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Smashing PHOTOS of the YEAR - I

Last updated on: December 5, 2011 08:35 IST

Smashing PHOTOS of the YEAR - I

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From the uprisings across the Arab world to the devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan, there was no lack of news in 2011. In this five-part series, Reuters photographers offer a behind the scenes account of the images that helped define the year.

Photographer Goran Tomasevic's note:

"I was in south Sudan covering the referendum when I found out that there were going to be protests in Egypt. I felt that there could be big troubles, so I returned to Egypt. I arrived at 8am and dropped my bags at home and then went to the office. Later in the afternoon clashes began in Cairo. People were shouting and the police came out on the streets. There were protesters, riot police and also plainclothes police. The plainclothes police started chasing people around: kicking them, beating them.

I had to shoot quickly. I saw a lot of plainclothes police standing in a line like soldiers. There were some street battles with civilians. The next day we knew it was going to be a big protest so I took my camera downtown to look for possible trouble. We went to a couple of neighborhoods but people were walking through the small streets heading towards the city center. One moment we witnessed some clashes. Police started to fight and the protesters fought back." 

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Image: A protester stands in front of a burning barricade during a demonstration in Cairo January 28, 2011
Photographs: Reuters
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'We're alive, we're still alive'

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Photographer Beawiharta's note:

"We took off smoothly for the short flight from Singapore to Jakarta, and I started falling asleep. Suddenly I was woken by the sound of two bangs, like a bomb or truck tire blowing out. My wife gripped my hand and asked "Do you smell something burning?" Yes, there was a sharp smell stinging my nose. I realised there was something wrong because all the stewardesses ran back with the food carts.

The plane started to vibrate, harder and harder. I held my wife's hand tightly and looked at her face as she started praying. My two younger children were asleep, after their first ever trip abroad, but not Pradipta, the eldest one. "Pra look through the window and watch outside," I said. "I see light, I see fire, I see fire," he said. Then the electricity was switched off. I realized the plane, an Airbus A330, had a big problem. I was afraid because I thought we would die. Pradipta looked into my eyes and asked: "Will we die?"

I was afraid and could not answer the question. I looked at all my children's faces and held my lovely wife's hands tightly. During my many years of assignments as a Reuters photojournalist, when flying I have imagined being on a plane that had a problem that forced an emergency landing, and then taking pictures. But I never imagined this situation with my family. But it happened. We will die together, so we can fly to heaven together, I thought. If we die together, I will not miss my wife's delicious cooking. I will not miss the smell of my kids' sweat. There will be no tears among us. My thoughts, to my surprise, stopped me being afraid any more.

"Will we die?" Pradipta asked again. I looked into his eyes, held his hand tightly and said: "No, we're alive, we're still alive," then I gave him a high five just as if we were playing basketball. After that, I became calm because I was not afraid to die because we would all die together. I started to adjust my camera, which was hanging around my neck. I set the ISO higher, set the white balance, checked the battery was full and saw I had around 300 clicks for the rest of the memory card. I started to take pictures, though it was dark. I forgot my camera had a full HD video, so I forgot to record the situation. 

After 20 years living as a photographer, I was thinking as a photographer. I saw a steward sitting in front of me and shouted: "What happened?" "The engine is on fire and we are flying back to Singapore," he replied. My wife put life vests on herself and the kids, though there had been no order to do so, and other passengers followed. I asked Pradipta to look out of the window, and he said he could still see a lot of light and we were over the sea. The plane was vibrating but still flying. I opened all my senses to prepare for everything, and heard the airplane wheels come out. We landed and stopped on the tarmac. I heard the captain say: "I am Captain Brad, the situation is under control and our engine fire has been extinguished. Please wait in a line and walk to exit through the front door, don't run. And the ground crew will take care of you. Thank you."


