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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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The climate logo Rorschach test

Friday 16 January 2015 - Decoding

A banner announcing the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference, the Cop 21 summit in Paris, on January 14, 2015. (AFP PHOTO /JACQUES DEMARTHON)

"Each year, the country that hosts the UN's conference on climate change dishes out a wad of cash on a logo. The usual request to graphic designers is to provide something cosy. Something planetary. We-are-the-worldish. Whether all the hugginess works is another matter," writes AFP science, health and environment coordinator Richard Ingham. "Take the logo unveiled this week by France, where 195 countries are supposed to seal a historic pact in December. Is it a leaf nibbled by an ant? The Eiffel Tower, melting under a scorching Sun? Or a drop of biofuel, representing a greener, cleaner future?"

(AFP Photo / Jacques Demarthon)

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Capturing a human tide on camera

Tuesday 13 January 2015 - Eye witness

Aerial view of the unity march in Paris on January 11, 2015, taken above the Place de la Republique (AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD)

Clinching a spot on board a helicopter, watching world leaders march under tight security, or melting into the heart of the crowd, AFP photographers Kenzo Tribouillard, Eric Baradat and Joel Saget share their experience of the historic January 11 unity march in Paris.

(AFP Photo / Kenzo Tribouillard)

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When terror unravels at home

Sunday 11 January 2015 - Eye witness

French police forces taking position by the kosher grocery store Hyper Cacher in Saint-Mande, near Porte de Vincennes, eastern Paris (AFP PHOTO / ERIC FEFERBERG)

"As a journalist, I've covered some dramatic events in the past -- natural disasters in China come to mind or the conflict in Ukraine. But I never thought I'd see a bloodbath in Paris, my home city," writes AFP's Marianne Barriaux. "Why was I -- am I still -- so shaken by Friday's siege at the Porte de Vincennes in Paris?"

(AFP Photo / Eric Feferberg)

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‘Little Schoolboy’ at Charlie Hebdo

Thursday 8 January 2015 - Eye witness

Charlie Hebdo staff members including cartoonists Cabu (front L), Charb (front R), Tignous (rear L) and Honore (rear R) pose at the Paris offices of the satirical weekly on March 15, 2006 (AFP PHOTO JOEL SAGET)

"Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists were not my friends. They were my first family in journalism, the one you can never fall out with," AFP's Karim Talbi, who started his career at satirical weekly, writes in tribute to his friends, murdered by Islamic extremists. "I would never be where I am today without the good old Wolinski, Cabu, Charb and Tignous."

(AFP Photo / Joel Saget)

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Happy homecoming

Sunday 28 December 2014 - Behind the image

Nicolas Henin (R) is reunited with his family at the Villacoublay air base near Paris after being released from captivity in Syria, April 20, 2014.  (AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD)

"This has been a tragic year for journalists," writes Kenzo Tribouillard. "But there were also moments of great joy and relief for the profession, and I was lucky enough to witness one of them. On April 20 at dawn, I headed to the Villacoublay military airport outside Paris to cover the homecoming of four French journalists, held captive in Syria for months."

(AFP Photo / Kenzo Tribouillard)

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On a tiger safari

Friday 19 December 2014 - Eye witness

A picture taken by a passerby shows an alleged tiger on the loose walking in Montevrain, east of Paris, on November 13, 2014 (AFP PHOTO / COURTESY OF JULIE BERDEAUX)

On a quiet Thursday in November, an AFP reporter in Bobigny, north Paris suburbs, receives a phone call from a flustered police officer, who dialed his number by mistake. «Hello, Jerome? Call back the fire brigade. We can’t find IT.” "IT, as we are about to find out, is the TIGER," writes Eve Szeftel, who spent two days in pursuit of the bloodthirsty beast -- under the amused eye of the world’s media.

(AFP / Julie Berdeaux)

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Je t'aime : Kerry's love affair with France

Tuesday 21 October 2014 - Eye witness


Kerry arrives for a meeting at the Quai d’Orsay, the French Foreign Affairs ministry, on September 15, 2014 in Paris (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)

Secretary of State John Kerry may be the champion-in-chief of American values abroad and who once ran to be US president, but who in his heart of hearts is constantly called back to Paris.

"Kerry's French roots run deep", writes AFP's State Department correspondent Jo Biddle. "His mother Rosemary Forbes was born in Paris in the 1920s and served as a nurse in the French capital during World War II (...) Once sneered at in America for being a fluent French speaker during his failed 2004 bid for the White House, the top US diplomat has been liberated in his new job, frequently chatting in French".

(AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)


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