Galleries

Iraq: Old Photographs Uncover Charms of the Ancient Land

Iraq has never been quite a peaceful land. Ever since the city-states brawling with each other 5,000 years ago, there was always a power vying for the fertile grounds. And if it weren’t the riches of the soil, it was the strategic position of the land or, in the modern times, the oil lying underneath.
These pictures peek into the daily life of Iraq, mostly Baghdad, between 1940s and 1980s. The country was struck with political turmoil every couple of years, but at least it was not at war. Well, mostly. In 1980, shortly after Saddam Hussein became the president, Iraq invaded Iran and began a war to last the next eight years.
Up until that point though Iraqis experienced a period of relative peace and prosperity-thanks to the oil exports-recovering from the World War II and shedding the British rule.
Baghdad was built in the 8th century at caliph Al-Mansur’s instance. It was known as the Round City, as it had circular layout (12 miles in diameter). It was build about 50 miles north of where the ancient city of Babylon used to lie. After Teheran, it is the largest city in the Western Asia with well over 7 million residents. The country as a whole has population of some 36 million.

Nicaragua’s Tapestry of Life, Light, and Color (Photo Gallery)

How often do you hear about Nicaragua? The Caribbean republic bordered by Honduras in the north and Costa Rica in the south provides home to some 6 million people. But listing a few encyclopedic facts would hardly do it justice.
From the splendid Lake Nicaragua in the south (some 100 miles across) to the scenic Miskito Cays in the north, Nicaragua is an increasingly popular tourist destination for its beaches, abundant natural diversity, and even the picturesque charm of its cities, like of León and Granada.
People of Nicaragua are described as “warm and generous,” according to nicaragua-guide.com. “There are many stories of expatriates or tourists having vehicle problems or other issues in the middle of nowhere and having a local Nica family with little or nothing offering their home, food and assistance,” the website states.
The culture has a strong Spanish influence, as the conquistadors subdued the native culture during the 16th century. Yet the Spaniards arrived womenless and so the settlers mixed with the native tribes. Even today, most of the population is mestizo–a mix of European and Native American.
Conquistador Gil González Dávila came up with the name Nicaragua by combining the word “Nicarao,” a name of the capital of the largest native tribe, and “aqua,” Spanish for water, for the large lakes on the west coast of the land.

Lesser Known Hubble Space Images Spark Wild Imagination

For over 25 years, Hubble Space Telescope has become a staple name for bringing us the crystal-clear images of nearby galaxies as well as discovering whole scores of galaxies in seemingly empty spots of the night sky.
Yet some of the lesser known images, though perhaps less spectacular on the first sight, depict monumental stellar phenomena that spark imagination.
How about a picture of two galaxies colliding? And can you also see the dragon in the picture of the Veil Nebula? The Orion Nebula, on the other hand, seems to harbor a shape of something between a dolphin and a crocodile.
Of course, astronomers usually offer much less colorful depictions focused on dust and gasses. But sometimes even the scientists let their imagination run. Like in case of the galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849 that, according to NASA, “seems to be smiling.”
Origins
Despite its current exemplary reputation, Hubble Telescope actually looked more like a failure for better part of its development and early career. It was planned to launch in 1983, but got delayed until 1990, partially because of the Challenger disaster, but also due to technical and budget problems. It cost some $2.5 billion to construct, more than six times more than initially estimated.
When the Discovery shuttle finally carried it into orbit, astronomers found its optical system had a flaw. Its main mirror was too flat at the perimeter by 2.2 microns, which is less than 0.00009 of an inch. That was enough to drastically decrease its resolution. During Hubble’s first servicing mission in 1993, a device, working on a similar principle as a pair of glasses, was installed to correct for the optical imperfection.
Since then, and possibly until 2020, we’ll enjoy the sharp images for which the telescope became famous.

