during the Beijing 2015 IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium, also known as Bird's Nest, in Beijing, China, 27 August 2015. Bolt won the race. epa/Rolex De La Pena

A Tv cameraman drives into Usain Bolt of Jamaica after the men’s 200m final during the Beijing 2015 IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium, also known as Bird’s Nest, in Beijing, China, 27 August 2015. Bolt won the race. epa/Rolex De La Pena

September 2015

Migrants cross the Erzsebet bridge in Budapest, Hungary, 04 September 2015. Several thousand migrants left the Keleti station this afternoon heading for Germany on foot. Hundreds of migrants on 03 September rushed the platforms in Budapest after Hungarian police opened the city's Keleti station, which had been blocked to migrants since 01 September. Hungary's railway service said there were no trains headed to Western Europe for the time being. Thousands of refugees - many of whom have traveled from Africa and the Middle East in the hopes of reaching countries like Germany and Sweden - have been stranded at the station. epa/Zslot Szigetvary

Migrants cross the Erzsebet bridge in Budapest, Hungary, 04 September 2015. Several thousand migrants left the Keleti station this afternoon heading for Germany on foot. Hundreds of migrants on 03 September rushed the platforms in Budapest after Hungarian police opened the city’s Keleti station, which had been blocked to migrants since 01 September. Hungary’s railway service said there were no trains headed to Western Europe for the time being. Thousands of refugees – many of whom have traveled from Africa and the Middle East in the hopes of reaching countries like Germany and Sweden – have been stranded at the station. epa/Zslot Szigetvary

Pedestrians cross a street under heavy rain generated by typhoon Etau in central Tokyo, Japan, 09 September 2015. Local media reported that six people were injured as typhoon Etau packing pounded central Japan, disrupting traffic and causing some flooding and mudslides in the region. The storm caused the cancellation of dozens of flights and train services while also bringing torrential rains to the Tokyo area. epa/Frank Robichon

Pedestrians cross a street under heavy rain generated by typhoon Etau in central Tokyo, Japan, 09 September 2015. Local media reported that six people were injured as typhoon Etau packing pounded central Japan, disrupting traffic and causing some flooding and mudslides in the region. The storm caused the cancellation of dozens of flights and train services while also bringing torrential rains to the Tokyo area. epa/Frank Robichon

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) has a selfie taken with a refugee during a visit to a refugee reception centre in Berlin, Germany, 10 September 2015. Germany can deal with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees without cutting social welfare benefits or raise taxes, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said on 10 September, during a debate in parliament on next year's budget. Germany expects 800,000 asylum seekers this year, four times more than last year and more than any other country in the European Union, which is split on how to deal with the biggest refugee crisis since World War II. epa/Bernd Von Jutrczenka

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) has a selfie taken with a refugee during a visit to a refugee reception centre in Berlin, Germany, 10 September 2015. Germany can deal with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees without cutting social welfare benefits or raise taxes, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said on 10 September, during a debate in parliament on next year’s budget. Germany expects 800,000 asylum seekers this year, four times more than last year and more than any other country in the European Union, which is split on how to deal with the biggest refugee crisis since World War II. epa/Bernd Von Jutrczenka

A crowd of supporters of Pope Francis hold US national flags, flags of the Vatican City and rosary beads before an arrival ceremony for Pope Francis on the South Lawn of the White House, in Washington DC, USA, 23 September 2015. Pope Francis is on a five-day trip to the USA, which includes stops in Washington DC, New York and Philadelphia, after a three-day stay in Cuba. Pope Francis added the Cuba visit after helping broker a historic rapprochement between Washington and Havana that ended a diplomatic freeze of more than 50 years. epa/Michael Reynolds

A crowd of supporters of Pope Francis hold US national flags, flags of the Vatican City and rosary beads before an arrival ceremony for Pope Francis on the South Lawn of the White House, in Washington DC, USA, 23 September 2015. Pope Francis is on a five-day trip to the USA, which includes stops in Washington DC, New York and Philadelphia, after a three-day stay in Cuba. Pope Francis added the Cuba visit after helping broker a historic rapprochement between Washington and Havana that ended a diplomatic freeze of more than 50 years. epa/Michael Reynolds

Mobile phones light up the crowd of people attending the last leg of the election campaign of the pro-sovereignty bloc 'Junts pel Si' (Together for the Yes) in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, 25 September 2015. Catalans go to the poles on 27 September to elect the Catalonian parliament. epa/Alberto Estevez

Mobile phones light up the crowd of people attending the last leg of the election campaign of the pro-sovereignty bloc ‘Junts pel Si’ (Together for the Yes) in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, 25 September 2015. Catalans go to the poles on 27 September to elect the Catalonian parliament. epa/Alberto Estevez

The perigee full moon, or supermoon, appears red besides a spire of the Cologne cathedral during a total lunar eclipse over Cologne, Germany, 28 September 2015. The combination of a supermoon and total lunar eclipse last occurred in 1982 and will not happen again until 2033. epa/Rolf Vennenbernd

The perigee full moon, or supermoon, appears red besides a spire of the Cologne cathedral during a total lunar eclipse over Cologne, Germany, 28 September 2015. The combination of a supermoon and total lunar eclipse last occurred in 1982 and will not happen again until 2033. epa/Rolf Vennenbernd

A South African resident of Masiphumelele runs past a burning barricade during a protest against the lack of policing in Masiphumelele, Cape Town, South Africa, 29 September 2015. According to local reports the protest was sparked by the court appearance 29 September of some residents arrested in connection with vigilante killings. The area has been volatile for weeks with community members angered at the lack of policing in the impoverished area. Two weeks ago suspected criminals were killed by a mob accused of being behind the death and rape of 15 year old Amani Pula. epa/Nick Bothma

A South African resident of Masiphumelele runs past a burning barricade during a protest against the lack of policing in Masiphumelele, Cape Town, South Africa, 29 September 2015. According to local reports the protest was sparked by the court appearance 29 September of some residents arrested in connection with vigilante killings. The area has been volatile for weeks with community members angered at the lack of policing in the impoverished area. Two weeks ago suspected criminals were killed by a mob accused of being behind the death and rape of 15 year old Amani Pula. epa/Nic Bothma

US President Barack Obama (R) attends a bilateral meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro at the United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, 29 September 2015. epa/Behar Anthony

US President Barack Obama (R) attends a bilateral meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro at the United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, 29 September 2015. epa/Behar Anthony

October 2015

Migrants make land from an overloaded rubber dinghy as they arrive on the coast near Skala Sikaminias, Lesbos island, Greece, 02 October 2015. An estimated 100,000 refugees and migrants arrived on the Greek islands during August, according to the Hellenic Coast Guard. epa/Filip Singer

Migrants make land from an overloaded rubber dinghy as they arrive on the coast near Skala Sikaminias, Lesbos island, Greece, 02 October 2015. An estimated 100,000 refugees and migrants arrived on the Greek islands during August, according to the Hellenic Coast Guard. epa/Filip Singer

Israeli emergency team members work at the scene where two people opened fire in a bus in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood near the Arab neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber in Jerusalem, Israel, 13 October 2015. According to Israeli police two Israelis were killed and 16 others wounded in an attack on a bus in Jerusalem. Stabbings and shootings within a two-hour period in Jerusalem and northern Israel have led to multiple casualties, Israeli police said. epa/Abir Sultan

Israeli emergency team members work at the scene where two people opened fire in a bus in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood near the Arab neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber in Jerusalem, Israel, 13 October 2015. According to Israeli police two Israelis were killed and 16 others wounded in an attack on a bus in Jerusalem. Stabbings and shootings within a two-hour period in Jerusalem and northern Israel have led to multiple casualties, Israeli police said. epa/Abir Sultan

Austrian actor Christoph Waltz (L) and British actor Daniel Craig (R) pose for photographers during a photocall to unveil the new James Bond film 'Spectre' at a hotel in Central London, Britain, 22 October 2015. The 24th Bond movie will be released in British theaters on 26 October, the same day as its world premiere in London. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Austrian actor Christoph Waltz (L) and British actor Daniel Craig (R) pose for photographers during a photocall to unveil the new James Bond film ‘Spectre’ at a hotel in Central London, Britain, 22 October 2015. The 24th Bond movie will be released in British theaters on 26 October, the same day as its world premiere in London. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

 

Novak Djokovic of Serbia (R) and teammate Djordje Djokovic of Serbia celebrate their point against Mao-Xin Gong of China and Michael Venus of New Zealands during the match in the China Open tennis tournament at the National Tennis Center in Beijing, China, 06 October 2015. epa/Wu Hong

