epa Photo Essays 2012

epa03513950 (02/14) Filipino trainees with visual impairment use abacuses for calculations during a basic mathematics class at the National Vocational Rehabilitation Center (NVRC) in Quezon City, east of Manila, Philippines, 03 December 2012. The NVRC is a government-run facility providing developmental and vocational training to persons with disabilities (PWDs) aimed at empowering individuals to improve their capacities and quality of life. A total of 77 trainees are currently taking free one-year courses in skills such as consumer electronics servicing, computer software and hardware operations, garments trade, scientific massage and commercial cooking. The center operates with a staff of 28 people, some of whom are PWDs themselves and former trainees. EPA/ROLEX DELA PENA

Vocational Rehabilitation Center in Manila

The National Vocational Rehabilitation Center has been providing developmental services for persons with disabilities for 58 years, empowering individuals to overcome their impairment and enhance their capacities. Skills in areas such as garments trade, consumer electronics servicing, computer software and hardware operations, scientific massage and commercial cooking are being offered. 77 persons with disabilities are currently training at the center. On each training day, trainees and staff workers come together to create an environment of learning, acceptance and empowerment.

 

 

epa03496900 (29/29) Japan's only male geisha, Eitaro (C), aged 26, performs a dance for customers at a geisha party on a floating party boat on the Sumida river in Tokyo, Japan, 05 November 2012. Eitaro is a second generation geisha, a skilled dancer and female role performer. Following the death of his mother, a geisha, three years ago, he and his sister, Maika are carrying on their mother's efforts to revive local geisha culture in Tokyo's Omori district and to make geisha entertainment more accessible to ordinary people. EPA/EVERETT KENNEDY BROWN

Japan's Only Male Geisha

In modern Japan geisha performers have become a rarity outside of the few established entertainment districts in major cities and hot spring resorts. This is due to Japan’s changing economy and corporate entertainment policies which makes high priced traditional geisha entertainment unaffordable. Eitaro is Japan’s only male geisha who performs in the role as a female dancer. He is the master of an ‘okiya,’ a geisha house in Tokyo’s Omori port district. Following the death of his mother, he took over her role as geisha house master and with his sister oversees a group of six geisha performers.

 

 

epa03491314 (04/14) A volunteer zookeeper examines Maali through the bars of her enclosure in Manila Zoo, Philippines, 18 October 2012. Maali, a 38 year-old Asian elephant, has been the focus of international campaign aimed at freeing her from the confines of Manila Zoo, where she has spent the last 35 years alone in a concrete enclosure. In 1977, Maali, only 3 years old then, was imported from Sri Lanka and shipped to the Philippines. She was donated to the children of Manila by the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka, after her mother was allegedly killed by poachers. EPA/DENNIS M. SABANGAN

Maali the Lonely Elephant

Maali, a 38 year-old Asian elephant, has been the focus of international campaign aimed at freeing her from the confines of Manila Zoo, where she has spent the last 35 years alone in a concrete enclosure. Pressure is mounting on the Philippine government to release the 7-ton mammal. In 1977, Maali, only 3 years old then, was imported from Sri Lanka and shipped to the Philippines. She was donated to the children of Manila by the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka, after her mother was allegedly killed by poachers. Since then, she resides inside a zoo enclosure.

 

 

 

epa03461550 (03/19) A chicken walks past 'yaodongs' or cave homes in the rural outskirts of Yan'an city, Shaanxi Province, China, 05 November 2012. The 'yadong' or cave dwellings are typical in the plateaus of northern China in Shaanxi Province where many of Yan'an's rural population still live in. Chao has lived in his cave home in the Loess mountains of Yan'an for more than 60 years, mostly in poverty and hardship as a farmer and was one of the few to have lived through the period of turmoil during the civil war. China's new leaders slated to take over during the 18th National Congress beginning on 08 November are likely to face mounting pressures to tackle the country's rising income inequalities between urban and rural areas that are often the source of simmering resentment and growing unrests on the grassroot level. EPA/HOW HWEE YOUNG

Cave Dwellers

'Yaodongs' are typical in the plateaus of northern China in Shaanxi Province. They are mostly carved out from the yellow earth of the Loess hillsides and are home to many of the rural peasants living in the outskirts of Yan’an city, a former stronghold of the Chinese Communist Party. Corn farmer Yang Zhichong lives with his family of five in a ‘yaodong’. His tiny cave home serves as the bedroom, living room, kitchen and dinning room for the whole family. Parts of the walls are in danger of collapsing but there is nothing he can do about it with his current income.

