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Photography: telling art from fraud

Wednesday 25 February 2015 Eye witness

An apparently doctored image issued by the North Korean agency KCNA in 2013 and rejected by AFP after analysis (AFP /KCNA)

The above image was never distributed to AFP's clients. Issued by the North Korean agency KCNA in 2013, it purports to show military manoeuvres in the east of the country. But analysis of the missile fire and smoke, using specialist software, revealed a series of anomalies indicating it had been manipulated. It is, in all likelihood, a doctored image. This is an extreme case, but fraud in photography is far from limited to North Korea, Syria or extremist propaganda movements. On February 12, an unprecedented number of entrants were disqualified from the World Press Photo awards for tampering with their images - reviving an old debate about the fine line, in photojournalism, between artistry and fraud.


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At the Hamas youth camp

Tuesday 24 February 2015 Eye witness

A Palestinian youth crawls in a tunnel during a graduation ceremony for a training camp run by the Hamas movement on January 29, 2015 in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

"We’ve been given a meeting point at the Yarmuk stadium in Gaza. My colleagues and I are here to watch thousands of youths ‘graduate’ from a training camp run by Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades," writes AFP's Mai Yaghi. "Each year since taking power in Gaza in 2007, the Islamist movement has staged 'summer camps' for boys aged 14 to 21 in the Palestinian enclave, dispensing religious education and combat training with the aim of 'resisting' sworn enemy Israel. But with swathes of Gaza in ruins following last year’s 50-day war with Israel, a record 17,000 youths enrolled for a week-long camp in January, overseen for the first time by Qassam militants."

(Photo: AFP / Said Khatib)

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11 Days on Planet Cinema

Monday 23 February 2015 Eye witness

French actress Juliette Binoche poses on the red carpet for the opening ceremony of the 65th Berlin International Film Festival Berlinale on February 5, 2015 (AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSEN)

"Being a Berlin correspondent these days means a hard focus on crises like Ukraine, Greece and jihadist violence in Europe. But come each February, the spotlight shifts for me as the global cinema industry descends on the German capital for the Berlin film festival. It always means a head-spinning change of gears," writes AFP's Deborah Cole. "The Berlinale, born when West Berlin was a Cold War outpost, takes pride in balancing gritty world cinema with the big star vehicles. We journalists like to see ourselves as shrewd natural sceptics, holding up our end of the bargain with readers. So it's always a little jarring going to the press conferences with movie stars that inevitably begin with an effusive round of applause."

(Photo: AFP / Odd Andersen)

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A brief game of football on Ukraine frontline

Tuesday 17 February 2015 Eye witness

Ukrainian servicemen play football on a road at Svitlodarsk, near Debaltseve, during a ceasefire on February 15, 2015 (AFP Photo / Volodymyr Shuvayev)

"The spontaneous kickabout really felt like a moment that was truly relaxing", writes Volodymyr Shuvayev, a freelance photographer working for AFP in Eastern Ukraine, who witnessed this scene at an Ukrainian checkpoint during a ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels on February 15. "So I started shooting. I hoped the pictures would speak for themselves and illustrate the spirit of a ceasefire. It's an iconic image-- the soldier celebrating a halt in fighting with a simple game of football."

(Photo: AFP / Volodymyr Shuvayev)

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Keeping our distance

Monday 16 February 2015 Eye witness

US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel hold a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 9, 2015 (AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB)

"Photographers covering the White House have to deal with many restrictions on when and where we can snap the president," explains AFP photographer Saul Loeb. "For most events, we can only work in designated areas which provide little movement and not much choice in how we can take our photos. One of the ways we can supplement these angles and work around these restrictions is by placing remote cameras in locations where we ourselves cannot physically be - whether it be a high angle in the room, a spot behind the president's podium or somewhere alongside the stage."

(AFP Photo/ Saul Loeb)

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Leopard on the loose!

Wednesday 11 February 2015 Eye witness

A zoo employee checks the effectiveness of a 'tranquiliser' on another employee wearing a snow leopard suit in an escape drill at Tokyo's Tama zoo on February 10, 2015 (AFP PHOTO / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA)

"Tama zoo is on red alert. More than 50 zookeepers, backed up by police and emergency services, are mobilised to contain a terrible threat. A snow leopard has escaped from the Tokyo wildlife park, and must be stopped before it devours a child. Except the children on site are clearly having a great time," writes AFP's Antoine Bouthier. "Unlike the grown-ups who are taking this all very seriously, it’s obvious to them the runaway feline is a zoo employee in a cute costume. Think Pokemon meets Hello Kitty."