Novak Djokovic of Serbia (R) and teammate Djordje Djokovic of Serbia celebrate their point against Mao-Xin Gong of China and Michael Venus of New Zealands during the match in the China Open tennis tournament at the National Tennis Center in Beijing, China, 06 October 2015. epa/Wu Hong

A picture made available on 26 October 2015 shows Aboriginal women performing a traditional dance at a cultural event near Uluru, also known as Ayres Rock, in the Northern Territory, Australia, 25 October 2015. Aboriginals marked on 26 October 2015, 30 years since the return of ownership of Uluru and Kata Tjuta from the Australian federal government. epa/Dan Peled

A picture made available on 26 October 2015 shows Aboriginal women performing a traditional dance at a cultural event near Uluru, also known as Ayres Rock, in the Northern Territory, Australia, 25 October 2015. Aboriginals marked on 26 October 2015, 30 years since the return of ownership of Uluru and Kata Tjuta from the Australian federal government. epa/Dan Peled

Filipinos escape from a fire in Paranaque city, south of Manila, Philippines, 29 October 2015. The Bureau of Fire Protection Chief Director Ariel Barayuga reminded the public to be extra cautious when lighting candles during the observance of All Soul's and All Saints' Day this week. Millions of Filipinos will soon flock to cemeteries around the country to visit departed relatives and loved ones to mark All Saints Day and All Souls Day on 01 and 02 November. epa/Francis R.Malasig

Filipinos escape from a fire in Paranaque city, south of Manila, Philippines, 29 October 2015. The Bureau of Fire Protection Chief Director Ariel Barayuga reminded the public to be extra cautious when lighting candles during the observance of All Soul’s and All Saints’ Day this week. Millions of Filipinos will soon flock to cemeteries around the country to visit departed relatives and loved ones to mark All Saints Day and All Souls Day on 01 and 02 November. epa/Francis R.Malasig

A young Syrian receives first aid in a field hospital following what local activists say was an airstrike by forces loyal to the al-Assad regime on a market place in the rebel-held area of Douma, outskirts of Damascus, Syria, 30 October 2015. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights at least 65 people were killed and over a hundred wounded in the attack on the busy market. epa/Mohammed Badra

A young Syrian receives first aid in a field hospital following what local activists say was an airstrike by forces loyal to the al-Assad regime on a market place in the rebel-held area of Douma, outskirts of Damascus, Syria, 30 October 2015. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights at least 65 people were killed and over a hundred wounded in the attack on the busy market. epa/Mohammed Badra

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and US Secretary of State John Kerry during a press conference on the international conference on Syria in Vienna, Austria, 30 October 2015. Nearly 20 top diplomats from regional rivals and key powers in the Syrian civil war gathered in Vienna for peace talks aimed at finding a solution to the conflict that began in 2011. epa/Georg Hochmuth

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and US Secretary of State John Kerry during a press conference on the international conference on Syria in Vienna, Austria, 30 October 2015. Nearly 20 top diplomats from regional rivals and key powers in the Syrian civil war gathered in Vienna for peace talks aimed at finding a solution to the conflict that began in 2011. epa/Georg Hochmuth

Debris from crashed Russian jet lies strewn across the sand at the site of the crash, Sinai, Egypt, 31 October 2015. According to reports the Egyptian Government has dispatched more than 45 ambulances to the crash site of the Kogalymavia Metrojet Russian passenger jet, which disappeared from raider after requesting an emergency landing early 31 October, crashing in the mountainous al-Hasanah area of central Sinai. The black box has been recovered at the site. epa/str

Debris from crashed Russian jet lies strewn across the sand at the site of the crash, Sinai, Egypt, 31 October 2015. According to reports the Egyptian Government has dispatched more than 45 ambulances to the crash site of the Kogalymavia Metrojet Russian passenger jet, which disappeared from raider after requesting an emergency landing early 31 October, crashing in the mountainous al-Hasanah area of central Sinai. The black box has been recovered at the site. epa/Str

November 2015

Hindu devotees attend prayer with burning incense and light oil lamps before break fasting during a religious festival called Rakher Upabash in Narayangonj, Bangladesh 03 November 2015. The festival is celebrated in memory of the 18th Century Hindu saint Baba Loknath. EPA/Abir Abdullah

Hindu devotees attend prayer with burning incense and light oil lamps before break fasting during a religious festival called Rakher Upabash in Narayangonj, Bangladesh 03 November 2015. The festival is celebrated in memory of the 18th Century Hindu saint Baba Loknath. EPA/Abir Abdullah

A Romanian young man waves the national flag while shouting slogans against the political establishment during a rally in reaction to the nightclub fire accident at University Plaza in downtown Bucharest, Romania, 06 November 2015. Thousands of people gathered peacefully, for the fourth consecutive evening, in the downtown of Romania's capital, blocking the traffic, while demanding justice for the club blaze victims despite the government resignation announced two days ago. Protesters are commemorating this evening one week from the tragic accident. epa/Robert Ghement

A Romanian young man waves the national flag while shouting slogans against the political establishment during a rally in reaction to the nightclub fire accident at University Plaza in downtown Bucharest, Romania, 06 November 2015. Thousands of people gathered peacefully, for the fourth consecutive evening, in the downtown of Romania’s capital, blocking the traffic, while demanding justice for the club blaze victims despite the government resignation announced two days ago. Protesters are commemorating this evening one week from the tragic accident. epa/Robert Ghement

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-Jeou shake hands at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore, 07 November 2015. The presidents of China and Taiwan are meeting for the first time in more than six decades epa/Fazry Ismail

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-Jeou shake hands at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore, 07 November 2015. The presidents of China and Taiwan are meeting for the first time in more than six decades epa/Fazry Ismail

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (R), chairperson of National League for Democracy (NLD) party, leaves NLD headquarters after delivered a speech, Yangon, Myanmar, 09 November 2015. Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi hints at victory in her first address since the polls closed a day earlier. 'It is too early to congratulate our candidates that will be victors,' she said at the headquarters of her National League for Democracy party, 'but I think you all have an idea of the results.' She asked her supporters to not be boastful if they win or make the losers 'feel bad.' epa/Lynn Bo Bo

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (R), chairperson of National League for Democracy (NLD) party, leaves NLD headquarters after delivered a speech, Yangon, Myanmar, 09 November 2015. Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi hints at victory in her first address since the polls closed a day earlier. ‘It is too early to congratulate our candidates that will be victors,’ she said at the headquarters of her National League for Democracy party, ‘but I think you all have an idea of the results.’ She asked her supporters to not be boastful if they win or make the losers ‘feel bad.’ epa/Lynn Bo Bo

A Syrian child reacts as he receives first aid in a field hospital following an airstrike by forces loyal to the Syrian government in the rebel-held area of Douma, outskirts of Damascus, Syria, 10 November 2015. According to the opposition, at least ten civilians were killed in Syrian regime strikes on the rebel-held Douma on 10 November. epa/Mohammed Dabra

A Syrian child reacts as he receives first aid in a field hospital following an airstrike by forces loyal to the Syrian government in the rebel-held area of Douma, outskirts of Damascus, Syria, 10 November 2015. According to the opposition, at least ten civilians were killed in Syrian regime strikes on the rebel-held Douma on 10 November. epa/Mohammed Badra

Wounded people are evacuated from the Stade de France in Paris, France, 13 November 2015, after explosions were reported. At least 26 people have died in attacks in Paris on 13 November after reports of a shootout and explosions near the Stade de France stadium. epa/Ian Langsdon

Wounded people are evacuated from the Stade de France in Paris, France, 13 November 2015, after explosions were reported. At least 26 people have died in attacks in Paris on 13 November after reports of a shootout and explosions near the Stade de France stadium. epa/Ian Langsdon

A woman cries in front the Carillon cafe in Paris, France, 14 November 2015. At least 120 people have been killed in a series of attacks in Paris on 13 November, according to French officials. Eight assailants were killed, seven when they detonated their explosive belts, and one when he was shot by officers, police said. French President Francois Hollande says that the attacks in Paris were an 'act of war' carried out by the Islamic State extremist group. epa/Yoan Valat

A woman cries in front the Carillon cafe in Paris, France, 14 November 2015. At least 120 people have been killed in a series of attacks in Paris on 13 November, according to French officials. Eight assailants were killed, seven when they detonated their explosive belts, and one when he was shot by officers, police said. French President Francois Hollande says that the attacks in Paris were an ‘act of war’ carried out by the Islamic State extremist group. epa/Yoan Valat

A man lights candles to make a Peace for Paris sign at Republique square to mark a week since the start of the terrorist attacks, in Paris, France, 20 November 2015. Paris suffered terrorist attacks at the hands of the so-called Islamic State on November 13, when Islamist suicide bombers and gunmen claimed the lives of 130 people, and injured 352. epa/Yoan Valat

