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Tuesday 30 June 2015

Embedded in Mali

A French armoured vehicle leaves Goundam on June 3, 2015 in the Timbuktu region, northern Mali, during a joint operation with Malian army forces as part of the anti-terrorist Operation Barkhane (AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE DESMAZES) A French armoured vehicle leaves Goundam on June 3, 2015 in the Timbuktu region, northern Mali, during a joint operation with Malian army forces as part of the anti-terrorist Operation Barkhane (AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE DESMAZES)

(AFP Photo / Philippe Desmazes)


"The thermometer in the foyer is stuck on 50 degrees Celsius. The highest it can go," writes AFP's Michel Moutot. "It’s not yet noon on the French army base at Timbuktu airport."

"Why did AFP ask to follow a French army unit into Mali's lawless north? Two reasons. Firstly, to report on the soldiers actions on the ground. Secondly to gain access, under the protection of the army, to one of a rising number of places in the world where reporters can no longer venture alone without risk of kidnapping or death."

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Friday 26 June 2015

European hostages: mining the data

Members of French army special force take part in a mock hostage release exercise, on April 15, 2015 on a beach in Arcachon, southwestern France, as part of the Special Operations Forces Innovation Network Seminar (SOFINS). (AFP PHOTO / MEHDI FEDOUACH) Members of French army special force take part in a mock hostage release exercise, on April 15, 2015 on a beach in Arcachon, southwestern France, as part of the Special Operations Forces Innovation Network Seminar (SOFINS). (AFP PHOTO / MEHDI FEDOUACH)

(AFP Photo / Mehdi Fedouach)


"How many times have I heard this refrain since joining AFP nearly 20 years ago: ‘With millions of stories in our archives, we’re sitting on top of an information gold mine’," writes the journalist Marlowe Hood. "The European Hostage Project is a serious attempt to extract some of that buried treasure. A case study in data journalism, it uncovered patterns in the terrible traffic in hostages from Europe that up to now remained elusive if not invisible."

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The fate of Europe's hostages since 2000

Journalists hold portraits of fellow French reporters held hostage in Afghanistan Stephane Taponier and Herve Ghesquiere in Strasbourg, eastern France,  on November 18, 2010 ( AFP PHOTO / PATRICK HERTZOG) Journalists hold portraits of fellow French reporters held hostage in Afghanistan Stephane Taponier and Herve Ghesquiere in Strasbourg, eastern France,  on November 18, 2010 ( AFP PHOTO / PATRICK HERTZOG)

(AFP Photo / Patrick Hertzog)


Some 400 European nationals have been taken hostage on foreign soil since 2000 - with more than one in ten dying in detention, according to a data-mining study of AFP news archives covering the period. The study, carried out jointly by AFP and a team of 10 journalism students from the Institut Français de Presse, analysed the contents of more than 40,000 AFP dispatches published between January 1, 2000 and March 31, 2015.

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Hostages for sale in Syria

A Free Syrian army's fighter gestures asking drivers to slow down to prevent accidents on September 13, 2013 in the outskirts of Saraqib, southwest of Aleppo. (AFP PHOTO / GIOVANNI DIFFIDENTI) A Free Syrian army's fighter gestures asking drivers to slow down to prevent accidents on September 13, 2013 in the outskirts of Saraqib, southwest of Aleppo. (AFP PHOTO / GIOVANNI DIFFIDENTI)

(AFP Photo / Giovanni Diffidenti)

"Pierre Piccinin da Prata describes himself as a historian and political scientist, but his work is more like a war reporter’s," writes Robin Braquet. "The Belgian researcher has travelled to Syria more than a dozen times. On one occasion, he almost didn’t make it home. In 2013, he was betrayed by a faction of the rebel Free Syrian Army and handed over to a group of hostage-takers."

"The FSA are portrayed in the West as Syria’s moderate rebels, opposed to both President Bashar al-Assad and the Islamic State group. Yet some of the group’s members are now known to have sold hostages to the jihadists, enticed by the high price offered for a captive Westerner."

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Holding on to the little things

Francis Collomp's notebook from his time in captivity (Gregoire Belhoste) Francis Collomp's notebook from his time in captivity (Gregoire Belhoste)

(Gregoire Belhoste)

"During the three months he spent as a captive in the Malian desert, Pierre Camatte had a ritual," writes Gregoire Belhoste. "Each morning he would write in the sand the number of days since he was seized, and tie another knot on a string plucked from his headscarf before burying it deep in his pocket. A notebook, a transistor radio, a piece of string: for people in a long-term hostage situation a tiny object is sometimes all that stands in the way of despair. Long after their ordeal comes to an end, many still cling on to these small things."

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Thursday 18 June 2015

Slashed by a sea monster

A racing officials' boat is hit by part of the Spindrift 2 Multihull (L) on June 16, 2015, just before the start of the 9th Leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, off the coast of Lorient, western France (AFP PHOTO / JEAN-SEBASTIEN  EVRARD) A racing officials' boat is hit by part of the Spindrift 2 Multihull (L) on June 16, 2015, just before the start of the 9th Leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, off the coast of Lorient, western France (AFP PHOTO / JEAN-SEBASTIEN  EVRARD)

(AFP Photo / Jean-Sebastien Evrard)

"The Spindrift 2 is the world’s largest racing trimaran. An extraordinary sailboat. Forty metres long, it holds a round-the-world record and frequently hits speeds of more than 45 knots – or 85 kilometres per hour," writes the AFP photographer Jean-Sebastien Evrard. "At full speed, its rudders and daggerboards are sharp as razor blades. Not something you wish to see hurtling towards you out at sea. Yet that is what I witnessed, on June 16 in the afternoon, off the coast from Lorient in Brittany."

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Tuesday 26 May 2015

‘Journalist scum’ and the Cannes glitterati

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) 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 / Valery Hache)


"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."

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Tuesday 19 May 2015

The extraordinary life of 'Doña Anna'

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

(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.

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Wednesday 13 May 2015

'If you find my dead body…'

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) 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)

(AFP / 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."

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Monday 20 April 2015

Backstories: the photographer and the map

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)
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)

(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.

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Thursday 2 April 2015

Waiting game on a Swiss lake

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) 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)

(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."

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Tuesday 31 March 2015

Twitter and news agencies: BFF or frenemies?

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 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)

(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."

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Monday 30 March 2015

Stars of the bar

combo-avocats-2.jpg combo-avocats-2.jpg

(AFP Photo / Joel Saget)


"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.”

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Monday 16 March 2015

The day everything bright turned black

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

(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."

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Friday 13 March 2015

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

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) 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)

(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."

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Thursday 12 March 2015

Lost in a metal shell

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) 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)

(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."

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Monday 9 March 2015

A drone over Paris

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) 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)

(AFP Photo / 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?

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Friday 6 March 2015

Hipstamatic in the high seas

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) 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)

(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."

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Wednesday 4 March 2015

Fifty shades of DSK: from courtroom to sex club

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

(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."

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Wednesday 25 February 2015

Photography: telling art from fraud

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

(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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