Image: Passengers on Cathay Pacific flight CX715 prepare to disembark from the aeroplane after it landed safely at Changi Airport in Singapore May 16, 2011. The A330 flight, which was enroute to Jakarta, experienced engine trouble shortly after takeoff and had to return to Singapore. Its starboard engine was burnt, according to pilot Bradley Chic
Photographs: Reuters
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A fitting tribute

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Photographer Eric Thayer's note:

"I saw the plane, which didn't seem out of the ordinary, since planes had been in the sky all night, but for some reason this plane looked like it was heading towards the tribute in lights. It crossed over, and I was able to make about four frames of the plane actually passing through the lights. Of those, only one was in focus. I had actually hoped to expose for the plane, but I didn't have time to change the settings.

But in the end, the plane in white heading into the clouds seemed a fitting tribute on the September 11 ten year anniversary, so I'm glad the image was exposed as is and that I was lucky enough to capture this frame." 

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Image: A plane flies through the 'Tribute in Lights' in lower Manhattan in New York September 10, 2011
Photographs: Reuters
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Odd meeting of a world

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Photographer Barry Malone's note:

"I almost didn't take the photograph. I'd been walking through a remote Kenyan village near the border with Somalia shadowing a group of United Nations bosses who were there to see the impact of the recently declared Somali famine and region-wide drought. I'd become tired of such trips over the years and was particularly struck that day by the often surreal nature of the African aid circus. 

When I saw this official dressed in a suit and using an iPad to film a dead cow, I just stood and stared, pretty sure I had rarely seen anything so strange and incongruous, such an odd meeting of a world filled with ultra-modern developments and one trapped in a cycle of age-old problems. 

I finally snapped the picture just seconds before the man stood and caught me standing behind him." 

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Image: An aid worker using an iPad films the rotting carcass of a cow in Wajir near the Kenya-Somalia border, July 23, 2011
Photographs: Reuters
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A friend snatched

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Photographer Eric Thayer's note:

"I arrived at the scene of the shooting of US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, along with several other people, in a supermarket parking lot in Tucson, Arizona, a few hours after it happened. I had been on the story about a week when the first of the funerals began.

I had photographed the scene, candlelight vigils, press conferences, the shooter's home, church and synagogue services, victims who survived, the hospital where the congresswoman was at that time still in critical condition.

Probably the most difficult funeral for me was for nine-year-old Christina Greene, who was shot and killed in the attack. Other photographers and I were across the street from the funeral as people began to trickle out after the service ended.

I noticed a boy with a stuffed bear walking along the road with a woman. I approached them, and they were fine with me taking pictures. While his mother was being interviewed, I made a few frames as the boy walked away from his mother with the stuffed bear."

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Image: Nine-year-old Dante Mitchell, classmate of nine-year-old Christina Green, holds a stuffed bear he brought to her funeral in Tucson, Arizona January 13, 2011. Green was killed in the January 8 shooting that left six dead and wounded US Representative Gabrielle Giffords
Photographs: Reuters
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So much pain

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Photographer Ricardo Moraes's note:

 

"The murder of 12 children in a Rio de Janeiro school was the most difficult story I have done. An unprecedented story in Brazil, it shocked the entire society and for us journalists, it was no different.

On the day after the massacre we were covering the victims' funerals and the strong emotions of the families and friends. As I reached the cemetery the first scene I came across was one of a fainted mother being carried, after having suffered a crisis at the child's wake.

I took a few shots, and while they went in search of medical assistance I tried to understand what was happening around me. As I observed what was happening all around, l was also thinking of how to work surrounded by so much pain, including the pain that I felt myself."

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Image: Relatives of one of the victims of a shooting at Tasso da Silveira school carry a family member who had fainted while attending the funeral at Realengo cemetery in Rio de Janeiro April 8, 2011
Photographs: Reuters
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Doesn't really look like a mercenary

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Photographer Goran Tomasevic's note:

 

"We were just passing by an area, not really the front line. We pushed ahead but didn't see anybody so we came back to a checkpoint, somewhere between Ras Lanuf and Brega. We heard that the rebels had some mercenaries. They ended up in this room and they were talking to us.