A man lights candles to make a Peace for Paris sign at Republique square to mark a week since the start of the terrorist attacks, in Paris, France, 20 November 2015. Paris suffered terrorist attacks at the hands of the so-called Islamic State on November 13, when Islamist suicide bombers and gunmen claimed the lives of 130 people, and injured 352. epa/Yoan Valat

A pedestrian with an umbrella pauses in front of the memorial of candles and flowers for the victims of the 13 November Paris attacks, on Place de la Republique in Paris, France, 24 November 2015. Place de la Republique was briefly evacuated and subway services suspended after a bomb threat was declared - with normal service resuming shortly after. France remains on high-alert and maintains its state of emergency in the aftermath of the 13 November attacks during which more than 130 people were killed and hundreds injured in attacks which targeted the Bataclan concert hall, the Stade de France national sports stadium, and several restaurants and bars in the French capital. epa/Ian Langsdon

A pedestrian with an umbrella pauses in front of the memorial of candles and flowers for the victims of the 13 November Paris attacks, on Place de la Republique in Paris, France, 24 November 2015. Place de la Republique was briefly evacuated and subway services suspended after a bomb threat was declared – with normal service resuming shortly after. France remains on high-alert and maintains its state of emergency in the aftermath of the 13 November attacks during which more than 130 people were killed and hundreds injured in attacks which targeted the Bataclan concert hall, the Stade de France national sports stadium, and several restaurants and bars in the French capital. epa/Ian Langsdon

Competitors in action during the Motocross race Red Bull Knock Out at The Hague Beach, The Hague, Netherlands, 28 November 2015. The is the largest and toughest motocross beach race in the world. Amateur and pro motocross riders will fight against each other and against the natural elements of the sea and sand. epa/anp/Remko De Waal

Competitors in action during the Motocross race Red Bull Knock Out at The Hague Beach, The Hague, Netherlands, 28 November 2015. The is the largest and toughest motocross beach race in the world. Amateur and pro motocross riders will fight against each other and against the natural elements of the sea and sand. epa/anp/Remko De Waal

Owls are spotted sitting in hollow nest in Patan, Nepal, 18 November 2015. epa/Narendra Shrestha

Owls are spotted sitting in hollow nest in Patan, Nepal, 18 November 2015. epa/Narendra Shrestha

December 2015

A picture made available on 3 December 2015 shows Shiite pilgrims gathering at the Imam Hussein shrine during ceremonies marking Arbain in the holy city of Karbala, southern Iraq, 02 December 2015. Iraqi Shiites visit Karbala to perform the religious ceremony of Arbain, on the 40th day after the Shiite holy day of Ashura which commemorates the death of Imam Hussein at the battle of Karbala, which this year will again take place amid high security this year due to the ongoing conflict connected to the military offensive against the group calling themselves the Islamic State (IS). epa/Str

A picture made available on 3 December 2015 shows Shiite pilgrims gathering at the Imam Hussein shrine during ceremonies marking Arbain in the holy city of Karbala, southern Iraq, 02 December 2015. Iraqi Shiites visit Karbala to perform the religious ceremony of Arbain, on the 40th day after the Shiite holy day of Ashura which commemorates the death of Imam Hussein at the battle of Karbala, which this year will again take place amid high security this year due to the ongoing conflict connected to the military offensive against the group calling themselves the Islamic State (IS). epa/Str

US President Barack Obama makes a statement on the 02 December San Bernardino shooting, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 03 December 2015. A shooting on 02 December at a government building in San Bernardino, California, left 14 people dead and 17 wounded. epa/Michael Reynolds

US President Barack Obama makes a statement on the 02 December San Bernardino shooting, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 03 December 2015. A shooting on 02 December at a government building in San Bernardino, California, left 14 people dead and 17 wounded. epa/Michael Reynolds

Evidence tags and debris surround the SUV that is thought to be the getaway vehicle of the husband and wife gunmen in the aftermath of the deadly mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, USA 03 December 2015. The shooting spree in which 14 people were killed and 17 wounded in San Bernardino was carried out by a local couple, police said overnight. The suspects, who died in a shootout with police hours after the massacre 02 December at a conference centre, were Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office said. epa/Paul Buck

Evidence tags and debris surround the SUV that is thought to be the getaway vehicle of the husband and wife gunmen in the aftermath of the deadly mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, USA 03 December 2015. The shooting spree in which 14 people were killed and 17 wounded in San Bernardino was carried out by a local couple, police said overnight. The suspects, who died in a shootout with police hours after the massacre 02 December at a conference centre, were Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office said. epa/Paul Buck

People gather around a makeshift memorial outside the Inland Regional Center where assailants Syed Farook and wife Tashfeen Malik shot and killed 14 people, in San Bernardino, California, USA, 07 December 2015. Farook and Malik carried out the 02 December shooting in San Bernardino, in which 14 people were killed and 21 wounded. epa/Mike Nelson

People gather around a makeshift memorial outside the Inland Regional Center where assailants Syed Farook and wife Tashfeen Malik shot and killed 14 people, in San Bernardino, California, USA, 07 December 2015. Farook and Malik carried out the 02 December shooting in San Bernardino, in which 14 people were killed and 21 wounded. epa/Mike Nelson

Pope Francis opens the Holy Door of Saint Peter's Basilica, formally starting the Jubilee of Mercy, at the Vatican City, 08 December 2015. The 'Holy Door' is the northernmost entrance at Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, that used to be sealed and only opened for Jubilee Years. The opening of the Holy Door is symbolically illustrating that the faithful are offered an unusual path during time of jubilee. The Jubilee of Mercy is an Extraordinary Holy Year that opens 08 December 2015 and ends 20 November 2016. epa/Maurizio Brambatti

Pope Francis opens the Holy Door of Saint Peter’s Basilica, formally starting the Jubilee of Mercy, at the Vatican City, 08 December 2015. The ‘Holy Door’ is the northernmost entrance at Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, that used to be sealed and only opened for Jubilee Years. The opening of the Holy Door is symbolically illustrating that the faithful are offered an unusual path during time of jubilee. The Jubilee of Mercy is an Extraordinary Holy Year that opens 08 December 2015 and ends 20 November 2016. epa/Maurizio Brambatti

Nicholas Johnson snuggles with Popcorn the dog, as they camp outside the TCL Chinese Theatre to stake their claim for spots in line for the upcoming release of 'Star Wars - The Force Awakens' in Hollywood, California, USA 09 December 2015. epa/Paul Buck

Nicholas Johnson snuggles with Popcorn the dog, as they camp outside the TCL Chinese Theatre to stake their claim for spots in line for the upcoming release of ‘Star Wars – The Force Awakens’ in Hollywood, California, USA 09 December 2015. epa/Paul Buck

French far-right political party National Front (FN) Marine Le Pen speaks after the results of the second round of the regional elections in at Francois Mitterand hall in Henin-Beaumont, northern France, 13 December 2015. epa/Olivier Hoslet

French far-right political party National Front (FN) Marine Le Pen speaks after the results of the second round of the regional elections in at Francois Mitterand hall in Henin-Beaumont, northern France, 13 December 2015. epa/Olivier Hoslet

Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (L) of the Dominican Republic dunks the ball over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kendall Marshall (R) during the first half of their NBA basketball game at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 16 December 2015. epa/Erik S. Lesser

Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (L) of the Dominican Republic dunks the ball over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kendall Marshall (R) during the first half of their NBA basketball game at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 16 December 2015. epa/Erik S. Lesser

Members of Royal Saudi Hawks Air Force Aerobatic team perform with Hawk planes during the Al-Ain Air Championship at Al-Ain airport, United Arab Emirates on 17 December 2015. The event runs from 17 to 19 December 2015. epa/Ali Haider

Members of Royal Saudi Hawks Air Force Aerobatic team perform with Hawk planes during the Al-Ain Air Championship at Al-Ain airport, United Arab Emirates on 17 December 2015. The event runs from 17 to 19 December 2015. epa/Ali Haider

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr (L) breaks up a pass against New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (R) in the first half of the NFL American football game between the New York Jets and the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, USA, 19 December 2015. epa/Larry W. Smith

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr (L) breaks up a pass against New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (R) in the first half of the NFL American football game between the New York Jets and the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, USA, 19 December 2015. epa/Larry W. Smith

The year in pictures 2015, our world in all its complexities. Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter to stay in touch for more insightful stories from behind the scenes.

epa’s sports pictures selection 2015

A gallery highlighting a selection of epa’s sports pictures from 2015. epa covers sports events worldwide, ranging from the top events of the most well-known sports to feature coverage of more niche, less well-known sports. epa has numerous photographers around the world with a long record and experience of sports photography, unfortunately not all can be included in this selection. The highlights in 2015 were the Handball World Championships in Qatar, the Athletics World Championships in Beijing, the French Open in Paris and Wimbledon. A team of epa editors and photographers worked together to make these events a success. In 2015 epa sent around 210.000 sports pictures on the wire, which is the second highest number ever recorded, and which will surely be exceeded next year with the major events of the EURO 2016 soccer tournament in France and the Summer Olympic Games in Rio.