Master of Shadows, Award-Winning Photographer Emilio Morenatti

I remember, last year, when I was freezing on an early morning February assignment, my fellow in pain, incidentally working for The New York Times, complained to me about the “golden light” obsession among young photographers. It’s like there’s no other time of the day than that little window before the sunset, when the sun bathes the world in the proverbial golden light. But when everything is photographed this way, doesn’t that lead to a lack of variety?
On the other hand, if someone works with sunsets so well as Emilio Morenatti, you just can’t get enough.
Morenatti is someone I’d call the master of shadows. Many of his great photos are enveloped in darkness, yet thanks to his great work with contrast and composition, the shadows will inevitably lead you to the main subject, giving the pictures a feel of simplicity.
A Spaniard, Emilio Morenatti, studied graphic design and since 2004 works for the Associated Press, based in Barcelona. Covering conflicts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories, Morenatti has quite a few stories to tell. One time he was kidnapped in Gaza City—and freed unharmed after 15 hours. A year later a fragment of a stun grenade broke his leg when he was covering a West Bank protest. In August 2009, Morenatti was injured again on assignment in Afghanistan.
Indeed, photojournalism is a strange occupation, requiring one to have a heart of a warrior and a poet at the same time.
The National Press Photographers Association awarded Morenatti for Best of Photojournalism story in 2012.

Life and War in Gaza as Seen by Award-Winning Photographer Hatem Moussa

If you’ve been following the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts in Gaza in the past decade at all, you’ve probably seen Hatem Moussa’s photos. He’s been based in the Gaza City with the Associated Press since 1998, capturing the destruction spread by the wars between Israeli military and various militant groups in Gaza.
As always though, I made sure to include Moussa’s pictures of peace in Gaza too. That’s right—as is always good to remember, most people in Gaza live their lives peacefully.
You may have noticed many of the pictures of Gazans’ daily life share a common trait: The silhouettes. Moussa seems to really indulge this art of sunset photography and manages to impress me repeatedly. Children flying kites? Classic. Rearing horse on a beach during sunset? Outright spectacular. And the boy on a donkey with a flock of sheep? It just epitomizes peace. I’m usually trying to be a bit modest with these kinds of photos. I guess I’m a little cautious people may get tired of them. So far, I think, I have succeeded at least with myself, as a good silhouette shot still catches my attention quite easily. And that is, in turn, one of the reasons I decided to feature Hatem Moussa today.
In recognition of his work, Moussa won the special jury prize at the Days Japan International Photo Journalism Awards in 2013 and the AP’s Gramling Spirit Award in 2010. However, last year he was seriously injured during explosions while taking pictures at a Gaza police dump for unexploded Israeli ordnance in the northern town of Beit Lahiya.

Beauty of Simplicity with AP Photographer Matt Rourke

A trick question: What do you do when you earn a bachelors degree in government and politics at George Mason University in Virginia? You learn how to take great pictures and become a professional photojournalist.
Well, not really, but that has indeed been the path of Matt Rourke. After some freelancing in Texas he joined the Associated Press in 2006 and produced a long stream of shots of Philadelphia and the East Coast in general, some of them outright impressive.
So here’s a dozen that caught my attention. Mostly from Philly, yet one Virginia, one New York, and one New Jersey shot found their way in.
I must say I like Rourke’s simple compositions. Just one or two people nicely standing out from the background, yet fitting in the background, even interacting and creating the atmosphere and telling the story. It may be that some people like busier pictures. I like the simple ones.
As four of the pictures feature snow, they may conjure up an image of Philadelphia winters getting worse lately. That wouldn’t be altogether untrue. Since 1949, only three years saw over 25 inches of snow, according to Weather-warehouse.com. Two of them were 2011 and 2014.
Still, two of these snowy pictures are actually from New York and New Jersey. Philadelphia winters continue to be relatively mild.
But enough of meteorology. What do you think of Rourke’s photography? And from a broader perspective, where is the threshold between simplicity and banality? Perhaps if the sneakers were not covered in snow, I wouldn’t have even noticed the photo. But there were and I did and my credit goes to Matt Rourke.

