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‘Journalist scum’ and the Cannes glitterati

Tuesday 26 May 2015 - Behind the image

A photo taken with a mobile phone shows a woman distributing the local newspaper's festival edition outside the Festival palace during the 68th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southeastern France, on May 14, 2015 (AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHE)

(AFP Photo / Valery Hache)


'Journalist scum' and the Cannes glitterati


"Two floors above us is an impossible level of glamour, people of such mind-bending charisma that the mere sight of them walking on carpet can set off a frenzy of shutter clicks and hysterical screaming," writes Eric Randolph, fresh from covering the 68th Cannes Film Festival on the French Riviera. "But pan down through the floors into the basement, and things are decidedly less glamorous: long corridors hastily constructed from some kind of off-white plyboard, unmarked doors that open to swarming nests of journalists tripping over cables and crammed around banks of wonky screens, frantically relaying the upstairs glitz to a ravenous public."

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The extraordinary life of 'Doña Anna'

Tuesday 19 May 2015 - Decoding

Anna Kipper, AFP's first female bureau chief, in her office in Bogota in the 1970s (Photo: El Tiempo)

She was an extraordinary journalist, who lived an extraordinary life. Anna Kipper was a Polish Jew driven from Europe during World War II who went on to become AFP’s first female bureau chief, in Bogota in 1946. A reporter whose career mirrored the upheavals of the 20th century, from Europe to Latin America. This is her story, told by Yves Gacon, AFP's director of archives and publishing.

(Photo: El Tiempo)

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'If you find my dead body…'

Wednesday 13 May 2015 - Eye witness

French far-right Front National (FN) founder Jean-Marie Le Pen sings at the foot of a statue of Joan of Arc at the party's annual May 1 rally in Paris in 2015. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS SAMSON)

"Jean-Marie Le Pen is a complex character, both an erudite with a rich knowledge of history and a relentless provocateur. It takes time to figure him out," writes Guillaume Daudin, who covers the National Front for AFP. "Le Pen may be physically diminished. But he is far from the senile old man some would paint him as. He knows exactly what he is doing."

(Photo: AFP / Thomas Samson)

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Backstories: the photographer and the map

Monday 20 April 2015 - Eye witness


US marines officers from the 2nd Battalion 8th Marines are briefed about their initial mission in the event of a strike against Iraq, 13 March 2003 in Camp Shoup in northern of Kuwait. (AFP PHOTO/ERIC FEFERBERG)

In Backstories, a new video series by Laurent Kalfala and Sylvain Estibal, AFP journalists take us behind the scenes of a powerful moment in their career.

For the first installment, Eric Feferberg tells the extraordinary tale of this picture, taken on March 13, 2003 in a US military camp in Kuwait where 130,000 troops were preparing to invade Iraq. Invited to photograph this officers' briefing - and the top-secret map in the background - he had little idea of the storm that would ensue.

(AFP Photo / Eric Feferberg)


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Waiting game on a Swiss lake

Thursday 2 April 2015 - Eye witness

US Secretary of State John Kerry looks out of the window of his room at the Beau-Rivage Palace hotel during a break in Iran nuclear talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, on April 1, 2015 (AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI)

"For the past week I have been with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Switzerland in the marathon search for a nuclear deal with Iran," writes AFP photographer Brendan Smialowski. "Covering negotiations like these is as much about official photo ops as behind-the-scenes moments and features. As the negotiations dragged on, the ops got fewer and fewer, then dried up completely. But a photojournalist can go hunting for other moments to illustrate the story."

(Photo: AFP / Fabrice Coffrini)

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Twitter and news agencies: BFF or frenemies?

Tuesday 31 March 2015 - Decoding

A Brazil fan uses a mobile phone prior to the third place play-off football match between Brazil and Netherlands during the 2014 FIFA World Cup at the National Stadium in Brasilia on July 12, 2014. (AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSEN)

"A lot of (mostly virtual) ink has been spilt on the looming threat of Twitter to so-called ‘legacy’ news media," writes AFP journalist Marlowe Hood. "Agencies such as AFP, Reuters and the Associated Press (AP) – global wholesalers that gather and sell content to other media – were said to be especially vulnerable to the 500+ million mini-messages that course through Twitter every day, blanketing the planet on every subject imaginable."

"This is the story of how Agence France-Presse and Twitter tied the knot, paving the way for AFP to make and market a novel news service situated somewhere near the crossroads of Social Network Ave. and News Agency Blvd."

(Photo: AFP / Odd Andersen)

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Stars of the bar

Monday 30 March 2015 - Eye witness

combo-avocats-2.jpg

"We tend to photograph lawyers on the fly, on their way in or out of court,” writes AFP photographer Joel Saget. “The pictures often come out looking pretty much the same, so AFP decided it would be a good idea - for our archives - to shoot a series of portraits of France’s star lawyers. We didn’t expect our subjects would be quite so photogenic.”

(Photo: AFP / Joel Saget)

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The day everything bright turned black

Monday 16 March 2015 - Eye witness

A Yazidi Iraqi woman in the Bajid Kandala camp in Kurdistan's western Dohuk province on August 13, 2014 (AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE)

Threatened with rape, sexual slavery or forced marriage as the Islamic State group overran their homes last year, they fled at a moment's notice, leaving their lives behind. In early March, a dozen Yazidi and Christian women refugees in Arbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, took part in a workshop organised by the charity Chime for Change and hosted by journalists Mariane Pearl and Randa Habib. The goal was to teach them how to use narrative techniques to help share their terrible stories.

"I put my journalistic habits to one side, instead following my gut-feeling and intuition," writes Randa Habib. "This isn’t about extracting from these women good stories to print. It’s about making them feel comfortable, creating a bond that will enable them to tell me painful, private things. Simply because it will do them good."