 

 

 

An Indonesian miner breaks chunks of sulphur at the crater of the Kawah Ijen volcano, Banyuwangi, East Java, Indonesian, 24 October 2012. Kawah Ijen is the site of a traditional sulphur mining operation. The 2,600-meter-high volcano is topped with a large crater and a one-km-wide and about 200-meter-deep lake of sulfuric acid. More than 200 sulphur miners work at the crater lake in a traditional way, amidst toxic fumes. EPA/BAGUS INDAHONO

Traditional Sulfur Mining

Kawah Ijen in Indonesia is the site of a traditional sulphur mining operation. The 2,600-meter-high volcano is topped with a large crater and a one-km-wide and about 200-meter-deep lake of sulfuric acid. The status level of the active volcano has been raised by the Indonesian government to 'vigilant' in July 2012 and is still in effect today. Nevertheless, more than 200 sulphur miners still work at the crater lake in a traditional way, amidst toxic fumes. The sulfur is then used in sugar refineries and for other industrial processes.

 

 

 

Young men dressed in their traditional dresses, pith helmets and white shirts carry their long trumpets as they wait to dance during the annual Nazareth Baptist Church pilgrimage at Judea, Eshowe, South Africa, 28 October 2012. Once a year 20,000 followers of the Shembe Church gather in the rolling hills of Kwa Zulu Natal province of South Africa to pray and dance and enjoy the community of fellow Shembe worshipers. EPA/KIM LUDBROOK

Shembe Church Gathering

Once a year 20,000 followers of the Zulu Nazareth Baptist Church gather in the rolling hills of Kwa Zulu Natal province of South Africa to pray and dance and enjoy the community of fellow Shembe worshipers. The founder of the church, Isaya Shembe, claimed to have had been approached by the Holy Spirit on top of the sacred mountain of Nhlangagazi in Kwa Zulu Natal more than 100 years ago and thus started the Shembe church. Seen as a mixture of Zulu tradition and Christianity, the church reveres the late Isaya Shembe as an African Messiah and emphasizes the Ten Commandments.

 

 

The shackled inmates accused of murders sit in their cell in Rumbek Central Prison in Rumbek, the capital of Lakes State, South Sudan, 24 October 2012. Built in 1948 by the British colonial government, Rumbek Central Prison houses some 600 prisoners who live in overcrowded cells with virtually no access to the basic health care, sanitation, as well as adequate food and nutrition. Arbitrary detention is rife in South Sudan, says a 2012 report by the Human Rights Watch. All of several inmates interviewed, (some of them on death row), said they had no access to lawyers or any form of legal aid. But it is merely just one of several human rights laws being broken at the prisons in South Sudan. Conditions in the country's prisons 'clearly do not comply with international or domestic law and standards on prisoners' welfare', the report continues. EPA/DAI KUROKAWA

Prisoners in South Sudan

Prisoners of jails in South Sudan live in overcrowded cells with virtually no access to basic health care, sanitation, as well as adequate food and nutrition. Arbitrary detention is rife in South Sudan, says a 2012 report by the Human Rights Watch. All of several inmates interviewed said they had no access to lawyers or any form of legal aid. But it is merely just one of several human rights laws being broken at the prisons. Those who are accused of or convicted of murder are often shackled for extended periods of time, if not permanently. And corporal punishment is often used to 'discipline' inmates.

 

 

Dave Lansky fires a Minigun, which shoots 50 rounds a second, at the Big Sandy Machine Gun Shoot outside Wikieup, Arizona, USA, 19 October 2012. Twice a year, the Big Sandy lures gun enthusiasts to the Sonoran Desert for a weekend of firing heavy weaponry. EPA/JIM LO SCALZO

Arizona Gun Culture

Twice a year, gun enthusiasts from across the US gather at a remote location in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert for an unusual opportunity: the chance to fire machine guns, anti-aircraft guns, and even a M18 Hellcat tank at an event called the Big Sandy Machine Gun Shoot. In just 48 hours visitors fire off many as 3.5 million rounds, and in the process celebrate a constitutional privilege they hold dear: the right to keep and bear arms.

