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Eyewitnesses To History

  • Amos Chapple

Photojournalists who captured some of the most powerful images of 2016 tell the stories behind them in their own words.


"When I got to Taksim Square, one of the [coup] soldiers asked, 'What happened, why are we here?' I told him: 'This will become dangerous for you, you should go home now.' This photograph was of the last soldier on the square who hadn't been arrested. "The atmosphere was very angry. The man on the left is a special-forces policeman saying: 'You need to stop this. Give me the gun.' The soldier was saying: 'I'm not giving you my weapon. I have orders, if you try to take it from me I will start shooting.' This argument lasted maybe one minute, then the policeman arrested him.... A lot of the soldiers thought they were in a training exercise. Now they are probably still in prison. It's very sad." -- Epa photographer Sedat Suna describing the scene he encountered in Istanbul as an attempted coup plunged Turkey into a night of chaos in July.
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"When I got to Taksim Square, one of the [coup] soldiers asked, 'What happened, why are we here?' I told him: 'This will become dangerous for you, you should go home now.' This photograph was of the last soldier on the square who hadn't been arrested.

"The atmosphere was very angry. The man on the left is a special-forces policeman saying: 'You need to stop this. Give me the gun.' The soldier was saying: 'I'm not giving you my weapon. I have orders, if you try to take it from me I will start shooting.'

This argument lasted maybe one minute, then the policeman arrested him.... A lot of the soldiers thought they were in a training exercise. Now they are probably still in prison. It's very sad."

-- Epa photographer Sedat Suna describing the scene he encountered in Istanbul as an attempted coup plunged Turkey into a night of chaos in July.

When U.S. President Barack Obama made his historic visit to Cuba in March, Reuters photographer Alberto Reyes knew exactly where he needed to be.   He writes that "a motorcyclist from the neighborhood, who had been hired by Reuters, showed me the spot where it would be possible to see the plane if it came in from that angle."   "I knew the exact spot when I saw the White House advance planes coming in before Air Force One. There were a lot of people on the street waiting for the plane. It was an important moment for many. One neighbor shouted out to me that the plane was coming in before I could hear the turbines. "The neighbor who was shouting, the clamor of the people, the roar of the plane's engines, the sheer size of it so close to the houses, and the brief moments I had to take this picture, made this moment unforgettable to me."
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When U.S. President Barack Obama made his historic visit to Cuba in March, Reuters photographer Alberto Reyes knew exactly where he needed to be.
 
He writes that "a motorcyclist from the neighborhood, who had been hired by Reuters, showed me the spot where it would be possible to see the plane if it came in from that angle."
 
"I knew the exact spot when I saw the White House advance planes coming in before Air Force One. There were a lot of people on the street waiting for the plane. It was an important moment for many. One neighbor shouted out to me that the plane was coming in before I could hear the turbines.

"The neighbor who was shouting, the clamor of the people, the roar of the plane's engines, the sheer size of it so close to the houses, and the brief moments I had to take this picture, made this moment unforgettable to me."

Layers and layers of wonderful luck led to this photo of a meteor streaking above a volcano in Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula. Landscape photographer Tomas van der Weijden was on a photography tour that coincided with an eruption of Klyuchevskaya Sopka, a volcano that had lain dormant for two years. After the group heard news of the eruption they made their way to a vantage point but, wrapped in cloud, could see nothing. "We decided to wait one more hour, then the cloud just suddenly lifted and we could see the lava flow in the darkness," says Van der Weijden. The Dutch photographer clicked the shutter for a 15-second exposure, and "there was this huge green and white flash ... people screamed, actually. I thought: 'I hope I got that,' and I did. It was a wonderful moment."
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Layers and layers of wonderful luck led to this photo of a meteor streaking above a volcano in Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula.

Landscape photographer Tomas van der Weijden was on a photography tour that coincided with an eruption of Klyuchevskaya Sopka, a volcano that had lain dormant for two years. After the group heard news of the eruption they made their way to a vantage point but, wrapped in cloud, could see nothing.

"We decided to wait one more hour, then the cloud just suddenly lifted and we could see the lava flow in the darkness," says Van der Weijden. The Dutch photographer clicked the shutter for a 15-second exposure, and "there was this huge green and white flash ... people screamed, actually. I thought: 'I hope I got that,' and I did. It was a wonderful moment."

