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A Picture and its Story 2019: Part two

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From the protests convulsing Hong Kong to that exchange between U.S. First Lady Melania Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Reuters photographers covered the biggest news stories of 2019, and captured some of its most viral moments as well.

Beyond the images themselves, these are the inside stories of the men and women behind the lens and their experiences in the line of duty.

Below is a selection of some exceptional 2019 Reuters pictures along with the stories of how they came to be, directly from the photographers who took them.

Carlos Barria: “During the G7 meeting in France the leaders, with their spouses, gathered for the traditional family photo. As a member of the White House press pool, I travelled with President Trump to document his every move. I focused my lens on President Trump, while also keeping an eye on the First Lady.

It’s a fast photo opportunity so I was filing directly from my camera – sending pictures instantaneously, like live TV. As I was focused on Trump, I could see in the corner of my frame that Melania Trump had a spontaneous and fleeting interaction with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It happened so quickly it was almost imperceptible. I stopped and looked at my camera screen and that’s when I saw it. I sent it to the editor, who also saw its potential and sent it out quickly.

Minutes after the event ended, people were already retweeting the image and creating memes. It underscores how even in a crowd of photographers focused on the same subjects, there are opportunities to capture something unique, and potentially viral.”

A man jumps off the Tower Bridge in London, Britain.

Alkis Konstantinidis: “I got a call from UK & Ireland Chief Photographer Dylan Martinez. “Welcome to London,” he said, and asked me to head to Tower Bridge, where a man had climbed to the top.

Access to the bridge was blocked off by the authorities, and a boat of rescuers from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution was on standby, ready to intervene. I made my way through nearby buildings and reached the banks of the Thames, where police were telling onlookers to move back in order to create a “free zone.”

I had to secure a position where I wouldn’t be removed by police but still maintain a clear view. I stood there, eye in the viewfinder, and didn’t move for several minutes. Suddenly, we heard a scream, followed by more screams. The man fell into the river. The fall lasted a couple of seconds and a thump echoed as he landed on his back.

I didn’t expect him to survive that fall with no injuries, but fortunately, as rescuers rushed towards him, he started swimming towards their boat.”

Soldiers lie on the ground after a missile attack on a military parade during a graduation ceremony for newly recruited troopers in Aden, Yemen.

Fawaz Salman: “I was covering a graduation parade of a new military battalion on the outskirts of Aden. I watched the soldiers rehearse before the start of the parade as guests arrived and took their positions on the viewing platform.

While I was shooting pictures there was an explosion. I dropped the ground to take cover. Seconds later, the smoke was billowing, and I saw dead and injured soldiers lying on the ground, covered in blood. I took some pictures of soldiers helping their comrades, and this photo was one of them. Soldiers tried to prevent me taking photos, so I moved away. I understood their mental anguish, seeing the death and injury of their colleagues.

Ambulances and medics arrived almost immediately and rushed the injured to hospitals in the city. I kept well out of the way and continued to shoot photos. It was a chaotic situation – smoke, crying, shouting. Based on my training I knew I had to move away because a second explosion could come at any time.”

A Turkana tribeswoman reacts after an accidental fire of a shelter in Turkana settlement in Ilemi Triangle, Kenya.

Goran Tomasevic: “First, the lookouts saw a footprint, then a suspected spy from a rival ethnic group, scuttling off into the bush. Expecting an attack, young men grabbed their guns and mothers grabbed their children – there are few state security forces in this remote area of northern Kenya.

The Ilemi Triangle, a disputed sliver of land along the border with Ethiopia and South Sudan, is the northernmost tip of Turkana, Kenya’s poorest county. A series of deadly clashes between the community and other ethnic groups that they said had crossed from South Sudan have put people on edge. Farmers and nomads frequently clash over limited resources. Livestock is the most important currency here.

The danger is real. I saw several places scattered with skulls or bones with shredded clothing. Families drink from the same muddy pools as their livestock. There are few schools – children instead help herd cows to nearby watering holes.

Chief Eipa Choro said the community felt abandoned by the government; clean water from an aid group’s borehole was two hours’ drive away. The nearest police station several hours away.

We weren’t attacked during the time I spent with them, but each time we moved, the community sent out scouts to secure the way and try to spot potential ambushes from cattle raiders. Raids can be a disaster for a community.”