 

 

 

A model is painted prior to the Bodyspectra body painting event in Cape Town, South Africa, 26 October 2012. Bodyspectra is the country's premier body painting event produced by the Cape Town based City Varsity. Artists and models prepared for up to fourteen hours before showcasing their creations at a gala show. All proceeds from the event went towards the Amy Biehl Foundation, which emphasises the upliftment of children from previously disadvantaged backgrounds through the arts. EPA/NIC BOTHMA

Bodyspectra in Cape Town

Metamorphosis was the theme for the Bodyspectra event held by City Varsity School of Media and Creative Arts in Cape Town. This spectacular show has earned the label as the African continent’s finest body painting event due to the high quality of work. Motion picture make-up and production design students participate in this event which forms their final practical evaluation. The brief is simple - create a human canvas using body paint, prosthetics and props. The process is painstakingly long but provides an incredible visual feast when the creations are presented at an upmarket nightclub.

 

 

 

Urban Youth Harp Ensemble - Photo Essay

Urban Youth Harp Ensemble

The Urban Youth Harp Ensemble was founded in 2000 by Atlanta Symphony Orchestra principal harpist Elisabeth Remy Johnson and music teacher Roselyn Lewis. The non-profit organization wanted to expose African American students to the complex and beautiful instrument. Advanced students perform at various public and private events. The program improved students’ math skills and overall confidence, according to the organizers. Participants have said it has helped them manage the pressures of school and face the distractions and challenges that can keep them from making it to college.

 

 

Communist Party Tourism in Jinggangshan - Photo Essay

Communist Party Tourism

Jinggangshan is a popular destination for Red Tourism where Communist Party cadres and ordinary Chinese tourists alike converge, seeking to relive the experiences and rekindle the spirit of the revolutionaries. Jinggangshan is deemed the birthplace of the Chinese Red Army and the ‘cradle of the Chinese revolution’ which saw Mao Zedong's ascent to power as a revolutionary. After a failed uprising in 1927, Mao fled into the mountains with his 1,000 remaining troops from nationalist forces and set up base here to reorganize his army, eventually defeating the Kuomingtang to rule the country.

 

 

The Making of Wayang Golek Puppets - Photo Essay

The Making of Wayang Golek Puppets

The Wayang Golek folk art puppet theater is a popular art form with a long tradition in Indonesia and one of the most famous forms of puppet theater in the world. The painted wooden puppets are used for theater productions of Hindu epics that are particularly popular in West Java. The puppets are operated from below with small rods connected to their hands by a puppet master who also speaks their lines and performs to the music of a traditional Sundanese gamelan orchestra. Performances are presented on holidays or celebrations in communities such as circumcisions or weddings.

 

 

Anastase Tabaro, Inventor and Entrepreneur - Photo Essay

Anastase Tabaro, Inventor and Entrepreneur

Anastase Tabaro has built hydroelectric systems in several villages, providing electricity to some 700 households. He started his research in 1990 to build an electrical generation system with the aim to sell it to the villagers around his home where nobody had electricity. He built a turbine and constructed a barrage dam where he channels water from to power the generator. Tabaro's reputation has reached the capital, prompting the Ministry of Infrastructure to supply electrical poles to villages to expand the project to provide more people with electricity.

 

 

 

Bear Bile Farming in Vietnam - Photo Essay

Bear Bile Farming in Vietnam

Asiatic black bears are farmed for their bile in Vietnam, China, South Korea and Laos. They are kept in small cages, and stuck with long hollow needles in Vietnam to pump out and extract their bile. Most head for a slow death in confinement after capture in traps in the wild. In China the bears are permanently connected to catheters for regular bile extraction. The fresh bile is then sold to people who believe it improves their health. The Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre restores a decent quality of life to the bears after they were confiscated from bile farms by authorities, or given up by owners.

 

 

 

Tobacco harvest in Hungary - Photo Essay

Tobacco Harvest in Hungary

The tobacco industry is vital to the Szabolcs-Szatmar-Bereg region in Hungary. Working with tobacco provides a livelihood for around 16,000 undereducated workers there. The harvest is performed in a traditional way, manually, which enables the worker to examine the leaves' maturity and colour during the harvest. The laborers work under difficult conditions. No matter what weather conditions, like heatwaves, they have to work all day long in the tobacco fields. But what is more difficult, is to stoop all day long. Furthermore, tobacco leaves have a gluey grease, which makes the harvest more arduous.