They didn't look like mercenaries at all. One moment, they took one of them out and they put him on the ground and they interrogated him. They pointed fingers and a gun at him. I was really confused as I don't understand the language. They took him away in a car. I don't believe they killed him, I think they took him to Benghazi.

They really didn't look like mercenaries; just young kids under 20 years old. They were wearing nice shoes and jeans. They looked like immigrants. I guess here they don't want to say that they are Libyans fighting Libyans. It was a bad moment. This gun was not locked at all. This is one of those situations: do you want to do pictures or do you want to react? I'm a photographer and I don't want to interfere but at the same time I don't want this young boy's head to be blown off. It was really difficult for me to focus on the job."

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Image: Rebels hold a young man at gunpoint, who they accuse of being a loyalist to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, between the towns of Brega and Ras Lanuf, March 3, 2011
Photographs: Reuters
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Life washed away

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Photographer Toshiyuki Tsunenari's note:

"I headed to the Yuriage district of Natori city in Miyagi prefecture just two days after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan. The tsunami had destroyed buildings and left water everywhere. Smoke still hung over the smouldering ruins.

I met Akane Ito amid the rubble as she sat crying on the side of the road, from where she should have been able to see her house. The tsunami had washed away her home together with the memories and her pet, which was family to her. 

It is not easy to photograph those in tears, but I took the picture as I felt it represented the sorrow the entire region was experiencing. I feel honoured if readers were able to feel part of this sorrow. What I want to be able to do is to allow our readers to see what is taking place in the disaster-hit areas. I also sincerely wish for a swift recovery in the disaster-hit areas."

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Image: A woman cries while sitting on a road amid the destroyed city of Natori, Miyagi Prefecture in northern Japan March 13, 2011, after a massive earthquake and tsunami
Photographs: Reuters
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A simple yet powerful snap

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Photographer Goran Tomasevic's note:

"I was maybe between 150-200 meters from the explosion. It's pretty much full frame. This picture was really easy, just point and shoot. It didn't take much imagination. Sometimes you need to get creative and shoot it this way, or that way but this o#8800 it just happened.

Before the explosion, I didn't hear anything and I don't know how the rebels reacted after the explosion as they were behind me. Sometimes I looked around and saw them shouting. 

I didn't know when I took it that this picture would be used everywhere. I knew it was going to be used, because of a story like this but I like more some of the other pictures I took on the same day, with the rebels in the frame. It's a very simple picture which is why I am surprised it was used so widely."

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Image: Vehicles belonging to forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi explode after an air strike by coalition forces, along a road between Benghazi and Ajdabiyah March 20, 2011
Photographs: Reuters
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Within the landscape

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Photographer Denis Balibouse's note:

 

"For the first time, this year I covered the Grande Odyssee sled dogs race close to the French Italian border for five days. On two occasions the mushers had to spend a night out sleeping in a tent next to their dogs, without the help of their handlers.

I was offered by organisers to stay for the night in a hotel-restaurant some 500 yards away from the Polar Base as the lift would close at 9pm. I thought of the different pictures I could take than the usual action.

On my second visit I was unable to connect to a mobile phone network to send my images so I decided to try from an overlooking point nearby. I was bewildered by the scene that was now light by a near full moon.

I stayed nearly an hour as the temperature was not extreme. I sent my pictures but cherish that moment of sitting in the snow watching the clouds move; a nice experience of being "within" the landscape."

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Image: Switzerland's photographer Denis Balibouse files his pictures under a full moon sky from Mont-Cenis Pass Road in Lanslebourg during the Grande Odyssee sled dogs race January 19, 2011. This picture was taken with a long exposure
Photographs: Reuters
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Working under the western sky

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Photographer Jim Urquhart's note: 

"It was my second night with the cowboys after the first full day on one of the last real horse drives in America. I had spent the day focusing on making art of wranglers gathering about 400 horses from their winter range outside Three Forks, Montana.

After a frigid spring day in Montana, which included snow and rain, we had settled in for another cold night. About 30 people sat around a large fire for a chuck wagon dinner before heading to our canvas wall tents for the night. I made many frames of wranglers lit by fire light and even played with some time exposures.