Competitors in action during the Mens Under 23 category race at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Tabor, Czech Republic, 01 January 2015. epa/Matej Divizna

Competitors in action during the Mens Under 23 category race at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Tabor, Czech Republic, 01 January 2015. epa/Matej Divizna

Argentinian rider Sebastian Halpern topples from his quad as he competes during the fourth stage of the 2015 Rally Dakar running between Chilecito, Argentina and Copiapo, Chile, 07 January 2015. epa/efe/Felipe Trueba

Argentinian rider Sebastian Halpern topples from his quad as he competes during the fourth stage of the 2015 Rally Dakar running between Chilecito, Argentina and Copiapo, Chile, 07 January 2015. epa/efe/Felipe Trueba

Spain's Joan Canellas (front) during the Qatar 2015 24th Men's Handball World Championship match between Qatar and Spain at the Lusail Multipurpose Hall outside Doha, Qatar, 21 January 2015. Qatar 2015 via epa/Nic Bothma

Spain’s Joan Canellas (front) during the Qatar 2015 24th Men’s Handball World Championship match between Qatar and Spain at the Lusail Multipurpose Hall outside Doha, Qatar, 21 January 2015. Qatar 2015 via epa/Nic Bothma

Eugenie Bouchard of Canada in action against Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania in their fourth round match at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 25 January 2015. The Australian Open tennis tournament runs from 19 January until 01 February 2015. epa/Narendra Shrestha

Eugenie Bouchard of Canada in action against Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania in their fourth round match at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 25 January 2015. The Australian Open tennis tournament runs from 19 January until 01 February 2015. epa/Narendra Shrestha

Daniel Bohnacker of Germany (3rd), Sergey Ridzik of Russia (2nd), Victor Oehling Norberg of Norway (1st) and Jean Frederic Chapuis of France (4th), from left, speed down the track during the final race of the men's Ski Cross World Cup in Arosa, Switzerland, on Saturday, February 7, 2015. epa/keystone/Gian Ehrenzeller

Daniel Bohnacker of Germany (3rd), Sergey Ridzik of Russia (2nd), Victor Oehling Norberg of Norway (1st) and Jean Frederic Chapuis of France (4th), from left, speed down the track during the final race of the men’s Ski Cross World Cup in Arosa, Switzerland, on Saturday, February 7, 2015. epa/keystone/Gian Ehrenzeller

Britain's Lily Owsley in action during the friendly field hockey match between Spain and Britain in Betero, Valencia, eastern Spain, 10 February 2015. epa/efe/Kai Foersterling

Britain’s Lily Owsley in action during the friendly field hockey match between Spain and Britain in Betero, Valencia, eastern Spain, 10 February 2015. epa/efe/Kai Foersterling

Thomas Diethart of Austria soars through the air during a ski jumping training session at the 2015 Nordic World Skiing Championships in Falun, Sweden, 24 February 2015. epa/expa/JFK

Thomas Diethart of Austria soars through the air during a ski jumping training session at the 2015 Nordic World Skiing Championships in Falun, Sweden, 24 February 2015. epa/expa/JFK

Ana Ivanovic of Serbia in action against Donna Vekic of Croatia during their third round match for the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 29 May 2015. epa/Yoan Valat

Ana Ivanovic of Serbia in action against Donna Vekic of Croatia during their third round match for the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 29 May 2015. epa/Yoan Valat

Monika Michalik (blue) of Poland and Andrea Simon (red) of Romania compete in the women's Freestyle 63kg wrestling Repechage match at the Baku 2015 European Games in Azerbaijan, 16 June 2015. epa/Srdjan Suki

Monika Michalik (blue) of Poland and Andrea Simon (red) of Romania compete in the women’s Freestyle 63kg wrestling Repechage match at the Baku 2015 European Games in Azerbaijan, 16 June 2015. epa/Srdjan Suki

Khetag Gazyumov (R) of Azerbaijan and Ibrahim Saidau of Belarus compete in the men's Freestyle 97kg wrestling quarter-final match at the Baku 2015 European Games in Azerbaijan, 17 June 2015. epa/Maxim Shipenkov

Khetag Gazyumov (R) of Azerbaijan and Ibrahim Saidau of Belarus compete in the men’s Freestyle 97kg wrestling quarter-final match at the Baku 2015 European Games in Azerbaijan, 17 June 2015. epa/Maxim Shipenkov

France's midfielder Claire Lavogez (back) bites teammate Jessica Houara's shirt (front) after missing a point in the penalty shootout against Germany during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 quarter-final soccer match between Germany and France at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada, 26 June 2015. epa/Andre Pichette

France’s midfielder Claire Lavogez (back) bites teammate Jessica Houara’s shirt (front) after missing a point in the penalty shootout against Germany during the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 quarter-final soccer match between Germany and France at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada, 26 June 2015. epa/Andre Pichette

Sandra Aleksejeva of Latvia (L) and Elke Vanhoff of Belgium (R) falls during Women's Cycling BMX Final at the Baku 2015 European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan, 28 June 2015. epa/Robert Ghement

Sandra Aleksejeva of Latvia (L) and Elke Vanhoff of Belgium (R) falls during Women’s Cycling BMX Final at the Baku 2015 European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan, 28 June 2015. epa/Robert Ghement

PSG's players congratulate Moura Lucas of Paris St Germain after he scored during the French league 1 season opening match Paris Saint Germain vs Lille OSC at the Pierre Mauroy Stadium in Lille, France, 07 July 2015. epa/Etienne Laurent

PSG’s players congratulate Moura Lucas of Paris St Germain after he scored during the French league 1 season opening match Paris Saint Germain vs Lille OSC at the Pierre Mauroy Stadium in Lille, France, 07 July 2015. epa/Etienne Laurent

Borussia Dortmund players Sokratis Papastathopoulos (R) and Neven Subotic (2-R) in action against Kawasaki Frontale players Yuto Takeoka (2-L) and Shogo Taniguchi (L) during a friendly soccer match as part of Borussia Dortmund's Asian tour in Kawasaki, south of Tokyo, Japan, 07 July 2015. epa/Kimimasa Mayama

Borussia Dortmund players Sokratis Papastathopoulos (R) and Neven Subotic (2-R) in action against Kawasaki Frontale players Yuto Takeoka (2-L) and Shogo Taniguchi (L) during a friendly soccer match as part of Borussia Dortmund’s Asian tour in Kawasaki, south of Tokyo, Japan, 07 July 2015. epa/Kimimasa Mayama

Javier Garcia (L) of Spain vies for the ball with Aaron Younger of Australia during their men’s Vodafone Cup water polo match in Hajos Alfred Swimming Pool in Budapest, Hungary, 11 July 2015. epa/mti/Tamas Kovacs

Javier Garcia (L) of Spain vies for the ball with Aaron Younger of Australia during their men’s Vodafone Cup water polo match in Hajos Alfred Swimming Pool in Budapest, Hungary, 11 July 2015. epa/mti/Tamas Kovacs

A multiple exposure image of Alexander Massialas (L) of the USA in action against Artur Akhmatkhuzin (R) of Russia during their men's Foil Individual semi final bout of the World Fencing Championships in Moscow, Russia, 16 July 2015. epa/Sergei Ilnitsky

A multiple exposure image of Alexander Massialas (L) of the USA in action against Artur Akhmatkhuzin (R) of Russia during their men’s Foil Individual semi final bout of the World Fencing Championships in Moscow, Russia, 16 July 2015. epa/Sergei Ilnitsky

Brazilian divers Ingrid Oliveira and Giovanna Pedroso perform in the women's 10m Synchro Platform preliminary round at the 16th FINA Swimming World Championships in Kazan, Russia, 27 July 2015. epa/Valdrin Xhemaj

Brazilian divers Ingrid Oliveira and Giovanna Pedroso perform in the women’s 10m Synchro Platform preliminary round at the 16th FINA Swimming World Championships in Kazan, Russia, 27 July 2015. epa/Valdrin Xhemaj

British Gary Hunt competes during the Men's High Diving preliminary round of the FINA Swimming World Championships 2015 at Kazanska River in Kazan, Russia, 02 August 2015. epa/Tolga Bozoglu

British Gary Hunt competes during the Men’s High Diving preliminary round of the FINA Swimming World Championships 2015 at Kazanska River in Kazan, Russia, 02 August 2015. epa/Tolga Bozoglu