 

 

Valley of Flowers - Photo Essay

Valley of Flowers

Officially British mountaineer Frank Smythe discovered the Valley of Flowers in 1931. Although local people have far longer known about the magical valley, a superstition prevented them from exploring the area. According to local folklore, anyone who ventured into the valley would never return. The Valley of Flowers is located high in the Himalayas at an altitude ranging from 3,200 to 6,675 m. It is famous for its meadows of alpine flowers and stretches over an area of 87.5 km². With more than 300 varieties of flowers, it was declared a national park in 1982 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.

 

 

Swaziland Reed Dance - Photo Essay

Swaziland Reed Dance

An estimated 30,000 young unmarried women and girls from across Southern Africa but mostly from Swaziland gathered for one week to attend the annual 'Umhlanga', or Reed Dance ceremony, at the Royal Residence near Mbabane, Swaziland. The ceremony is specifically for the maidens to show honor and respect to their Queen Mother and the King Mswati III. The traditional rite of passage ceremony sees the girls arriving in groups from their villages or areas and being registered. Then the girls are sent out by foot to the nearby valleys to cut and gather ten foot tall reeds.

 

 

 

Tattoo Inmates - Photo Essay

Tattoo Inmates

Bilibid Prison, a state penitentiary with an excess occupancy of almost 200 per cent, has transformed into a community with a bustling economic activity. Markets sell fresh meat and vegetables that are grown inside the compound. Different types of businesses have sprouted up, including a barber and a shoe-repair shop. Gang culture prevails inside the facility. The gangs have their own rules and leaders and help the authorities maintain the peace within Bilibid. Upon joining a gang, a man must be tattooed with the group’s symbol. Tattooing is considered to be contraband but they have learned to improvise.

 

 

Orphanage - Photo Essay

Orphanage

The orphanage is home to over 300 children and elderly people most with severe mental and physical handicaps. The center lacks the resources to carry out medical tests to establish links to Agent Orange, but with conditions such as birth deformities, severe skin rashes, partial paralysis and cerebral palsy it is believed that many of the children are third-generation victims of the chemical. In August 2012 the USA started a historic Agent Orange clean-up for the first time in Vietnam - over 50 years after American planes sprayed the carcinogen dioxin during the Vietnam War.

 

 

Traditional Hay Harvest - Photo Essay

Traditional Hay Harvest

On the Southern Carpathian Mountains Romanian farmers are still using the traditional manual way of harvesting hay. The hay will be used as natural fodder for their livestock during the winter time, while a fresh cut pasture makes grazing easier for the sheep flocks populating the green grass hills. Traditionally farmed grasslands in Transylvania support a vast array of flora and fauna and a wide range of endangered animal species. Whilst many other European countries have lost vast swathes of their meadowland to mechanized farming, Romania still has 2.4 million hectares of semi-natural grasslands.

 

 

Shamanism in Mongolia - Photo Essay

Shamanism in Mongolia

Shamanism comes from the term ‘shamans’ that refers to priests or mediums that act as vessels for spirits, gods and demons to communicate with the human world. In Mongolia they adhere to the ancient beliefs of Tengrism where spirits live in all of nature. This ancient faith predominated the land in the 13th century but was brutally suppressed under decades of communist rule from 1924 to 1990. Lately, this ancestor worship has seen a resurgence, as many sought to fill a spiritual void in a bewildering urban landscape dominated by the burgeoning mining industry, where long traditions of nomadic lifestyles are things of the past.

 

 

Amateur Boxing in Johannesburg - Photo Essay

Amateur Boxing in Johannesburg

George Khosi was once the Soweto Super Middle weight boxing champion until robbers shot him in both legs and in the right eye thus ending his boxing career. Some years later he committed his life to God and training boxers from the Hillbrow Boxing Gym situated in the notorious, crime-ridden Hillbrow area of Johannesburg, South Africa. The boxing ring is built in the forecourt of an old petrol station with the weights and boxing bags situated in a room next door. Currently about 35 boxers of all ethnic groups, both male and female, train with George in the bitterly cold winter mornings.

 

 

Ancient Amaranth Pilgrimage - Photo Essay

Ancient Amaranth Pilgrimage

One of India's most popular and arduous pilgrimages, the Hindu pilgrimage to the Amarnath Cave, is believed to be thousands of years old, but it started in an organized manner during the reign of the Dogra ruler Maharaja Gulab Singh. At Amarnath there is a huge cave which contains a naturally formed image of 'Lord Shiva' in the form of an 'ice-lingam' formed by the freezing of water which oozes from the rock. It is worshipped as a self-created 'Svayambhu' Linga and is considered the embodiment of Lord Shiva. Hindu Pilgrims visit the shrine during the 45 days before Sharavan Purnima every year.