But as I made my way around the fire I saw Dale Wetz dozing in and out of sleep but never dropping his beer. We were all beat, but these guys had spent the day working really hard. I just ran around with cameras while they wrestled horses. The fire was beginning to fade so I rested my lens on the stump of a log to steady it for a slow exposure and discreetly made as many frames as possible.
Many of these guys are very humble and a bit camera shy. Later in the night Wetz was a bit shocked when I asked for his name for the caption. But that was just how many of the wranglers were. This is their work and they weren't doing anything special; just going about their lives working under the western sky."

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Image: Wrangler Dale Wetz rests by the campfire after the group had gathered approximately 350 horses during Montana Horses' spring drive outside Three Forks, Montana April 22, 2011
Photographs: Reuters
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Undercover

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Photographer Baz Ratner's note:

"On May 15 clashes broke out throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem on the anniversary of Nakba (an Arabic word which means "catastrophe"), marking the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948.

I was assigned to the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem, where Palestinian youths were throwing stones at Israeli security forces. Police retaliated by firing rubber bullets and tear gas at the protesters.

After several hours, police charged, scattering the Palestinians. Down a side alleyway, I saw riot police and a group of about ten masked men and a woman -- all armed with pistols -- detaining a few Palestinians.

In the next few seconds I took pictures of a male Israeli undercover officer dressed as a Palestinian female holding a pistol. He jumped into a vehicle, leaving the detained protesters to the armoured riot police." 

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Image: An undercover Israeli policeman dressed as a Palestinian woman opens a car door after detaining a Palestinian protester during clashes in Shuafat refugee camp, in the West Bank near Jerusalem May 15, 2011
Photographs: Reuters
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Runaway bride

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Photographer Shannon Stapleton's note:

"This was the first time I ever shot what they call the Running of the Brides which is held in New York annually and has produced some nice feature photos in the past.

When I arrived there were a few hundred brides-to-be waiting in line hoping to save hundreds if not thousands on designer wedding gowns. Once let in it truly was like the Running of the Bulls. I was almost trampled by brides and their friends racing to try on wedding gowns. It was a fun feature to cover and made for some nice images." 

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Image: A shopper tries on bridal dresses during the Filene's Basement "Running of the Brides" bridal dress sale in New York June 3, 2011. The annual sale is known for its long queues and frantic shopping among brides-to-be hoping to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on designer wedding gowns
Photographs: Reuters
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Innocence captured

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Photographer Athar Hussain's note:

"I had become severely ill in the days target killings in Karachi hit their peak. Covering breaking news is my passion. I figured the best way to get over my illness was to rejoin news coverage on August 23. The same day a source called to inform me that a dead body, found in a sack, was being shifted to a hospital. I rushed to the hospital where I found that the victim was Imran Ali. He was not dead, but in fact only injured. 

Ali, who was shot by gunmen three times during a month-long wave of political and ethnic violence in Karachi, was lying on a stretcher while medics tended to his wounds. I was preparing to shoot some frames when I saw a family, including Ali's eight-year-old niece, approach his stretcher. 

I disengaged with everything and kept my focus on the girl, Sumayya, as she stood next to her uncle's bed. As Ali opened his eyes to look towards his family, Sumayya's mouth dropped. It was the moment I was waiting for." 

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Image: Eight-year-old Sumayya, whose uncle, Imran Ali, was injured in a shootout by unidentified gunmen, looks at him as he is brought to a hospital for treatment in Karachi August 23, 2011
Photographs: Reuters
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For freedom

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Photographer Anis Mili's note:

 

"I took this picture when I was with the rebels fighting Gaddafi's troops, about two miles from the city of Sirte. I was mindful of what was happening, when I saw a man carrying an RPG. I was surprised by the courage of the man, which insisted on fighting to win his freedom."



Image: A rebel on crutches fires a rocket propelled grenade while fighting on the front line in Sirte September 24, 2011
Photographs: Reuters
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