A trip of paddle boarders pass by on Lake Michigan as Tommy Fleetwood of England putts on the third green during the second round of the 97th PGA Championship golf tournament at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin, USA, 14 August 2015. epa/Erik S. Lesser

A trip of paddle boarders pass by on Lake Michigan as Tommy Fleetwood of England putts on the third green during the second round of the 97th PGA Championship golf tournament at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin, USA, 14 August 2015. epa/Erik S. Lesser

A Tv cameraman drives into Usain Bolt of Jamaica after the men's 200m final during the Beijing 2015 IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium, also known as Bird's Nest, in Beijing, China, 27 August 2015. Bolt won the race. epa/Rolex Dela Pena

A Tv cameraman drives into Usain Bolt of Jamaica after the men’s 200m final during the Beijing 2015 IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium, also known as Bird’s Nest, in Beijing, China, 27 August 2015. Bolt won the race. epa/Rolex Dela Pena

Ashton Eaton of the USA wears a cooling hood as he rests on the track during the Pole Vault of the Decathlon event during the Beijing 2015 IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium, also known as Bird's Nest, in Beijing, China, 29 August 2015. epa/Diego Azubel

Ashton Eaton of the USA wears a cooling hood as he rests on the track during the Pole Vault of the Decathlon event during the Beijing 2015 IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium, also known as Bird’s Nest, in Beijing, China, 29 August 2015. epa/Diego Azubel

Fan Yilin of China performs on the uneven bars during the women's qualifications on day two at the 46th FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Glasgow, Britain, 24 October 2015. epa/Andrew Cowie

Fan Yilin of China performs on the uneven bars during the women’s qualifications on day two at the 46th FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Glasgow, Britain, 24 October 2015. epa/Andrew Cowie

British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes AMG GP in action during the third practice session at the Circuit of the Americas, in Austin, Texas, USA, 24 October 2015. The United States Formula One Grand Prix takes place on 25 October 2015. epa/Srdjan Suki

British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes AMG GP in action during the third practice session at the Circuit of the Americas, in Austin, Texas, USA, 24 October 2015. The United States Formula One Grand Prix takes place on 25 October 2015. epa/Srdjan Suki

Fourth placed Lara Gut of Switzerland speeds down the slope during the second run of the women's Giant Slalom race of the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup season on the Rettenbach glacier, in Soelden, Austria, 24 October 2015. epa/apa/Gian Ehrenzeller

Fourth placed Lara Gut of Switzerland speeds down the slope during the second run of the women’s Giant Slalom race of the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup season on the Rettenbach glacier, in Soelden, Austria, 24 October 2015. epa/apa/Gian Ehrenzeller

A photograph made avaiable on 01 November 2015 showing Charlie Lines (C) reacts after New Zealand All Blacks player Sonny Bill Williams gave his gold medal after winning the Rugby World Cup 2015 Final match between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham in London, Britain, 31 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

A photograph made avaiable on 01 November 2015 showing Charlie Lines (C) reacts after New Zealand All Blacks player Sonny Bill Williams gave his gold medal after winning the Rugby World Cup 2015 Final match between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham in London, Britain, 31 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Mads Ostberg of Norway driving his Citroën DS3 during the shakedown of the WRC Wales Rally GB 2015 in Deeside, Wales, Britain, 12 November 2015.

Mads Ostberg of Norway driving his Citroën DS3 during the shakedown of the WRC Wales Rally GB 2015 in Deeside, Wales, Britain, 12 November 2015.

Unicaja's US pivot Will Thomas (L) fights for the ball with US pivot Arinze Onuaku (R) of Maccabi Tel Aviv during their Euroleague game between Unicaja and Maccabi Tel Aviv played at Jose Maria Martin Carpena pavillio in Malaga, Andalusia, Spain on 26 November 2015. epa/efe/Jorge Zapata

Unicaja’s US pivot Will Thomas (L) fights for the ball with US pivot Arinze Onuaku (R) of Maccabi Tel Aviv during their Euroleague game between Unicaja and Maccabi Tel Aviv played at Jose Maria Martin Carpena pavillio in Malaga, Andalusia, Spain on 26 November 2015. epa/efe/Jorge Zapata

Competitors in action during the Motocross race Red Bull Knock Out at The Hague Beach, The Hague, Netherlands, 28 November 2015. The is the largest and toughest motocross beach race in the world. Amateur and pro motocross riders will fight against each other and against the natural elements of the sea and sand. epa/anp/Remko De Waal

Competitors in action during the Motocross race Red Bull Knock Out at The Hague Beach, The Hague, Netherlands, 28 November 2015. The is the largest and toughest motocross beach race in the world. Amateur and pro motocross riders will fight against each other and against the natural elements of the sea and sand. epa/anp/Remko De Waal

Ukrainian heavyweight boxer Vladimir Klitschko in action against British boxer Tyson Fury (not pictured) at the Esprit Arena in Duesseldorf, Germany, 28 November 2015. epa/dpa/Rolf Vennenbernd

Ukrainian heavyweight boxer Vladimir Klitschko in action against British boxer Tyson Fury (not pictured) at the Esprit Arena in Duesseldorf, Germany, 28 November 2015. epa/dpa/Rolf Vennenbernd

Attacks in Paris 13 November 2015

In a combined write-up, epa’s team of photographers covering the attacks in Paris on 13th November, 2015 and the aftermath were asked to share a few thoughts and stories behind their images.


By Yoan Valat

Wounded people are evacuated outside the scene of a hostage situation at the Bataclan theatre in Paris, France, 14 November 2015. Dozens of people have been killed in a series of attacks in the French capital Paris, with a hostage-taking also reported at a concert hall. epa / Yoan Valat

Wounded people are evacuated outside the scene of a hostage situation at the Bataclan theatre in Paris, France, in the early hours of 14 November 2015. epa / Yoan Valat

I was home enjoying a dinner with my parents who came to Paris from the South of France to attend the reception at the Elysee Palace for the Photography award* I received the same day by French President, Francois Hollande.
We were watching the soccer game France vs Germany and could hear the bombs on TV but did not realize what they were until TV commentators started to say something was going on. So I changed to a TV live info channel, and they were already mentioning bombs outside the stadium. I called Benjamin [Benjamin Légier, epa’s Bureau Chief France and Luxembourg], he was already aware and had a new piece of news about the shooting at the Café Carillon, about 15min by car from my place. So I went immediately but got stopped on my way by armed forces police about one km away from the cafe. This is when I realized it was a series of attacks ongoing in the streets of Paris. Then Benjamin called me back to ask me to rush to the Bataclan concert hall, where I arrived about five minutes later. Police and some army soldiers were already surrounding the place but it was still possible to be at a reasonable distance to take pictures. This is when I saw the first injured people being evacuated from the Bataclan.

People pay their respect in front the Carillon cafe in Paris, France, 14 November 2015. At least 120 people have been killed in a series of attacks in Paris on 13 November, according to French officials. Eight assailants were killed, seven when they detonated their explosive belts, and one when he was shot by officers, police said. French President Francois Hollande says that the attacks in Paris were an 'act of war' carried out by the Islamic State extremist group. epa / Yoan Valat

People pay their respect in front the Carillon cafe in Paris, France, 14 November 2015. At least 120 people have been killed in a series of attacks in Paris on 13 November, according to French officials. epa / Yoan Valat

The most important thing to me is the reaction of the population. It cannot be compared with the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo story. In January, people were really angry and combative, they were without fear, one could say. Today, it is so different. People realize it can happen anytime and anywhere in France. And the number of the victims is so big that we all know close friends who lost or who have injured friends.

*Yoan Valat, epa staff photographer based in Paris, was awarded First Prize in “Prix d’Elysée de la Photographie 2014/2015”. The prize was handed to him by Francois Hollande in a ceremony held at Elysée Palace on 13th November, 2015 at midday.


By Ian Langsdon

Wounded people are evacuated from the Stade de France in Paris, France, 13 November 2015, after explosions were reported. epa / Ian Langsdon

Wounded people are evacuated from the Stade de France in Paris, France, 13 November 2015, after explosions were reported. epa / Ian Langsdon

Everything was working fine. The Stade de France’s unstable internet connection was (for once) holding up, and pictures of the France-Germany friendly soccer match were rolling out at a steady pace. Then there was a bang. Loud enough to make me look up from my computer screen. The crowd cheered, while fellow photographers looked at each other and shrugged it off, dismissing it as a big firecracker which soccer fans often set off during games. A few minutes later, it happened again. Louder.
A flood of missed calls from the office suddenly popped up on my phone – the connection unable to establish in the 80,000-strong crowd in the stadium. This couldn’t be a good sign. I finally reached Benjamin on the phone: “There’s a shooting in central Paris, many dead, and rumours of an explosion outside the stadium.”