 

 

Ramadan at Boys School in Kathmandu - Photo Essay

Ramadan at Boys School in Kathmandu

The capital city of Kathmandu runs more than a dozen Islamic schools as ten per cent of Nepal's population are Muslims. At the Jamia Gaushia Ahsanual Barkat School around 30 students from within the country as well as from neighboring India are accommodated - many of them coming from poor families. Because of their low income resources the community-based Jamia School offers them an education at an affordable price. The fasting month of Ramadan is a testing time for the students who have to find the concentration to study on an empty stomach because they have to refrain from consuming food and drinking water.

 

 

Coal Mining in Mongolia - Photo Essay

Coal Mining in Mongolia

Mongolia is rich in a variety of large untapped reserves of natural resources including coal, iron ore, gold and copper. The country’s economy has seen a huge boom in recent years with the expansion of the mining industry. The sector has become the most important income source. The majority of the raw materials go to China while the country is reliant on Russia for imports. Mongolia has sought to reduce its dependency on these two countries by seeking closer ties with other countries. Despite high growth rates, about one third of the population still lives in poverty while unemployment and inflation rates are soaring.

 

 

Indian Traditional Wrestling - Photo Essay

Indian Traditional Wrestling

Kushti is an ancient sport with a glorious past. Besides being a popular sport in the country for some it is also a way of life. Traditional Indian wrestlers train under a master or trainer locally called a Guru and follow his disciples, they stay and train together following a strict dietary regime mainly consisting of milk, almonds, ghee, eggs and chapattis which is usually prepared by the wrestlers themselves. Another aspect of traditional Indian wrestling is the abstinence from malpractices like smoking, drinking, and even sex, hence a wrestler concentrates his focus on his wrestling skills, building strength and living a pure life.

 

 

Cleansing Ritual in Gianyar - Photo Essay

Cleansing Ritual in Gianyar

For the Balinese Hindus religion is incorporated in all elements of life and while religious rituals fill up their every day lives to maintain balance between the good and evil, gods and demons, it is the cleansing ritual that followers believe purifies the universe and human soul. For the religion’s followers every disaster is believed to be an expression of imbalance and universal disorder and in order to keep everything in harmony the Balinese Hindu requires a spiritual cleansing or purification ritual.

 

 

 

Means of Transportation in South East Asia - Photo Essay

Means of Transportation in South East Asia

While most traditions are the keystone of communities through the world, authorities from Mandsaor, in the Malwa region and district of Madhya Pradesh, are striving to remove one tradition that violates human rights and affects thousands of girls, who from an early age are forced to accept prostitution as their religious and social duty. The Banchhara community live in villages situated along the National Highway in Madhya Pradesh (Central India). Among the Banchhara community there is a custom to 'dedicate' their eldest daughter to prostitution.

 

 

Highway Sex Workers - Photo Essay

Highway Sex Workers

While most traditions are the keystone of communities through the world, authorities from Mandsaor, in the Malwa region and district of Madhya Pradesh, are striving to remove one tradition that violates human rights and affects thousands of girls, who from an early age are forced to accept prostitution as their religious and social duty. The Banchhara community live in villages situated along the National Highway in Madhya Pradesh (Central India). Among the Banchhara community there is a custom to 'dedicate' their eldest daughter to prostitution.

 

 

Military Call-Up in Moscow - Photo Essay

Military Call-Up in Moscow

The number of servicemen in the Russian Armed Forces is 1,000,000 people, including 13,706 service-women. Male Russian citizens aged from 18 till 27-years-old are still eligible for conscription. National Service campaigns are carried out twice a year: in Spring and in Autumn, on the basis of Russian Presidential decrees. The 2012 Spring draft calls for 155,000 young men to complete their military service duties. In case military service contradicts beliefs or religion of a citizen he has the right to replace military service with an alternative civil service.

 

 

From Bee to Honey - Photo Essay

From Bee to Honey

Bees have been buzzing around doing their business for over 130 million years. The honey bee is essential for providing pollination for crops, orchards and flowers. These inspirational insects work tirelessly to produce hives and honey which man harvests. Honey and wax from hives are used for food, cosmetics and medicines. Today bees are threatened by a combination of various factors, deforestation, mites, Colony Collapse Disorder and industrial agriculture.