Anti-LGBT protesters attack a participant of the KharkivPride march in support of the LGBT community in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Gleb Garanich: “As a gay pride march in Kharkiv, north eastern Ukraine, was winding down, I noticed a gang that was clearly hostile to the LGBT community.

Then I heard some screams, saw a commotion and ran over. A skinny teenage boy with a streak of dyed blonde hair was lying on the grass in the park, being brutally attacked by members of the far-right, anti-LGBT gang. Three or four men, some with their faces covered, were kicking him as he was huddled on the ground. The crowd was jeering.

I captured what was happening on camera as I ran over and then decided to step in. The teenager’s life was in danger. I got in between him and the assailants, helped him up off the ground and led him away from the crowd. I said a few words to the attackers, and they stepped back.

Later his mother sent me a message, saying they could have kicked him to death. After I walked him out of there, I got back to work. The far-right group moved on to look for their next victim. And I followed them, to document it.”

Guajajara Indians “forest guardians” detain a logger during a search for illegal loggers on Arariboia indigenous land.

Ueslei Marcelino: “The photo shows the actions of the indigenous Guajajaras against illegal logging in the Amazon Rainforest. I followed these “Guardians of the Forest” for seven days on their mission to expel invaders.

We walked many miles with no potable water, food, tents or adequate weapons. Spiritually the Guajajaras believe they are defending their land as predestined by their ancestors. “I go to sleep, and I can never forget my grandfather before he died saying that one day, I would defend our land with my own life,” one man known as Wolf, said.

This logger was tied up and interrogated. After attempting to remove the trucks loaded with the logs they were burned. Then the man was released and the Guajajaras returned to their villages. Some celebrated the fact that logging was paralysed for a few days at least.”

This was not an easy assignment. The loggers fired at the indigenous people. Physically the pace of the Guajajaras can be compared to high-performance athletes – the distance was immense, and they faced jungle heat and dehydration. For me, it was seven days of expectation, for a few minutes of confrontation in the darkness of the forest.

People run as Haiti’s Senator Jean Marie Ralph Fethiere (PHTK) fires a gun in the air, injuring Chery Dieu-Nalio, a photographer for Associated Press in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Andres Martinez Cesares: “When Senator Jean Marie Ralph Fethiere pulled a pistol and started shooting outside the Haitian parliament to disperse who he described as ‘violent militants,’ I was prepared.

Earlier another senator was seen with a pistol in his hand when confronted by angry opposition protesters as he arrived at the parliament. We decided to go and get our bulletproof vests and helmets. The situation was turning dangerous. When Fethiere shot into the air and at the ground, an Associated Press photographer and a security guard were injured. Fethiere later told a local radio station he was acting in self-defence.

This picture captures the moment when protesters and journalists scrambled to get out of the line of fire as Fethiere fired several shots after getting out of his car in the parliament’s parking lot in Port-au-Prince. The shooting only lasted two or three seconds. I took my pictures super-fast.

This image shows the senator grimacing at the sound of the gun as he fires, while protesters and journalists bump into each other as they flee. The weapon is clearly visible against a clear blue sky.

An AP photographer Dieu Nalio Chery was left behind, injured in the jaw. I saw Chery coming towards me, calling to me and pointing to his chin. At first, I could not see anything. Then I saw blood. I got out a bandage from my pouch and stopped the bleeding. A doctor came and checked Chery out and he was taken off for treatment.”

Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, holding their son Archie, meet Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa.

Toby Melville: “I took this photograph during The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s official tour in southern Africa, across a courtyard balcony as they met Nobel-prize-winning civil rights activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Though Tutu is not in this frame, the presence of this magnetic personality I think put both Meghan and Harry at ease. Technically the image is helped by the bright sunlight which bounced around the white courtyard walls and lifted the details in Archie and Meghan’s facial features, particularly in Meghan’s eyes, and made the photograph more arresting.

This was the first ‘public’ outing of Archie since pooled photos were taken of him two days after he was born. Harry and Meghan tread a fine line trying to keep their personal life private while using the press to promote their causes. They had choreographed exactly when they wanted their son to be filmed and photographed on this tour. Unlike some of the other British Royal Family tours, direct access and interaction with Harry and Meghan is more limited. In part, I think it is due to the early stage of their relationship and the unpredictability of having a five-month-old child in tow, but also it is because of Harry and Meghan’s prickly relationship with some of the media.”