I packed up my gear and ran around the pitch to Etienne Laurent’s position, where he and a couple of other photographers had already packed up and were ready to head outside. The only problem was, the stadium was in lockdown. The authorities kept the whole situation quiet, as the match continued playing – and the crowd had not seemed phased by the explosion sounds whatsoever. They had no idea.

After retrieving our press cards from the front desk, a group of around six of us proceeded to the perimeter gate, which was being blocked by a security guard, refusing to let us out. He didn’t stand a chance. We flattened him as we pushed our way past him, out into the open grounds around the stadium. Outside, there was an eerie sense of calm, despite a heavy police presence. Operating on a rumour that there had been an explosion near a fast-food restaurant near a small piazza where Etienne and I had parked out motorbikes, we made our way around the stadium, asking police officers on the way what the situation was. The summary of it was: ‘No idea.’

We reached the piazza to find that it had become the medical and command centre for rescue operations. Police with machine guns stood guard, and there was a general sense of confusion as to what the perimeter was. Some policemen allowed us to walk around and shoot pictures while others attempted to push us back to where a small crowd had gathered. Suddenly two firefighters appeared from around the corner, helping a shirtless man hopping on one foot. I photographed him being loaded into the ambulance, as three more injured people made their way towards us. At this point, I had not yet grasped the full scale of these tragic attacks. I only saw four injured victims that night, unlike my many colleagues who witnessed gruesome, difficult scenes.

With the stadium perimeter becoming increasingly difficult to operate around, and with unfolding events in Paris, I was called back into the city to reinforce the team. At 2am on a Friday night, crowds are usually spilling out of bars into the streets. But it was a ghost town, where only sirens echoed. That sound hasn’t stopped in five days.

I came to photograph soccer. I left, having covered part of the worst terror attack Paris ever saw.
I never found out what the final score was.

A large crowd gathers to lay flowers and candles in front of the Carillon restaurant in Paris, France, 15 November 2015. epa / Ian Langsdon

A large crowd gathers to lay flowers and candles in front of the Carillon restaurant in Paris, France, 15 November 2015. epa / Ian Langsdon

Candles and flowers. That’s how my year started, in the aftermath of the shocking attacks on Charlie Hebdo, a block away from where I live. And here I am again, surrounded by candles and flowers, this time at the Bataclan, a block away from where I live. Or at the Carillon, or Petit Cambodge or Cosa Nostra restaurants, all 10 minutes away.

The response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks had quickly turned political, almost into a militant celebration, as the world rallied behind slogans like ‘Je suis Charlie’. We grasped pens to symbolize that freedom of speech will always prevail. We organized a march. But this time, Paris’ youth was targeted. The victims were all predominantly young adults, enjoying the usual friday night leisures we all indulge in. This wasn’t a targeted assassination of cartoonists who had angered fundamentalists. This was gratuitous killing, with the objective of inflicting maximal damage. Despite the world’s outpouring of support – with ‘Je suis Paris’, ‘#PrayForParis’ and red-white-and-blue Facebook profile pictures – nothing will turn this into a militant celebration. Things are different this time. There is only grief.

Parisians awoke Saturday morning to a changed Paris. But they needed to take in the full scale of the horror in person. Thousands flocked to Carillon, the Petit Cambodge, the Cosa Nostra, the Bonne Bierre, the Belle Equipe, Comptoire Voltaire and Bataclan. Some would leave flowers, others would spend hours battling gusts of wind to light and re-light candles. People left letters, drawings, pictures, bottles of wine. The silence was deafening at every site. Occasionally, someone would timidly begin singing the Marseillaise (France’s national anthem), and a hushed, wobbly-voiced choir would monotonously join in, provoking outbursts of tears. The crowds were always teetering on the edge, emotionally.

The working conditions were complicated. On the one hand, the raw emotion at these sites provided strong visuals. On the other hand, pointing a camera in someone’s face as they cry is never easy. We were affected too. I hid behind my camera the whole time. Living these scenes through the viewfinder allowed me to put up the emotional wall needed to work. I’m a young adult, I knew these bars, and this is the second terror attack in my neighbourhood in one year. Maybe it’s time to move.


By Christophe Petit-Tesson

People are evacuated by bus outside the scene of an attack at the Bataclan theatre in Paris, France, 13 November 2015.epa / Christophe Petit Tesson

People are evacuated by bus outside the scene of an attack at the Bataclan theatre in Paris, France, 13 November 2015. epa / Christophe Petit Tesson

Je me souviendrai du 13 Novembre 2015.
Je me souviendrai aussi de la photo de l’évacuation de survivants dans ce bus. Cette photo je ne l’aie pas voulu, pas chercher. Je viens de passer 3 heures dans un buisson en face du Bataclan ou j’ai entendu les cris, les balles et les explosions sans presque rien voir car des camions de Police m’empêchent de voir la façade de la salle. Encore sonné, je croise 5, 10, je ne sais plus, regards qui me transpercent tous en même temps et je n’ai qu’un reflexe ; lever mon appareil photo, que puis-je faire d’autre ?
Je ne réalise pas que cette photo sera publiée dans de nombreux titres un peu partout dans le monde. Sur les réseaux sociaux ou elle est partagée je la vois encore et encore et ils me regardent toujours droit dans les yeux. Elle raconte l’horreur mais sans les armes, ni le sang, ni la violence juste la douleur d’un Vendredi 13 Novembre.

I will remember the November 13, 2015.
I also will remember the picture of the evacuation of survivors in a bus. This picture I did not want to take, I was not looking for it. I just spent three hours in a bush in front of the Bataclan where I heard the assault’s screams, bullets and explosions without seeing almost anything because police trucks prevented me from seeing the front of the concert room. Still shocked , I see 5, 10, or I don’t know how many, eyes that pierce me all at once and I have just one reflex: raise my camera, what else can I do?
I did not realize that this photo will be published in numerous titles around the world. On social networks, where it is shared , I can see it again and again, and still they look me straight in the eyes. The photo recounts the horror but without the arms, nor blood, nor violence, just the pain of Friday, November 13.

 


By Laurent Dubrule

Flowers and shoes aside of a blood stain near the Bataclan concert venue Paris, France, 14 November 2015. epa / Laurent Dubrule

Flowers and shoes aside of a blood stain near the Bataclan concert venue Paris, France, 14 November 2015. epa / Laurent Dubrule

This photo was taken near the Bataclan the day after the attacks. For me it represents the ambient chaos … a lost shoe on the pavement 200 meters away from the premises of the drama, blood streaks and people beginning to come to pray, just a few hours before the injured were attended to, even on the ground … candles, flowers, shoes, blood, horror ….

Thousands of people observe a minute of silence near the Bataclan concert venue in Paris, France, 16 November 2015. epa / Laurent Dubrule

Thousands of people observe a minute of silence near the Bataclan concert venue in Paris, France, 16 November 2015. epa / Laurent Dubrule

This photo was taken during the minute of silence next to the Bataclan the Monday following the attacks in Paris. Hundreds and thousands of people gathered to pray – among them these three women of Iranian origin attracted my attention … a simple photo, sweet, but so tragic ….

 


By Etienne Laurent

A French police officer takes cover while on the lookout for the shooters who attacked the restaurant 'Le Petit Cambodge' earlier tonight in Paris, France, 13 November 2015. epa / Etienne Laurent

A French police officer takes cover while on the lookout for the shooters who attacked the restaurant ‘Le Petit Cambodge’ in Paris, France, 13 November 2015. epa / Etienne Laurent

As Ian explained getting out of the stadium was not an easy task. We had both parked our motorbikes at the exact location where the rescue squads had set up their control center and I had to argue with a police officer before he kindly accepted (would probably say kindly agreed) to let us remove our vehicles.

At this point, I was only focused on the task at hand, I took a few pictures of the first injured people to arrive and sent them as quickly as possible. I had no time to think about what was happening as messages and texts from friends and family started to pile up in my phone.

I sent a few texts back to tell them saying I was ok during the 2 minutes before Benjamin called to dispatch me to the ‘Carillon’ and ‘Le Petit Cambodge’. I put the warnings on and rode as fast as possible, it was already late and I knew most of the routes would have checkpoints forbidding access.

As I rode, I was grasping the reality of the attacks. A coordinated action involving several groups, it wasn’t isolated as it was for Charlie.

When I arrived from the direction of the Saint Louis Hospital, the road was blocked. I tried to argue with the police but they wouldn’t let me go through so I decided to try side streets to get closer to the scene.

I had received messages from my closest friends and I knew my little brother was ok.