 

 

 

Arizona's All-Female Chain Gang - Photo Essay

Arizona's All-Female Chain Gang

It’s a scene reminiscent of the Deep South at the turn of the 20th century: a dozen prisoners in pinstripes working by the side of the road, their legs shackled together and their brows dripping with sweat. Yet this is present-day Phoenix, and the prisoners are all women. With a few exceptions, chain gangs were abandoned in the U.S. by 1955. But Arizona’s Maricopa County, which includes metropolitan Phoenix, reintroduced the practice in 1995, and today the county runs the only all-female chain gang in the country. Women volunteer for the duty, looking to break the boredom of prison life.

 

 

The Twa People – Rwanda's Indigenous Potters - Photo Essay

The Twa People – Rwanda's Indigenous Potters

The Twa are an indigenous Rwandan pygmy people who originally lived as hunter-gatherers in the high mountain forests of Central Africa. In the course of the clearing of the forests for agriculture, development projects and the creation of national parks and protected areas, they have been forced out of their forests, making them no longer able to live by their traditional activities. Twa have turned to one of very few remaining income-generating activities that they have: pottery.

 

 

 

Orphans in Kashmir - Photo Essay

Orphans in Kashmir

The Yateem Foundation Orphanage for boys shelters 50 boys in the heart of Srinagar. The foundation started the orphanage in 2000 and since then it is run on charity. Its trustee Muhammad Ehsan Rather explains, ‘To enable these children to compete in the modern world, we educate them in private English medium schools where they learn science, math and all other fields of modern education in English language.’ The Gulshan-E-Bannat Orphanage in Gopal Pora is an exclusive shelter home for girls and is also run by the trust. It is one of the oldest orphanages in Kashmir.

 

 

Six Day War Veterans - Photo Essay

Six Day War Veterans

During the Six Day War Israel fought against the surrounding Arab countries. It is considered to be Israel's most significant conflict in its 64 year history as Israel more than doubled the size of its territory, seizing all of Jerusalem including the Old City, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula to the Suez Canal. Forty-five years later the Israeli soldiers wounded in the brief conflict continue to receive rehabilitation for their injuries. This series features disabled veterans who carry the scars on their bodies.

 

 

Volunteer Doctors Treat Children in Need - Photo Essay

Volunteer Doctors Treat Children in Need

Volunteer doctors of the of the International Children's Safety Service (ICSS) travel around the Romanian Hargita county twice a year to examine and treat the health condition of the children in need at local hospitals and educational institutes. The organization was founded by a Hungarian man, Dr. Peter Edvi in Hannover, Germany, in 1989, but today the seat of the organization is in Hungary. The aim of the organization is to help children and institutions raising children who and which are in need, irrespective of national, political or religious affiliation.

 

 

Ar-Rahman Mosque’s Methadone Program - Photo Essay

Ar-Rahman Mosque’s Methadone Program

The Ar-Rahman mosque in Kuala Lumpur is a working religious mosque for Muslims but also site of the world's first methadone program to operate from a mosque, an unusual test program mixing faith and treatment. The mosque was chosen as the site for the drug rehabilitation program from among some 6,000 mosques in Malaysia. The project involves the supply of methadone to assist drug addicts in their medication therapy. The program was given the green light after successful negotiations with the mosque committee and Islamic religious councils to allow a treatment center to be held within such a holy place.

 

 

Life in Shangri-la - Photo Essay

Life in Shangri-la

Formerly known as Zhongdian, the county located at an altitude of 3,300 m was officially renamed Shangri-La in 2001, meaning the 'Sun and Moon in heart' in the Tibetan language. The thriving tourism industry has attracted many enterprising ethnic Tibetans to open rustic lodges and tour agencies in the ‘old town’ of Dukezong, while most others depend on farming, livestock rearing and logging for subsistence in more rural areas. The Chinese government has tightened security in most Tibetan inhabited areas this year to contain rising tension after an escalation of self-immolations by monks, nuns and ethnic Tibetans.

 

 

Everglades Python Hunter - Photo Essay

Everglades Python Hunter

Non-native Burmese pythons have invaded the Everglades and surrounding areas of South Florida. The exotic snakes have been popular in the pet industry. But the snakes can reach 20 feet long and weigh more than 200 pounds. Pet owners have been known to release the snakes into the wild, where they quickly revert back to their natural state. The true number of pythons in the area is unknown but evidence gathered by biologists suggest the serpents are now reproducing in the wild. Among the many control methods is to allow people to hunt and capture the exotic snakes. Edward Mercer is one of several permitted python hunters.