"Their stories, when they share them at last, will stay with me for a long time."

(Photo: AFP / Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

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Bjork’s ‘Army of Me’: music, and fame, on a wall

Friday 13 March 2015 - Eye witness

An exhibit in the Bjork exhibition at MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art ), a retrospective dedicated to the multifaceted work of the singer, composer, and musician (AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

"So how exactly do you put music on a wall? And is it even worth doing?" asks AFP music correspondent Shaun Tandon. "I headed to the preview of the Bjork retrospective at MoMA in New York with the hope this would be mind-blowing. And the end product is wondrously innovative. Yet I came out with a sense that this was also an experiment in the reaches of pop culture hagiography."

(Photo: AFP / Timothy A. Clary)

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Lost in a metal shell

Thursday 12 March 2015 - Eye witness

A French Navy HawkEye prepares to take off from the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle operating in the Gulf on February 26, 2015 (AFP PHOTO / PATRICK BAZ)

"How do I feel about spending a week on an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf? To be honest, as the prospect takes shape, I can feel myself tensing up," writes AFP's Valerie Leroux. "A week in a metal shell, nine storeys high, trekking up and down mile-long gangways and teetering ladders, to the non-stop soundtrack of Rafale fighters roaring into the air on the deck above? But to hell with claustrophobia, never mind deafening decibels, I decide to go all in and board a plane for Bahrain. I won’t regret it."

(Photo: AFP / Patrick Baz)

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A drone over Paris

Monday 9 March 2015 - Eye witness

AFP biker Guy Andrieu throws an unpowered drone into the air, for the purposes of shooting an illustration picture, in la Defense business disctrict on February 27, 2015 (AFP / DOMINIQUE FAGET)

"Mysterious drones in the skies over Paris and several nuclear power plants have been giving the French authorities a headache in recent weeks," writes the AFP photographer Dominique Faget. "There’s naturally a lot of media interest in the phenomenon - and an appetite for illustration photos to match. But it would take a major stroke of luck for AFP to capture a real-life drone in the sky over the capital."

So how do you send a drone into the sky over Paris, without getting thrown in jail?

(Photo: AFP / Dominique Faget)

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Hipstamatic in the high seas

Friday 6 March 2015 - Eye witness

A picture taken with a Hipstamatic application shows members of the French navy aircaft carrier Charles de Gaulle's safety and security team taking a break as the ship is operating in the Gulf on February 25, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / PATRICK BAZ)

"We board at the dock in Bahrain in late February: five days at sea to witness the deployment of the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the fight against the Islamic State group – a floating town carrying 2,000 people on an eight-week mission in the Persian Gulf," writes AFP photographer Patrick Baz. "Aircraft carriers are a pretty familiar environment for me by now, having spent time on both French and US vessels during the Gulf Wars, the Afghan conflict – you name it. This time though, I got a chance to do something different."

(Photo: AFP / Patrick Baz)

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Fifty shades of DSK: from courtroom to sex club

Wednesday 4 March 2015 - Eye witness

A woman wears a mask at the Venus erotic fair in Berlin October, 2012 (AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE)

"I am sitting alone at the bar. Nervously I sip a glass of wine and pick at a bowl of peanuts, more often than I need to. I try to assume an air of confidence, but can’t help worrying how that looks to the couples entering the club, their eyes stopping to linger on the woman sitting here by herself," writes AFP's Fran Blandy. "My awkward presence at the bar of a Parisian swingers’ club is a direct consequence of my presence, the previous week, in a room with arguably less sumptuous decor, fewer animal prints and flickering candles: the court in Lille, northern France, where Dominique Strauss-Kahn is on trial."

(Photo: AFP / Johannes Eisele)

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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.

(AFP / KCNA)

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Eric Schwab, photographing the unspeakable

Friday 13 February 2015 - Decoding


A prisoner dying of dysentery at the Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald upon the liberation of the camp by Allied troops on 11 April 1945 ( AFP PHOTO / ERIC SCHWAB)

"It comes down to a few dozen pictures by Eric Schwab, preserved in the Agence France-Presse archives," writes AFP's archives director Yves Gacon. "An insignificant number in a photographic fund of more than 30 million digital documents and seven million analog files. But whose value in historical terms is inestimable. One of the first photographers at the modern-day AFP, Eric Schwab was among the very first witnesses to the boundless horror that Allied forces uncovered as they advanced into Germany, liberating the death camps one after the other. Schwab formed a partnership with the American writer and journalist Meyer Levin, travelling together into the darkness on board their jeep 'Spirit of Alpena'. Both were on a painful quest, Levin to investigate the fate of Europe’s Jews in World War II, and Schwab to find his mother who was deported in 1943."

(AFP Photo / Eric Schwab)


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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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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

jacques-ivoire-2.jpg

"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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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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Welcome to Jacques Lhuillery's Japan

Monday 19 January 2015 - Eye witness

Mount Fuji and Lake Ashinoko, in Hakone near Tokyo in November 2013 (AFP / Toshifumi Kitamura)

Long-time Agence France-Presse correspondent Jacques Lhuillery, who has died aged 61, was one of the most entertaining, and prolific, contributors to the AFP blogs. After a string of tough postings that took him Iran to Nigeria via Ivory Coast and Lebanon, he found reason to marvel in everything he saw in his final AFP posting as Tokyo bureau chief. From the strange choreography of Tokyo metro workers, to the sounds and silences of the Japanese capital, or its bewildering complex recycling system. Whether sitting out an earthquake in a pseudo-Bavarian tavern, or pondering the likenesses between sumo wrestling and and corrida, here are his collected posts for the blog.

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