Oldschool Beauty of Japan and Peek Through History With Veteran AP Photographer Eugene Hoshiko

There’s not much to learn about Eugene Hoshiko on the web. No interviews, no bios, just decades worth of photojournalism. On the other hand, the pictures themselves speak plenty.
Hoshiko earned Bachelor’s in journalism at the Oregon State University in 1989. In 1994 he joined the Associated Press in Mexico. He stayed in Latin America until 1998, when he transferred to Shanghai. Finally, in 2014, he ended up in Tokyo.
Here you can peak through time at Hoshiko’s career with an obvious emphasis on his recent days in Japan.
Browsing through the photos, you may have noticed an interesting trait. It is the center composition. Hoshiko places his subject in the middle of the frame quite often and in many instances succeeds tremendously.
That seems to be way more unusual than one may think. One of the first lessons about photography is the rule of thirds, that is imagining the frame cut into thirds and placing your subject at one of the dividing lines between them. The rule can quickly become a second nature and one may suddenly realize that a vast majority of one’s pictures follows the rule.
Yet many times there’s a better option and the center composition can be incredibly powerful, offering stability, impact, and, if the circumstances allow, symmetry. Generally speaking, any situation that lends itself to symmetry, lends itself to center composition too. But one needs to keep an eye out for such opportunities. Hoshiko seems to be quite adept at that.
Besides that, you may notice some highlights from Hoshiko’s time in China—a protest against environmental pollution, the bird flu outbreak of 2004, and SARS epidemic of 2003.

Outside UN Headquarters, a Plea for Freedom of Belief

NEW YORK—They had just arrived in the United States a little more than a week before, but they were ready to tell the world about what they had endured.
Ahead of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, two sisters from China joined a group of about 80 meditating protesters outside U.N. headquarters. Rui and Xing are practitioners of Falun Dafa, a spiritual practice that the Chinese regime has heavily persecuted since 1999. They asked to use pseudonyms for fear of repercussions for their parents still living in China, who also practice Falun Dafa (also known as Falun Gong).

Rui and Xing were just 11 and 8 when their father was arrested and sentenced to prison for 14 1/2 years for his faith in the ancient Buddhist discipline. Feeling threatened by Falun Dafa’s growing popularity in China—the practice had reached 100 million practitioners at its peak, according to Falun Gong sources, or 70 million according to a survey by the state—Communist Party authorities launched a systematic campaign in 1999 to eradicate the practice.
Falun Gong practitioners exercise at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations headquarters in New York on Sept. 19, 2017, to raise awareness about the persecution inside China that is now in its 18th year. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
Rui and Xing recall the local police barging into their home in Gansu, a central region of China, and keeping them under surveillance 24 hours a day, for weeks on end. Six years later, their mother was also arrested and sentenced to prison. This time, the police enlisted Rui’s school administrators and teachers to spy on her. At ages 17 and 14, the sisters were left to fend for themselves, with the help of some Falun Dafa practitioners who lived nearby. Rui and Xing were told they could not apply for college student loans.
“We want to tell China’s delegates to stop the persecution, so that the practitioners in China can believe freely. They are people we know, people who are still suffering,” Rui said in Chinese.
Falun Gong practitioners meditate to raise awareness about the persecution inside China that is now in its 18th year at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations headquarters in New York while the world leaders meet on Sept. 19, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
Despite the heavy winds on Tuesday, the Falun Dafa practitioners arrived early in the morning to begin their silent demonstration outside the U.N. Most were either performing the practice’s gentle exercises or holding tightly to banners, which often threatened to collapse against the wind, with printed messages in English and Chinese like “The world needs truth, compassion, tolerance”—the faith’s three central tenets—and “Bring Jiang Zemin to justice.” Jiang is the former leader of the Chinese Communist Party who initiated the persecution.
Wang Luorui, a practitioner who has been arrested 11 times in China, said she hopes President Donald Trump will put pressure on China to bring Jiang to justice. “It will allow Falun Gong to bring the universal values of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance to the Chinese people,” she said.
Falun Gong practitioners meditate to raise awareness about the persecution inside China that is now in its 18th year at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations headquarters in New York while the world leaders meet on Sept. 19, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
Wang Cun Ling, a practitioner from Shanghai, said her faith helped her to become a responsible and caring teacher who mentored many students in China, helping them to successfully apply to top colleges. Through demonstrating outside the U.N., she hopes to convey the message to people around the world that Falun Dafa is good. “We want to tell people the truth [about Falun Gong] in a peaceful, compassionate way,” she said.
Falun Gong practitioners meditate to raise awareness about the persecution inside China that is now in its 18th year at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations headquarters in New York while the world leaders meet on Sept. 19, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
Falun Gong practitioners meditate to raise awareness about the persecution inside China that is now in its 18th year at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations headquarters in New York while the world leaders meet on Sept. 19, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
Falun Gong practitioners hold banners and perform exercises to raise awareness about the persecution inside China that is now in its 18th year at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations headquarters in New York on Sept. 19, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