(Photo: AFP / Toshifumi Kitamura)

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An aperitif with Mr Ricard

Tuesday 10 February 2015 Eye witness

Alexandre Ricard, grandson of Paul Ricard and future head of French spirits and wine company Pernod-Ricard, poses on February 7, 2015 at his home in Paris (AFP PHOTO / JOEL SAGET)

"It’s a bit like going on a shopping spree with Karl Lagerfeld, or playing football with Zlatan. Sharing aperitif drinks at the home of Mr Ricard – incoming head of his family's spirits business -is the kind of thing you just don’t picture happening," writes AFP's Sandra Laffont. "Back in the 1930s, Alexandre's grandfather Paul Ricard created the eponymous brand of pastis, the aniseed liquor ubiquitous in southern France where it is fondly associated with lazy games of petanque played on sun-dappled village squares."

(Photo: AFP / Joel Saget)

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My people, under the bombs

Friday 6 February 2015 Eye witness

An injured Syrian girl is treated at a makeshift clinic following air strikes by regime forces in the rebel-held area of Douma, north east of the capital Damascus, on February 5, 2015 (AFP PHOTO / ABD DOUMANY)

"It’s an airstrike that wakes me up, just near my house in a rebel-held part of the Damascus suburbs," writes AFP photographer Abd Doumany. "It’s 8.30 am. I think at first it’s just the one, but my hopes soon fade with the sound of another strike. And another. The bombing doesn’t stop until sunset. The government jets target everything. Apartment blocks, mosques, schools, even a hospital. I see it as my duty to document people’s suffering. I also think it hurts much more, every detail, every story, because this is my home and these are my people."

(AFP Photo / Abd Doumany)

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Ghosts outside my window

Friday 6 February 2015 Eye witness

This picture taken on January 15, 2015 shows a Buddhist master performing a ritual on a woman outside a Buddhist temple in Bangkok sheltering a shrine dedicated to the famous ghost 'Nak' (AFP PHOTO / Christophe ARCHAMBAULT)

"When I arrive in Bangkok 18 months ago, it’s one of the first things that strikes me, the way ghosts infiltrate everyday life here," writes AFP's Bangkok bureau chief Delphine Thouvenot. "How do you write a news story about ghosts without sliding into mockery? How do you describe the deep-seated terror they inspire in much of Asia - to a foreign audience for whom the word mostly conjures up childish Halloween costumes or the theme tune to 'Ghostbusters'?"

(Photo: AFP / Christophe Archambault)

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Desert murmurations

Wednesday 4 February 2015 Eye witness

A flock of starlings dances before landing to roost at the sunset near the city of Rahat, in Israel's Negev desert, on February 2, 2015 (AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)

"I’ve been watching out for them for a month now," writes AFP photographer Menahem Kahana. "Half a billion birds migrate here each year during the European winter, and among them the starlings are unique. They come in a cloud, tens, hundreds of thousands of them, and if you are lucky enough to be in the right spot, just before sunset, you can see them dance."

(Photo: AFP / Menahem Kahana)

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Raining fire in Donetsk

Tuesday 3 February 2015 Eye witness

People take cover during shelling in a residential area in Donetsk's Kyibishevsky district, on January 30, 2015 (AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET)

"In Donetsk the sound of explosions is always there, in the background." writes AFP reporter Simon Valmary. "Heavy artillery, mortar fire, rockets: after nine months of fighting, residents of the town held by pro-Russian rebels can tell most types of blast apart…. But without knowing, most of the time, who is bombing whom. Civilians try their best to go about their daily lives in spite of these shells that can fall from anywhere, at any time, striking people dead on the sidewalk."

(Photo: AFP / Dominique Faget)

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Killing in a media blackout

Friday 30 January 2015 Eye witness

Nigerian refugee children carry wood in a United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) refugee camp in Baga Sola by Lake Chad (AFP PHOTO / SIA KAMBOU)

"This week my colleague Celia Lebur travelled to Chad's border with Nigeria to hear the tales of men and women who escaped what may be the worst atrocity in Boko Haram's six-year Islamist insurgency, the assault on Baga," writes AFP's bureau chief in Lagos, Phil Hazlewood. "The harrowing stories add to mounting eye-witness accounts that we've already been able to gather from Nigeria, pointing at killings on a mass scale in Baga. But the numbers - even now, a month later - are impossible to verify."

(AFP Photo / Sia Kambou)

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Inside Kobane

Wednesday 28 January 2015 Eye witness

A Kurdish fighter walks with his child in the center of the Syrian border town of Kobane, known as Ain al-Arab, on January 28, 2015 (AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC)

"We've been waiting for two days to get into Kobane, ever since Kurdish fighters wrested back the town from IS jihadists. Finally, this morning, the Turkish authorities say they will allow us access for a few hours," writes AFP photographer Bulent Kilic. "When this all started, I was watching Kobane from the outside. The bombing, the fighting, it was like hell. After all this, to enter the city, for the fight to be over, that is powerful for me too."

(AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)

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Ties that bind, after the story ends

Wednesday 28 January 2015 Eye witness

Syrian rebels come under fire at the Krak des Chevaliers in June 2012 (AFP / DJILALI BELAID)

"If you don’t have complete faith in someone who is taking you across a dangerous border - if you have even the slightest doubt - you don’t go. That level of trust between journalist and source creates a powerful bond. And a sense of duty if they later turn to you for help," writes AFP's Djilali Belaid. "During my last mission in Syria, in June 2012, I crossed the border from north Lebanon to reach the crusader fortress of Krak des Chevaliers, a 1,000-year-old citadel captured by rebels at the start of the uprising against President Bashar Al-Assad. If you get caught, you are dead. My main contact on the trip was a young man named Ahmad. He is 24 years old."

(AFP / Djilali Belaid)

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Nameless grave for a billionaire king

Wednesday 28 January 2015 Eye witness

Mourners gather around the grave of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah at the Al-Oud cemetery in Riyadh on January 23, 2015 (AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED MASHHUR)

"The austere funeral of Saudi King Abdullah intrigued many a foreign observer," writes AFP's Mohammed Mashhur. "Strange and surprising to see one of the world’s richest monarchs, with an estimated fortune worth more than 18 billion dollars, laid to rest in a nameless grave. I wanted to take this picture for the sake of history, to show the world how we bury a king here in Saudi Arabia, without particular distinction, in the midst of people both rich and poor."

(AFP Photo / Mohammed Mashhur)

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On 'Survivors’ Street'

Tuesday 27 January 2015 Eye witness

Holocaust survivor Shoshana Colmer, 95, on January 21, 2015 in her apartment in a building housing Holocaust survivors in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa as part of a project by the Israeli NGO Yad Ezer (A Helping Hand) (AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA)

"I did as I would with my grandmother. Pulled my chair right up beside her, and asked in a loud, slightly dumb voice, as if speaking to a child, 'Do you like it here, then?' 'The food is good,' she replied. Silence. 'In Auschwitz I weighed 23 kilos.' Silence. Over the course of an hour Shoshana Colmer dives into her memories. Without coming up for air," writes Daphne Rousseau, after meeting the residents of a community in northern Israel known as as "Survivors' Street".

(AFP Photo / Menahem Kahana)

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I am a human kaleidoscope

Monday 26 January 2015 Eye witness

A protester holds a placard reading in French 'l am Charlie, I am free, I am Lebanese' on January 10, 2015 at Samir Kassir Square in Beirut (AFP PHOTO / ANWAR AMRO)

"On Saturday the 10th of January – on the eve of the historic unity march held in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo attacks – two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a café in the Jabal Mohsen quarter of Tripoli, in north Lebanon," writes AFP's Rita Daou. "The attack left nine people dead and 37 wounded. Late that night, still hard at work, I received a phone call from a journalist friend. 'What? Still working?' she exclaimed. 'Go to bed my dear. No one will use your story. Tomorrow is the Paris march. No one gives a hoot about Jabal Mohsen'."

(AFP Photo / Ibrahim Chalhoub)

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A traveler comes home

Friday 23 January 2015 Eye witness


"Writing a profile of Jacques Lhuillery is like walking down a winding road, with many forks. Starting from the man I knew and discovering, with each new friend I speak to, with each hilarious or moving anecdote, a new Jacques, another faraway land, another of his lives of which I knew nothing."

The head of AFP’s Japan bureau, who died of cancer aged 61, learned to speak Dutch while living in Saudi Arabia. He was the star of the annual Mardi Gras carnival in a small town in the south Netherlands, and he played petanque with an African head of state over drinks of ‘pastis’. Jacques was devastated by the murder in Ivory Coast of his friend and colleague Jean Helene, and was himself gravely injured in a fire at his home in Nigeria. But he never lost the rambunctious sense of humour, the actor’s talent and brazen nerve that seemed to open doors wherever he went.

(Photo: AFP /Georges Gobet)

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Flying bulls in Manhattan

Wednesday 21 January 2015 Eye witness

Joao Ricardo Vieira rides the bull 'Fun Size' during the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Monster Energy Buck off in New York on January 16, 2015 (AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD)

"I’ve worked for AFP for nearly 15 years, and I can say I’ve covered pretty much everything – but this was my first rodeo," writes AFP's Jewel Samad after covering the PBR 'Monster Energy Buck-Off', billed as a showdown between the best bull riders in the world. "I went there thinking it could make a nice little feature, but after the first few riders, I was hooked."

(AFP Photo / Jewel Samad)

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From back-up to front seat

Tuesday 20 January 2015 Eye witness

Sebastien Paquet (L) and Reda Khoucha beside an AFPTV van (Regis Doucet)

As elite police hunted for the Charlie Hebdo suspects, AFP’s Sebastien Paquet and Reda Khoucha spent two days on their tracks - sleeping rough, surviving on service station sandwiches, and barely speaking to their families. So far so normal, for journalists assigned to cover one of the most dramatic stories to rock France in recent years. Except neither are journalists. Both were part of a six-man team of video technicians who worked round-the-clock – and well outside their usual brief - in the aftermath of the January 7 Islamist shooting at the satirical weekly.

(Regis Doucet)

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