A picture and its story

«In moments of crisis, should you take pictures or try to help?»
WORLD
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Characters team Jan 12. 2018
by Characters team

Reuters photographers tell the stories behind their pictures and explain in their own words how the images were taken.
Through it all, the photographers raise a question that shows how close they were to the action: in moments of crisis, should they take pictures or try to help?

Source: Reuters
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Toby Melville: "I was on the footpath below the southeast end of Westminster bridge, shooting pictures for the on-going Brexit story. I saw in my peripheral vision a large dark shape around 3-5 metres away come over the parapet and hit the ground approximately 10 metres below.
I thought it was a terrible but isolated accident. I immediately called for an ambulance and ran to the top of the steps to try to get help at St Thomas's, the nearby hospital. While on the phone, I saw a couple more people lying on the pavement amongst debris, covered in blood or unconscious.
There were other people scattered along the bridge and pavement in various states of injury and distress. I realised this was not an accident but something premeditated. As the emergency services were on the scene now, I started taking photos along the bridge.
I was unsure if danger was still present. I didn't know a car had been driven into these people. I hadn't heard any screams, loud engine noises or the gunshots of the armed police shooting and killing the perpetrator of the attack, Khalid Masood. I thought the injured or dead might also have been shot and a gunman might still be on the loose.
Armed police arrived and cleared the bridge. I called the office and started filing photographs from the back of the camera, transmitting most of the frames I had shot for the office to choose, edit and crop. A week later I walked back over the bridge, everything was 'back to normal', in a way.
But the sight of the first victim falling and the sickening thud as he hit the pavement still goes through my mind. I wonder whether I should have transmitted all the frames I shot. The sequence of pictures is hard to look at. I remind myself I was lucky. I had walked over the bridge about a minute before the attack. Others weren't so fortunate."

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Shannon Stapleton: "The evening before Richard Spencer, an avowed white nationalist and spokesperson for the so-called alt-right movement, was to speak at the University of Florida, I walked around the Gainesville campus.
All seemed calm; there were no protests. The area was blanketed by police because Florida's governor had declared a state of emergency to try to prevent violence. Early the next day there was a light presence from both sides.
Over time, several hundred people protesting Spencer gathered in a "free speech zone" near where he was speaking. Once his speech began, tensions ran high and a few skirmishes broke out, but overall it was peaceful. I sat to file my photos and suddenly people started running.
I grabbed my cameras and followed them. In the midst of an angry crowd stood a man in a shirt printed with swastikas. The atmosphere was vitriolic. He had been punched in the face and was smirking as blood trickled down his chin.
He had walked right into the free speech zone and this really physical crowd. I got in there and took my photo as police were trying to escort him out of the zone. People called him pejorative names; some spat at him.
It was almost surreal. A black man stepped beside him and guided him out of the crowd and over the barricade, alternately speaking to him and shouting at him. I moved with them and watched as the man went off, seeming to disappear."

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Toby Melville: "The phone rang at around 3.30 in the morning. "What's happened," I said, on autopilot as I emerged from deep sleep.
My picture editor, Dylan, only calls at that time of night for breaking news. 'It's not terror,' said Dylan. I felt a sense of relief. He said a tower block in West London was on fire.
I dressed, picked up my cameras, laptops and phones and jumped into the car. It was still dark at 4 a.m. when I got to the scene. I could see a tower block ablaze. I was shocked. There must be scores of people trapped inside and the fire had started at 1 a.m., the worst possible time with so many residents at home and asleep.
I felt the clock ticking as I searched for a parking spot close enough to get there on foot. Dylan edited my first frames shot, via transmission directly from camera, from his home. They weren't the best images but it was key to move them on the news wire as I was first on the scene for Reuters.
As I got closer, I thought about accessing the neighbouring tower blocks that were yet to be cordoned off. I couldn't help thinking that if the structure had been ablaze for some three hours the building would collapse in smoke and rubble. It would be unwise to get too close.
So I walked onto the Westway, a raised highway that runs a couple of hundred metres from Grenfell tower. It was closed to traffic and eerily quiet bar the crackling of little explosions coming from the building and the muted noise of sirens. Ash was falling around me onto the road.
This picture has a church in the background. I shot wide frames of the building on what would otherwise have been a beautiful summer dawn."