Falun Gong practitioners hold banners and perform exercises to raise awareness about the persecution inside China that is now in its 18th year at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations headquarters in New York on Sept. 19, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
Falun Gong practitioners meditate to raise awareness about the persecution inside China that is now in its 18th year at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations headquarters in New York while the world leaders meet on Sept. 19, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
Falun Gong practitioners hold banners and perform exercises to raise awareness about the persecution inside China that is now in its 18th year at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations headquarters in New York on Sept. 19, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
Falun Gong practitioners meditate to raise awareness about the persecution inside China that is now in its 18th year at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations headquarters in New York while the world leaders meet on Sept. 19, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
Falun Gong practitioners hold banners to raise awareness about the persecution inside China that is now in its 18th year at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations headquarters in New York on Sept. 19, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
Falun Gong practitioners hold banners to raise awareness about the persecution inside China that is now in its 18th year at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations headquarters in New York on Sept. 19, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
Falun Gong exercise at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations headquarters in New York on Sept. 19, 2017, to raise awareness about the persecution inside China that is now in its 18th year. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
Falun Gong practitioners hold banners and perform exercises to raise awareness about the persecution inside China that is now in its 18th year at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations headquarters in New York on Sept. 19, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

Diner en Blanc: New York City’s Elegant Outdoor Party

Diner en Blanc is an annual elegant affair where more than 5,000 New Yorkers dress in all-white and dine outdoors to enjoy a summer’s evening. Guests bring their own picnic fare and tableware. The location is kept secret until just hours before the event. This year, it was held at Lincoln Center.
Guests dressed in their most fashion-forward garb, turning the arts institution into a scene for fun-filled revelry.
View the festivities below:
Attendees of Diner en Blanc meet at the New York Public Library before heading to the Lincoln Center for annual event on Aug. 22, 2017. (Jane Kratochvil for Diner en Blanc) Guests walk to the location of the annual Diner en Blanc in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. Diner en Blanc began in France nearly 30 years ago and is held around the world. (Light Feather for Diner en Blanc) Guests attend the annual Diner en Blanc at Lincoln Center in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. Diner en Blanc began in France nearly 30 years ago. (Eric Vitale for Diner en Blanc) Guests attend the annual Diner en Blanc at Lincoln Center in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. Diner en Blanc began in France nearly 30 years ago. (Eric Vitale for Diner en Blanc) Guests attend the annual Diner en Blanc at Lincoln Center in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. (Eric Vitale for Diner en Blanc) Guests attend the annual Diner en Blanc at Lincoln Center in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. Diner en Blanc began in France nearly 30 years ago and is held around the world. (Hal Horowitz for Diner en Blanc) Picnic food for the annual Diner en Blanc in New York on Aug. 22, 2017.