A riot police officer pepper sprays an anti-government protester during a demonstration at Causeway Bay district in Hong Kong, China.

Tyrone Siu: “In this picture, an elderly man was pepper sprayed in the face by riot police in Hong Kong. This man was different from the usual protestors – especially the more radical ones at the frontline of the conflict who were usually young, black-clad and wearing protective gear.

This man was among the locals from the neighbourhood who came to complain about the heavy police presence in Causeway Bay, one of the busiest shopping and residential districts in the city. The officers were there to disperse crowds who joined an unauthorised anti-government rally during a series of ongoing protests triggered by an extradition bill amendment.

The residents shouted insults at the police and accused them of endangering the area, while the riot police, who appeared to lose patience, responded by spraying one of the men in the face. What surprised me was how fearless the unarmed residents were when faced with a full army of police officers equipped with lethal weapons.

Even after the man was sprayed, the others were undeterred, if not more enraged and stayed on to express their anger.”

A man is hit by an anti-government protester during a protest at Tseung Kwan O district, in Hong Kong, China.

Athit Perawongmetha: “On the last night of my assignment in Hong Kong I was assigned to cover the protests in Wong Tai Sin district. I shot the cat and mouse between the riot police and the anti-government protestors. Then I asked my teammate to move to another place in search of more interesting visuals.

I decided to go to Tseung Kwan O district before the MTR closed. Late at night an eye witness saw a man cross a street blocked by anti-government protestors and argue with them. They started to fight and as they did more protestors ran towards them. His wife tried to pull him away, but the protesters chased him toward a convenient store where they hit him with metal rods.

A protester attacked him with a baton to his head and he started to bleed. His wife begged them to stop fighting. Then a medical team arrived to help. From the initial attack, through the chase and until the medical team arrived, I captured all of it, but I needed to verify what had happened before sending the photos. I sent this picture after interviews with residents, the medics and local journalists.”

Evo Morales offers fruit to residents on a street in Shinahota in the Chapare region, Bolivia.

Ueslei Marcelino: “I’d been covering Evo Morales’ final days campaigning. The day before the Bolivian election we visited the small town where Morales was born politically.

The president was due to arrive in Villa Tunarri in the late afternoon and spend the night before voting the next day. We were waiting for the presidential entourage by the side of the highway back. I noticed the cars slowing and I guessed the president would get out to greet people, so I ran over to photograph. Many people surrounded him to greet him next to a roadside fruit market. He bought a lot of fruit from the vendor and shared it. Morales offered oranges to his staff and our cameraman. The president was in a good mood.

One person handed President Morales some pineapple. He looked at me and walked towards me as I photographed him. He held out his hand offering me a piece of pineapple. Smiling, he said that I also had to eat, drawing laughter from everyone. I said, ‘Gracias Presidente’ picking up the fruit. I was surprised, but I didn’t stop shooting. I ate the fruit while the president continued talking to those who had gathered. A few minutes later he said goodbye and headed for the town.

The challenge of covering a presidential campaign is photographing the candidates’ moments of intimacy and this moment with Morales achieved that. He was comfortable in front of the camera and acted very naturally.

Here in Brazil, the word pineapple is used in an expression about tricky problem-solving. People in difficult situations might say, ‘All that’s left for me is to peel the pineapple’.”

A riot police officer on fire reacts during a protest against Chile’s government in Santiago.

Jorge Silva: “That afternoon was intense, by the time of the picture we had some three hours of clashes as the police tried to push back thousands of demonstrators.

I was standing at the entrance of the Baquedano metro station, which had been the epicentre of the protest for several weeks. The police moved quickly to gain a position at one corner of the square. I couldn’t keep following the front line of the protesters because there were many water cannons spraying the crowd and so I had to move slowly through the dense tear gas clouds.

Suddenly I saw a flare out of the corner of my right eye and swung my camera around to find a policewoman engulfed in flames and her fellow officers trying to extinguish the flames. It was a 5-second scene that came into my viewfinder in slow motion.

She was taken away in a police vehicle to be treated. The crowd was loud as the rain of stones hit the police vehicle and passed by us. The police reacted with fury, shooting rubber bullets and gas canisters as protests continued for a few more hours late into the night.”

For part one of A Picture and its Story 2019 click here.

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