For Abir Sultan, local contacts were key to this image of Jerusalem's annual Miracle of the Holy Fire. "I know the deputy patriarch very well so I asked him if I could go up the top, looking down at the ceremony," the epa photographer says. When a man climbed onto the roof of Jesus's tomb during the Orthodox Christian ritual, Sultan knew he had that "little something different."   "He dropped onto the ground almost like a Muslim praying," he recalls. "It was just for a second." As Sultan worked, some nuns stood next to him holding unlit candles. "In the ceremony the people are hoping for God's light to reach them -- when your candle catches fire it's like a blessing. These nuns were standing up there with me, 30 meters above the flames. There is really no chance their candles will light, but every time I shoot this ceremony they're there, waiting for God's blessing."
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For Abir Sultan, local contacts were key to this image of Jerusalem's annual Miracle of the Holy Fire. "I know the deputy patriarch very well so I asked him if I could go up the top, looking down at the ceremony," the epa photographer says. When a man climbed onto the roof of Jesus's tomb during the Orthodox Christian ritual, Sultan knew he had that "little something different."
 
"He dropped onto the ground almost like a Muslim praying," he recalls. "It was just for a second."

As Sultan worked, some nuns stood next to him holding unlit candles. "In the ceremony the people are hoping for God's light to reach them -- when your candle catches fire it's like a blessing. These nuns were standing up there with me, 30 meters above the flames. There is really no chance their candles will light, but every time I shoot this ceremony they're there, waiting for God's blessing."

Robin Roy sent the Internet into meltdown when this photo of her encounter with U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump during a January campaign rally was captured by Reuters photographer Brian Snyder. The image spawned numerous memes and montages. Roy told the Boston Globe that, at first, the attention the image created was upsetting. "But now, you know what? I love Trump so much, that I really don’t care what people think," she said of her run-in with the future president-elect. "I hope he comes through with most of his promises and brings this country together to stop the political nonsense."
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Robin Roy sent the Internet into meltdown when this photo of her encounter with U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump during a January campaign rally was captured by Reuters photographer Brian Snyder.

The image spawned numerous memes and montages. Roy told the Boston Globe that, at first, the attention the image created was upsetting.

"But now, you know what? I love Trump so much, that I really don’t care what people think," she said of her run-in with the future president-elect. "I hope he comes through with most of his promises and brings this country together to stop the political nonsense."

"Why did he kill him?" one Instagram user asked when Russian photographer Maksim Avdeyev posted this image of a Siberian trucker with a frozen wolf.  Avdeyev explains that the truckers who drive this road had shot the wolf a few days before. With days of traveling ahead of them, they decided to bury the valuable carcass, and pick it up on their return journey. "In Yakutia there's so much space you can store anything under the snow, you just need to place a GPS mark, or remember which tree," he explains. "The guys will give the wolf to the local authorities. There's a program in Yakutia where the authorities give money for [killed] wolves because they are dangerous to deer herders." For each wolf killed the local government pays around $500, a large sum in a region that often struggles to pay for education and infrastructure. 
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"Why did he kill him?" one Instagram user asked when Russian photographer Maksim Avdeyev posted this image of a Siberian trucker with a frozen wolf. 

Avdeyev explains that the truckers who drive this road had shot the wolf a few days before. With days of traveling ahead of them, they decided to bury the valuable carcass, and pick it up on their return journey.

"In Yakutia there's so much space you can store anything under the snow, you just need to place a GPS mark, or remember which tree," he explains. "The guys will give the wolf to the local authorities. There's a program in Yakutia where the authorities give money for [killed] wolves because they are dangerous to deer herders."

For each wolf killed the local government pays around $500, a large sum in a region that often struggles to pay for education and infrastructure. 

When France was rocked by violent protests against a change to France's labor laws, AFP's Jean-Philippe Ksiazek donned a gas mask and helmet to cover protests in Lyon in May. As rocks and paint flew, the seasoned news photographer noticed a bouquet of flowers on the ground that some young female demonstrators had dropped. “I bent down to photograph the flowers, then this guy with huge hands picked the flowers up from in front of my camera. Then I stood up and took this photo of him.... We [photographers] are always proud to take a photo that endures a little. We take so many pictures and they are usually forgotten." Despite the unrest France's government pushed ahead with the controversial labor legislation, making it easier for employers to hire and fire.
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When France was rocked by violent protests against a change to France's labor laws, AFP's Jean-Philippe Ksiazek donned a gas mask and helmet to cover protests in Lyon in May.