As I rode around to find access, I found myself face to face with a unit of police all weapons drawn and walking slowly up the street searching for possible terrorists. They ordered me out of the street so I parked on the side and started to follow them from a distance, my back always against a wall.

In the dim orange light of the street lamps, the scene was out of this world, this country. The officers were walking from door to door, tree to tree, corners to corners. They were tensed shouting at passers by to get out of there, to find shelter, their weapons pointing at them.

Suddenly, one of their colleagues following them with a car called them back. They ran toward him and quickly jumped into the car and drove away in an instant.

I ran to my motorbike to retrieve my computer and sent the pictures I had taken. I was then dispatched to the Bataclan to reinforce.

This first night was surreal, I remember it as something you would have experienced as an outside character. And in a sense, I was an outside character. My mind was blank all this time, I had no feelings but this pain in my stomach and a dull rage building up in the back of head, it was terrible, it was far too big for something like this to happen here, in these places I had been with friends for drinks or a bite.

Three people set up a French flag in front of the Carillon restaurant prior to a minute of silence in tribute for the victims of the 13 November in front of the Carillon restaurant, in Paris, France, 16 November 2015. epa / Etienne Laurent

Three people set up a French flag in front of the Carillon restaurant prior to a minute of silence in tribute for the victims of the 13 November in front of the Carillon restaurant, in Paris, France, 16 November 2015. epa / Etienne Laurent

On Monday, at noon, a minute of silence was observed all over France. The ‘Carillon’ and ‘Le Petit Cambodge’, one in front of the other, are located 10 minutes away from my flat in a working class and young neighbourhood. There, the communities mix together, whether they are French, from Asia, or Maghreb, young or older.

I arrived at 11.30, a crowd was already gathering when a Cambogian man arrived with a plastic pole and started to set up a French flag helped by an elderly man and another, a Muslim who later would pray, his two eyes turned toward the sky. As all three were hanging the flag from the pole, no sound could be heard in the too heavy atmosphere, with the exception of muffled sobs erupting here and there, breaking the air.

It was hard for me to take pictures staying there just thinking trying to make a sense of it all . The sound of the shutters from my camera and my colleagues was tearing up this silence, this moment of contemplation and seemed unbearable to my ears.

I suddenly realized tears were rolling down my cheeks, slowly without a sound. All the emotions I was shutting down during the past three days were emerging. I felt rage and despair but also pride as I was watching the crowd and these three men working together setting up a flag as a symbol to rally them all against this terror, this horror that shook us all.

 


By Julien Warnand

Words fail me. What I can only say is that after three days of photographing people paying tribute, crying, placing mourning flowers and candles, I found something special in this picture of a man comforting a woman in his arms at Place de la Republique, someting between compassion and hope:

A man comforts a woman during a vigil at the Place de la Republique in Paris, France, 15 November 2015. epa / Julien Warnand

A man comforts a woman during a vigil at the Place de la Republique in Paris, France, 15 November 2015. epa / Julien Warnand

 


By Guillaume Horcajuelo

Pour moi, parmi la couverture photo que j’ai du effectuer, cette photo est un moment intéressant. L’Élysée organise un pool photo pour une minute de silence a l’université de la Sorbonne avec Francois Hollande, Manuel Valls, Premier ministre, et Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Ministre de l’éducation. L’équipe de presse nous prepositionne dans la cour de la Sorbonne, symbole de liberté, les étudiants sont eux positionnés en fer à cheval. Le directeur annonce l’arrivée imminente du président et demande l’extinction des téléphones portables. Dans un silence très lourd, les centaines d’ étudiants attendent, aucun bruit, aucune parole, aucune sonnerie de portable ne vient troubler ce lourd silence alors que la minute n’a pas encore commencé.

French President Francois Hollande (C) flanked by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (R) and French Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem (L) stands among students as they hold a minute of silence in the courtyard of the Sorbonne University in Paris, France, 16 November 2015. epa / Guillaume Horcajuelo

French President Francois Hollande (C) flanked by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (R) and French Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem (L) stands among students as they hold a minute of silence in the courtyard of the Sorbonne University in Paris, France, 16 November 2015. epa / Guillaume Horcajuelo

Le président et les ministres arrivent, prennent position au millieu des étudiants, observent la minute de silence. À la fin, c’est un tonnerre d’applaudissements qui surgit de l’extérieur. Et qui vient se répandre dans la cour. À leur tour, les étudiants claquent des mains. Puis au moment du départ le président serre quelques mains et se retire. Les applaudissements semblent interminables. C’est alors que les étudiants restent en position, attendent… On sent qu’ils ne veulent pas que se moment se termine, qu’ils ne veulent pas partir et c’est alors qu’ils se mettent à chanter la Marseillaise à l’unisson. Un très beau moment riche en émotions, non organisé par le protocole. Certains pleurent mais la plupart d’entre eux n’exprime que peu d’expression . En partant j’entend un étudiant dire ” c’était tellement beau mais c’était trop court “.
À cet instant on sent le courage et la force de ces étudiants de Paris, ceux-là mêmes qui fréquentent les terrasses de cafés et les salles de concert, un minute de courage tous ensembles contre les heures d’angoisses vécues depuis 2 jours.

Among all the photos I had to take during this period, this picture is particularly interesting to me. The Elysee Palace organized pool coverage of the minute of silence at the Sorbonne University with President Francois Hollande, Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. The press organizers show us our position in the courtyard of the University, a symbol of Freedom; the students stand in a semi-circle around the officials. The director announces the imminent arrival of the President and asks everyone to turn their mobile phones off.

In heavy silence, hundreds of students wait. There is no noise, no talking, no phones ringing to disturb the deep silence before the minute of commemoration starts.

The President and his ministers enter, stand among the students and observe the minute of silence which ends to thunderous applause coming from outside the school and spreading into the courtyard. All the students start clapping. While departing, the President shakes some hands and disappears. At that moment, the students stand and wait… we can feel that they don’t want this moment to end like this, they don’t want to leave and then they start singing the national anthem “La Marseillaise” in perfect unison.

epa / Guillaume Horcajuelo

Students sing ‘ La Marseillaise ‘ after they hold a minute of silence with French President Francois Hollande, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and French Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem in the courtyard of the Sorbonne University in Paris, France, 16 November 2015. epa / Guillaume Horcajuelo

A moment full of emotion, not organized by protocol. Some young people cry but most of them show blank expressions on their faces.
Before I leave the Sorbonne, I hear a student saying: “It was so beautiful but it was too short”.
I could feel the strength and the courage of the students of Paris, the ones who gather on the terraces of the cafés and at the concert venues. A minute of bravery, all united against the fear felt over the past two days.

Refugee crisis in Europe – Macedonian Border

By Georgi Licovski

An exhausted and frustrated migrant holds his head after he failed to get a place on a train heading to the Serbian border at the train station in Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 13 August 2015. epa / Georgi Licovski

An exhausted and frustrated migrant holds his head after he failed to get a place on a train heading to the Serbian border at the train station in Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 13 August 2015. epa / Georgi Licovski

My first pictures for epa date back to more than 20 years ago and that first decade of my epa career was connected exclusively to the breaking up of Yugoslavia, only to be followed by the terrible crisis in Kosovo. It was then that I first experienced huge waves of refugees, when half a million people left Kosovo and were settled in the Macedonian refugee camp Stenkovec. Those were very difficult times and sincerely I thought, and hoped, I would never need to take pictures of refugees on European territory again. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

A Macedonian policeman walks ahead of a group of refugees crossing the border checkpoint of Blace, some 25 kms north of the Macedonian capitol Skopje 24 April 1999, after their arrival from Kosovo by train. epa / Georgi Licovski

A Macedonian policeman walks ahead of a group of refugees crossing the border checkpoint of Blace, some 25 kms north of the Macedonian capitol Skopje 24 April 1999, after their arrival from Kosovo by train. epa / Georgi Licovski

After the war in Macedonia in 2001 and the surrounding conflicts, I continued working for epa, mainly covering sports events. I have to admit that I have enjoyed these last 14 years and the sport assignments far away from the human suffering and tragedy.

I continued to cover news in Macedonia and the surrounding countries but rarely something that is breaking news. With the coming of the migrants on Macedonian territory in March and April this year, I was among the first who took a serious interest in it because I assumed that the migrant story would continue to develop. In the beginning the pictures were not really accepted in European newspapers because Europe still didn’t take the migrants situation seriously. As time passed however, the story got bigger and in July and August it exploded and became one of the biggest stories of the beginning 21st century. When I consider that I am not so young, and having 30 years of working as a photographer behind me, I started looking at things differently. For me, I was faced with a big moral question. We all try to take the most touching pictures of the migrants because we know that those kind of pictures have a better impact in the newspapers in the world. Those are the types of pictures that sell. But at the same time I became very aware of how deep I got into the intimacy and misery of the people who left their homes and were running away from the horrors of war, dreaming of the “paradise on earth” called Europe. How moral is it to use their misery and their terrible situation for a better picture and a better play? But truth be told, never in my life did I receive a greater reaction from the many European journalists and their readers as they tried to contact me and ask if they could help the migrants in any way. I received emails in which people asked me where can they donate money for the migrants. That made me a little happier.

