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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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Dusk in the Arctic morning

Friday 20 March 2015 - Eye witness

People watch a total solar eclipse from Longyearbyen, Svalbard, an archipeligo administered by Norway on March 20, 2015.  (AFP PHOTO / STAN HONDA)

"I’ve been interested in astronomy ever since I was a kid. Late last year I left my job as an AFP news photographer to pursue a documentary project – as well as the night sky and astronomy photography that I love," writes Stan Honda. "I’ve always wanted to see a total solar eclipse." So when a friend told him of a trip to Norway's Arctic Svalbard archipelago, one of only two places with the Faroe Islands which would be experiencing “totality” on March 20, 2015, he signed up.

(Photo: AFP / Stan Honda)

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A roach with your ceviche?

Wednesday 18 March 2015 - Eye witness

A woman prepares Chicharron (fried pork) sandwiches at Mistura Fair 2009, an international gastronomic fair in Lima, on September 27, 2009. (AFP PHOTO/RAUL GARCIA PEREIRA)

"Within every Peruvian lurks an inner chef, an inner food critic," writes AFP's Lima correspondent Moises Avila, who returned home after 10 years abroad to witness a food revolution in the city recently dubbed a gastronomic mecca. "The specialities that delight today’s tourists were born on simple stoves, rustled up by our ancestors who concocted dishes with whatever they could lay their hands on."

"But every Peruvian also has his 'Tia Veneno' – his 'Aunty Poison' – the street vendors who throw together the dishes that everyone eats, in the hygiene conditions everyone can well imagine, without anyone dying of food poisoning. And some things remain the same as ever. Like the possibility of stumbling across a crunchy, six-legged surprise in a dish bought on the sidewalk."

(Photo: AFP / Raul Garcia Pereira)

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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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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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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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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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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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Human pinball in Las Vegas

Thursday 15 January 2015 - Eye witness

Attendees gesture in front of Intel's RealSense technology cameras to see 3D renditions of themselves, at the Consumer Electronics Show, January 8, 2015, in Las Vegas, Nevada (AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK)

"Ever heard of a hackathon ? It’s what you get when you lock a bunch of software whizzes in a room, deprive them of sleep for days at a stretch, and wait for visionary new ideas to emerge fully formed at the other end," writes AFP technology reporter Glenn Chapman. "It also sums up pretty neatly my own experience of covering CES -- the annual gadget and television extravaganza in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Consumer Electronics Show shares many of the basic ingredients of a hackathon - as a melting pot overflowing with gadgetry and concepts, out of which the technology world tries each year to pluck the Next Big Thing."

(AFP Photo / Robyn Beck)

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Open House at the CIA

Monday 15 December 2014 - Eye witness

The lobby of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Headquarters in Langley, Virginia (AFP PHOTO/SAUL LOEB)"The fresh-faced staff members scurried back and forth among the rows of chairs. They were clearly nervous," writes AFP's Pentagon reporter Dan De Luce, after covering the first ever live news conference held inside CIA headquarters -- as the spy agency scrambled to respond to revelations its operatives tortured Al-Qaeda suspects after the September 11 attacks.

(AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)

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The night Ferguson caught fire

Monday 15 December 2014 - Eye witness

US-CRIME-POLICE-RACE-UNRESTAFP video journalist Loic Hofstedt was in Ferguson, Missouri, on November 24, 2014, the night a grand jury decided not to press charges against the white police officer who shot dead Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. He was injured in the head as rioting broke out in anger at the verdict. "I was just doing my last shots, and I told myself I'm going to get the hell out of here. It happened in a second -- I knew immediately it was a brick because I could hear them flying all around me."

(AFP Photo /Jewel Samad)

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Musical discoveries on 1,300-band week

Wednesday 5 November 2014 - Debriefing


Bass player and vocals, Paula Cullen, of the Irish Band September Girls (AFP Photo / Don Emmert)

"I'm an obsessive music-lover, someone who would rather be at a concert than almost anywhere else (with a few exceptions)", writes New York-based reporter Shaun Tandon. "But even for me the five days of CMJ offer daunting choices".

CMJ is a 33-year-old annual institution in New York in which dozens of clubs across the city transform into testing grounds for up-and-coming (or hoping-to-be up-and-coming) bands that want to gain notice. Here are a few highlights that, in Shaun's opinion, stood out.

(AFP Photo / Don Emmert)


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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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Back to Normandy: Photographing WWII heroes

Tuesday 8 July 2014 - Eye witness

bernard-dargols-combo_m.jpg

Paris-based photojournalist Joël Saget wanted to do something different to mark the 70th anniversary of the World War II Allied landings in Normandy.

He came up with the idea of juxtaposing contemporary photos of them with pictures taken in wartime. The result is a moving tribute to these heroic men.

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Chasing shadows: Kim and Kanye in France

Tuesday 3 June 2014 - Decoding


Kim Kardashian stands in front of a vehicule with a stroller as she leaves her hotel on May 23, 2014 in Paris (AFP / Kenzo Tribouillard)

More accustomed to covering riots, trials and drug stories in the Parisian suburbs than tracking VIPs, AFP reporters Estelle Emonet and Nathalie Alonso suddenly found themselves hunting for Kim Kardashian and Kanye West when speculation reached fever pitch that the celebrity couple would celebrate their wedding in France.

(Photo: AFP / Kenzo Tribouillard)


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Diplomacy on the fly: The Kerry-go-round

Tuesday 1 April 2014 - Behind the image

John Kerry waves while he boards his plane in Amman on March 27, 2014. (AFP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin/Pool)

"Life on the road with Kerry is a whirlwind of fast-changing schedules, nail-biting last minute decisions and complex logistics, requiring quick-thinking, immense wells of patience and above all flexibility from his loyal and dedicated staff," writes AFP's US State Department correspondent Jo Biddle. "But it's also a rare fly-on-the-wall privilege to witness diplomacy in the making, with an almost front-row seat as Kerry helms his own path into the foreign policy annals."

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Obama and the Night Watch

Tuesday 25 March 2014 - Behind the image

US President Barack Obama speaks in front of Rembrandt's masterpiece "The Night Watch

News conferences with the US president don't normally get attention because of the backdrop, but when Obama met with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte this week in front of one of the world's most famous paintings, photographers had a little fun.

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