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Khaled Abdullah: "Early in the morning of August 25 I rushed to the site of an airstrike in Sanaa where first responders were beginning to pull out bodies from the ruins of a flattened building.
The body of Ayah Muhammad Mansour, 7, was recovered, blood and dust covering her face and head. "She is dead," shouted a medic, as people at the site cried, swore and prayed.
The bodies of her siblings were then recovered. Only one sister, Buthaina, aged 4 or 5, survived, with her skull fractured. Twelve civilians were killed in that strike, including Aya and eight of her family members.
As I was taking pictures, I tried my best to curb an urge to cry. Among the first responders was an uncle of Aya's, Saleh Muhammad Saad.
He kept shouting to the people who gathered at the scene to be quiet, so that the rescuers could hear voices of the victims under the ruin of broken concrete blocks and wooden planks.
"I could hear the shouts of one of their (Aya's family) neighbours from under the rubble, and tried to remove the rubble from on top of Muhammad (Aya's father) and his wife, but I couldn't. They died," Saleh said.
"We lifted the rubble and saw first her brother Ammar, who was 3, and her four sisters, all of them dead. I paused a little and just screamed out from the pain. But I pulled myself together, got back there and then heard Buthaina calling."
Covering the grief and agony of this family, and the tragic loss of so many as a result of this man-made catastrophe that my country is going through, made me more determined to convey the picture of what the war is doing to people."

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Darrin Zammit Lupi: "I spent five weeks with the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) on their ship, Phoenix, covering search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean.
At the start of the Easter weekend we were on a routine rescue around 15 nautical miles off the Libyan coast. I was on the MOAS fast rubber boat with crew members handing out life jackets to a group of 134 Sub-Saharan migrants on a flimsy dinghy before we would transfer them to the Phoenix.
I had one camera up to my eye to shoot some wide angle frames. Suddenly, one migrant balancing on the rim of a dinghy slipped sideways and like dominos several of his colleagues lost their balance and fell into the sea.
I captured the whole sequence by keeping my finger on the shutter button. It was chaos. I kept shooting as the rescuers leapt into action, helping several of the migrants pull themselves onto our boat.
I was grabbing hold of people with one hand and shooting with the other. Then, through my viewfinder, a few metres away, I noticed one man struggling more than the others, stretching out his arm towards us.
I screamed to alert our specialist rescue swimmer that one man was going under. He reacted instantly, jumped in, and pulled the man to safety.
Afterwards, I did a lot of soul searching. Should I have put down my cameras altogether and just grabbed hold of whoever I could?
That evening I discussed it with the rescuers, who felt I'd done the right thing. Their job was to rescue lives. Mine was to document the harsh reality of what's happening. Everyone survived that day."

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Nacho Doce: "This image is meaningful to me for two reasons. The first is the deep fatigue on the face of the young man I was photographing as he turned boulders in his search for gold.
The second is that while on the long assignment I fell into a ravine and twisted my ankle. The pain made walking difficult, so while taking pictures of the man I had to sit rather than stand.
Working on stories about wildcat gold mining in the Amazon is dangerous. But the hardest part of the whole long assignment was staying with the story until I had what I wanted.
The miners live incredibly hard lives. Just to reach them meant travelling 24 hours by bus and eight hours by van and I couldn't reveal the exact place where I was working.
Illegal miners have been at work in the Amazon for generations and there is constant tension between them and the big mining companies that have legal contracts. At the end of this assignment, I was happy.
The wildcat miners helped me cope with my ankle and I rode home with a pastor who told me he believed in what I was doing. The help and support of the miners while I was working was crucial. To make pictures isn't just an individual thing - it requires a team."

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