Migrants fight to get onto the train heading to the Serbian border at the train station in Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 13 August 2015. epa / Georgi Licovski

Migrants fight to get onto the train heading to the Serbian border at the train station in Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 13 August 2015. epa / Georgi Licovski

The majority of migrants don’t want their pictures taken for many reasons. While the younger ones and the children are easier to come into contact with and accept being photographed, the adults and especially the women are not happy when they see the cameras. A big problem for me nevertheless is how to approach and make contact with the migrants. In all the chaos, what is difficult for me and the other photographers is the police which, by default do not like the photographers. The permits for taking pictures at the border line are easily acquired from the ministry of interior. Nevertheless it’s completely different in the field. Even if you have all the necessary papers and permits required, the permission to shoot is given by the commander of the police force who is in charge at the moment. In any case, experience and patience is required to make good contact with the police which allows for better access to the border zone.

Migrants wait for the train heading to the Serbian border at the train station in Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 14 August 2015. epa / Georgi Licovski

Migrants wait for the train heading to the Serbian border at the train station in Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 14 August 2015. epa / Georgi Licovski

Where I faced my biggest dilemma was the situation when the migrants placed women and children in front of the police cordon. The police could at any time be given the order to close the cordon and not let anyone pass. But the migrants, in their rush to pass the border as quickly as possible, try to breach the police cordon by setting the women and children in the front of the line. The migrants then start to push from behind. As the police try to stop their passage the innocent women and children are caught in the middle. There are horrible scenes of women and children crying and fainting. While taking pictures of these incidents, I am not sure how much we captured the real situation in the field. Are the police being brutal or are the migrants just creating a scene that makes it look that way? During one of these situations I made a picture that was published as a double page in “Time” magazine and many other newspapers around the world. In it you can see two children crying in the middle of a police cordon.

Children cry as migrants waiting on the Greek side of the border break through a cordon of Macedonian special police forces to cross into Macedonia, near the southern city of Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 21 August 2015. epa / Georgi Licovski

Children cry as migrants waiting on the Greek side of the border break through a cordon of Macedonian special police forces to cross into Macedonia, near the southern city of Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 21 August 2015. epa / Georgi Licovski

The situation was so horrible that for the first time in my life I saw my colleagues cry, shaken by what’s going on in front of their eyes. I also cried, but still I wonder if that picture, and dozens of others we made that day with similar themes truly show the situation of what happened that day on the Macedonian-Greek border. With certainty I know that some of the migrants took other people’s children in their hands to be allowed to pass the police cordon after which they left the children alone on the railways and continued on their way. The children were left alone crying, searching for their parent who was on the other side of the cordon. What is the truth here and how can we capture it without manipulating the facts?

Migrants wait for permission to board a train heading to the Serbian border at the train station in Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 15 August 2015. epa / Georgi Licovski

Migrants wait for permission to board a train heading to the Serbian border at the train station in Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 15 August 2015. epa / Georgi Licovski

I am however, proud of the picture I took of the little Syrian boy whose parents carried him in a bag because, according to them, he was badly hurt from a chemical attack in Syria. That picture was widely published on several front pages in Europe and caused big a response, which I mentioned before in the text. Many people and organizations became interested in the fate of the child and from what I understand, they were able to locate him and his family and he was able to get the care that he needed.

Migrants from Aleppo, Syria, carry their injured child in a bag as they get in a train heading to the Serbian border, at the train station in Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 04 August 2015. epa / Georgi Licovski

Migrants from Aleppo, Syria, carry their injured child in a bag as they get in a train heading to the Serbian border, at the train station in Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 04 August 2015. epa / Georgi Licovski

I use different camera bags depending on how many days I will stay in the field but my standard equipment during the time of the migrant crisis is my two Nikon cameras D4 and D4s, 14-24mm, 35mm, 70-200mm and 300mm.

Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter to stay in touch for more insightful stories from behind the scenes.

return of the wild horses

By Filip Singer

A Mongolian nomad rides his horse near the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 06 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

A Mongolian nomad rides his horse near the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 06 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

Together with a cameraman, I am bending in a stream. There are flocks of mosquitoes all around us. We both need that one shot which will symbolize perfectly the whole transport – the return of the wild Przewalski’s horses to their native steppes, the Gobi desert region of southern Mongolia. Up until now I have photos of the horses inside the barriers, in both Czech republic and Mongolia. I also have shots during the beautiful sunrise and sunset in the Gobi desert; however, there is a fence in the background. I can’t reconcile with the fact that I still do not have photos of the horses in the wild desert.

Przewalski's horses stand in an acclimation pen of the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 07 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

Przewalski’s horses stand in an acclimation pen of the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 07 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

The herd of horses already escaped us several times. To take a photo of the horses in the wild Gobi almost seemed impossible. If we approached them, they noticed immediately and upon sight of us would run away a little further. In my tele lenses they were so small. Now, we are as close as never before. We are almost not breathing as we crouch and crawl through the dense grass ahead. The mosquitos are biting more and more, it’s unbearable. They are nearly eating us alive. The more we approach the more I think about how the Czech rangers urged us to be careful and not to get too close. I am a news photographer not a professional photographer of wild nature and I nearly forgot that there was no fence of the ZOO around me.

A herd of Przewalski's horses run in the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 07 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

A herd of Przewalski’s horses run in the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 07 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

The stud guards his territory especially since there are little foals in the herd. We are hesitating to go any further. As we finally overcome our fear and start go forward, the herd spot us. The leader of the herd is watching. The stud stands nearly 40 meters away and starts walking towards us. Deep inside I feel fear and worry. There is only the level field all around us and the ranger with his car is two kilometers away. If the stud decides to attack there is nowhere to hide except the river. The cameraman, who had convinced me to follow the herd, is now turning around and is about to attempt a run for the river. I quietly but emphatically urge him not to move for God´s sake! The stud chucks his head, and after what seemed like a never-ending minute, the herd passes by all around us. I´m taking the pictures as if I were fighting for my life, as we hear the pounding of their hoofs. The herd passes by and the cameraman and I laugh out of euphoria! We finally have the shots we need after losing hope we would ever get them.

I attended the whole trip with the Prevalski horses all the way to Mongolia. I´ve seen the whole story from the beginning till the releasing of the horses into the wild.

A convoy transports crates containing Przewalski's horses from Bulgan to Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 05 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

A convoy transports crates containing Przewalski’s horses from Bulgan to Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 05 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

The difficult tranquilizing the horses before loading them into the crates in Czech Republic, following 17 hours long flight in the cold cargo space of the military aircraft among the crates with the horses.

Vets look after the sedated Przewalski's horse Rabea, born in Leipzig, Germany on 14 September 2009, before her long journey to Mongolia, at the acclimatization station in the village of Dolni Dobrejov, about 80 km from Prague, Czech Republic, 04 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

Vets look after the sedated Przewalski’s horse Rabea, born in Leipzig, Germany on 14 September 2009, before her long journey to Mongolia, at the acclimatization station in the village of Dolni Dobrejov, about 80 km from Prague, Czech Republic, 04 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

The unloading and long way of the convoy through hard terrain all the way here to Gobi, the new home of the wild horses.

Przewalski's horse Querida, born in Prague Zoo, Czech Republic on 10 August 2012, jumps off her transport crate upon her arrival at the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, late 05 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

Przewalski’s horse Querida, born in Prague Zoo, Czech Republic on 10 August 2012, jumps off her transport crate upon her arrival at the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, late 05 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

Beautiful wild nature, the nomads, the fantastic crew of Prague ZOO and local rangers.

Mongolian rangers and family members celebrate during a dinner in honor of the successful arrival of Przewalski's horses from Czech Republic to the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 06 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

Mongolian rangers and family members celebrate during a dinner in honor of the successful arrival of Przewalski’s horses from Czech Republic to the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 06 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

A Przewalski's horse runs in the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 07 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

A Przewalski’s horse runs in the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 07 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

So many incredible elements to the story, but the everlasting memory remains the imagery of the herd of the last surviving wild horses living in the world.

A herd of Przewalski's horses run in the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 06 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

A herd of Przewalski’s horses run in the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 06 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

Wild horse feature package on epa.eu

Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter to stay in touch for more insightful stories from behind the scenes.