As rocks and paint flew, the seasoned news photographer noticed a bouquet of flowers on the ground that some young female demonstrators had dropped. “I bent down to photograph the flowers, then this guy with huge hands picked the flowers up from in front of my camera. Then I stood up and took this photo of him.... We [photographers] are always proud to take a photo that endures a little. We take so many pictures and they are usually forgotten."

Despite the unrest France's government pushed ahead with the controversial labor legislation, making it easier for employers to hire and fire.

Veteran war photographer Goran Tomasevic knew what was coming moments before this air strike hit a position held by the extremist group Islamic State during the battle for Mosul. He told a Reuters colleague that civilians had come out on the street during a lull in the fighting when a low-flying jet suddenly shrieked past. "It was close and total panic ensued," he was quoted as saying about the November event. "People were screaming, ducking and running away as the plumes of smoke rose nearby. "They quickly ran for whatever shelter they could find.... These things happen fast and you have to act quickly. First you have to make sure you are safe, then stay focused so you can get the shot. You get your lens ready and stay calm."
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Veteran war photographer Goran Tomasevic knew what was coming moments before this air strike hit a position held by the extremist group Islamic State during the battle for Mosul. He told a Reuters colleague that civilians had come out on the street during a lull in the fighting when a low-flying jet suddenly shrieked past.

"It was close and total panic ensued," he was quoted as saying about the November event. "People were screaming, ducking and running away as the plumes of smoke rose nearby.

"They quickly ran for whatever shelter they could find.... These things happen fast and you have to act quickly. First you have to make sure you are safe, then stay focused so you can get the shot. You get your lens ready and stay calm."

Ieshia Evans became a symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States after her arrest during a protest in Baton Rouge. Reuters photographer Jonathan Bachman, who captured the moment, told a colleague that "I turned and looked over my right shoulder and saw this woman standing in the road. I knew right away what was about to happen. "I quickly moved and took the shot. When I came back to my car and looked through my take I knew I had a strong image," he was quoted as saying by the news agency. "However, I didn't anticipate that the image would go viral. I am grateful that it has stimulated a discussion about an important issue in this country."
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Ieshia Evans became a symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States after her arrest during a protest in Baton Rouge.

Reuters photographer Jonathan Bachman, who captured the moment, told a colleague that "I turned and looked over my right shoulder and saw this woman standing in the road. I knew right away what was about to happen.

"
I quickly moved and took the shot. When I came back to my car and looked through my take I knew I had a strong image," he was quoted as saying by the news agency. "However, I didn't anticipate that the image would go viral. I am grateful that it has stimulated a discussion about an important issue in this country."

"The success of my trip depended on getting a picture of a tusk, so most days I was hiking between the mining sites, trying to pick up the latest news from the men. Finally, I heard a tusk had just been found and was being extracted. I ran through the forest toward this tunnel where two tuskers worked. I crawled a little way in and could hear voices echoing down the tunnel, then I saw the headlamps and this beautiful tusk being slithered through the mud toward the light. The men wiped it clean it with grass. Then, as they carried it toward their boat I was running around them shooting as much as I could. I was very lucky to see it -- between it coming out of the ground and being whisked away by boat, only about 20 minutes passed. I'll never forget the moment, the tusk was so well preserved you could smell the mammoth." -- the author, Amos Chapple, describing his experiences photographing men illegally extracting mammoth tusks from Siberia's permafrost.
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"The success of my trip depended on getting a picture of a tusk, so most days I was hiking between the mining sites, trying to pick up the latest news from the men. Finally, I heard a tusk had just been found and was being extracted. I ran through the forest toward this tunnel where two tuskers worked. I crawled a little way in and could hear voices echoing down the tunnel, then I saw the headlamps and this beautiful tusk being slithered through the mud toward the light. The men wiped it clean it with grass. Then, as they carried it toward their boat I was running around them shooting as much as I could. I was very lucky to see it -- between it coming out of the ground and being whisked away by boat, only about 20 minutes passed. I'll never forget the moment, the tusk was so well preserved you could smell the mammoth."

-- the author, Amos Chapple, describing his experiences photographing men illegally extracting mammoth tusks from Siberia's permafrost.

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