(Eric Vitale for Diner en Blanc) Guests attend the annual Diner en Blanc at Lincoln Center in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. Diner en Blanc began in France nearly 30 years ago and is held around the world. (Jane Kratochvil for Diner en Blank) Guests attend the annual Diner en Blanc at Lincoln Center in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. Diner en Blanc began in France nearly 30 years ago and is held around the world. (Jane Kratochvil for Diner en Blanc) Guests attend the annual Diner en Blanc at Lincoln Center in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. Diner en Blanc began in France nearly 30 years ago and is held around the world. (Hal Horowitz for Diner en Blanc) Guests attend the annual Diner en Blanc at Lincoln Center in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. Diner en Blanc began in France nearly 30 years ago and is held around the world. (Light Feather for Diner en Blanc) Guests attend the annual Diner en Blanc at Lincoln Center in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. Diner en Blanc began in France nearly 30 years ago and is held around the world. (Jane Kratochvil for Diner en Blanc) Guests attend the annual Diner en Blanc at Lincoln Center in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. Diner en Blanc began in France nearly 30 years ago and is held around the world. (Light Feather for Diner en Blanc) Picnic food for the annual Diner en Blanc in New York on Aug. 22, 2017.(Eric Vitale for Diner en Blanc) Guests attend the annual Diner en Blanc at Lincoln Center in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. Diner en Blanc began in France nearly 30 years ago and is held around the world. (Jane Kratochvil for Diner en Blanc) Guests attend the annual Diner en Blanc at Lincoln Center in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. Diner en Blanc began in France nearly 30 years ago and is held around the world. (Jane Kratochvil for Diner en Blanc) Guests attend the annual Diner en Blanc at Lincoln Center in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. Diner en Blanc began in France nearly 30 years ago and is held around the world. (Jane Kratochvil for Diner en Blanc) Guests attend the annual Diner en Blanc at Lincoln Center in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. Diner en Blanc began in France nearly 30 years ago and is held around the world. (Jane Kratochvil for Diner en Blanc) Guests attend the annual Diner en Blanc at Lincoln Center in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. Diner en Blanc began in France nearly 30 years ago and is held around the world. (Light Feather for Diner en Blanc) Guests attend the annual Diner en Blanc at Lincoln Center in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. Diner en Blanc began in France nearly 30 years ago. (Eric Vitale for Diner en Blanc) Guests attend the annual Diner en Blanc at Lincoln Center in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. Diner en Blanc began in France nearly 30 years ago. (Jane Kratochvil for Diner en Blanc) Guests attend the annual Diner en Blanc at Lincoln Center in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. Diner en Blanc began in France nearly 30 years ago and is held around the world. (Jane Kratochvil for Diner en Blanc) Guests attend the annual Diner en Blanc at Lincoln Center in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. Diner en Blanc began in France nearly 30 years ago and is held around the world. (Hal Horowitz for Diner en Blanc) Guests attend the annual Diner en Blanc at Lincoln Center in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. Diner en Blanc began in France nearly 30 years ago and is held around the world. (Jane Kratochvil for Diner en Blanc) Guests attend the annual Diner en Blanc at Lincoln Center in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. Diner en Blanc began in France nearly 30 years ago. (Eric Vitale for Diner en Blanc) Guests attend the annual Diner en Blanc at Lincoln Center in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. Diner en Blanc began in France nearly 30 years ago. (Eric Vitale for Diner en Blanc) Guests attend the annual Diner en Blanc at Lincoln Center in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. Diner en Blanc began in France nearly 30 years ago. (Eric Vitale for Diner en Blanc) Guests attend the annual Diner en Blanc at Lincoln Center in New York on Aug. 22, 2017. Diner en Blanc began in France nearly 30 years ago and is held around the world. (Eric Vitale for Diner en Blanc)