 

 

Neo-Burlesque Revival - Photo Essay

Neo-Burlesque Revival

The historic Bimbo's 365 Club in San Francisco presents Burlesque performances. Tease-O-Rama, created in 2001, is the first showcase and convention dedicated to the thriving neo-burlesque revival. Some 90 burlesque performers from all over North America and one from the UK, contemporary young and seasoned performers to the legends of the past, gathered to strip off costumes that run the gamut, from elaborate sequined corsets, feathered fans, to minimal fringe tassels. Performers’ routines ranged from traditional fan striptease to contemporary humorous productions.

 

 

Female Bodyguard School - Photo Essay

Female Bodyguard School

The Tianjiao Special Guard and Security school in Sanya, China, has seen an increasing demand from women who want to become bodyguards. At present, some 36 female trainees are participating in the one-month bodyguard course at the school that includes stamina training, martial arts and combat, special driving, etiquette and event simulations. The school even brought in some instructors from Israel’s International Security Academy to train their students. Female bodyguards are gradually rising in popularity among China’s rich and famous and are even seen as a symbol of status.

 

 

Russian Pravda Celebrates 100th Anniversary - Photo Essay

Russia's Pravda ('Truth') Celebrates Its 100th Anniversary

The Russian newspaper 'Pravda' (Truth) celebrates the 100 year anniversary of its first issue. The first issue of Pravda newspaper was published on 05 May 1912 in St. Petersburg, becoming the biggest newspaper during the Soviet period of the Russian history and the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party from 1912 until 1991 when the paper was closed down after the decree of the President Boris Yeltsin. In 1997 Russian communists recovered 'Pravda' as an official paper of the Russian Communist party.

 

 

Making of a New York Gallery Show - Photo Essay

Making of a New York Gallery Show

David Opdyke prepares for his show at the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery in New York, New York, USA. The show, titled, 'Accumulated Afterthoughts', runs until 25 May 2012. David Opdyke is an artist, whose conceptual sculptures tend to draw from his background as a model maker, who has been living and working in Brooklyn, New York, since 1995. He recently found a new gallery to represent him and, as a result, was asked to put together work for a solo show.

 

 

 

Gaza Music School Project - Photo Essay

Gaza Music School Project

The Gaza School of Music was founded in 2008 thanks to the funds from the Abdulmohsen Al-Qattan Foundation and the Swedish government. The center is the first of this kind in the Gaza Strip and welcomes about 120 children, boys and girls, between the age of six and eleven. The children attend classes three times a week after school. Although tuition is free, all the students must show proficiency in rhythm and musical ear in competitive entrance tests. According to their desire and inclinations, the children can learn to play various instruments. European as well as Arab classical music is taught.

 

 

Csango Culture and Lifestyle - Photo Essay

Csango Culture and Lifestyle

The Csango people are an ethnic Hungarian group of Roman Catholic faith, living mostly in the Romanian region of Moldavia where they moved from Transylvania between the 12th and 17th century. Their traditional language, Csango, is an old Hungarian dialect which is still in use among the ethnical minority. About 240,000 Csango people live in Moldavia region, in Romania. The number of the Hungarian language speakers among them is estimated at about 60,000 people. Over the Catholic Easter Weekend they take part in several customs and traditions. A traditional funeral also takes place.

 

 

Street Food in Hanoi - Photo Essay

Street Food in Hanoi

USS Enterprise is the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and the second-oldest vessel in commission in the US Navy. She has been deployed in almost every conflict and crisis around the world. Accordi Street Food in Hanoi

most of the vessel’s 5,000 sailors and Marines shifted to other duties and vessels. However, a number of officers and sailors will still serve on board at port-side until it is officially decommissioned and stricken off the Navy’s register, something that occur when the process of shutting down its eight nuclear reactors commences.

 

 

Water on Fire - Photo Essay

Water on Fire

The gas rush in Pennsylvania, created by the controversial drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking has brought an economic boom to the state, generating 23,000 jobs, and billions of dollars in state and local tax revenues. Many Northeastern Pennsylvania residents opposed to fracking claim it has left their well water non-potable, with allegedly dangerous quantities of methane. Many residents now rely on outside water distribution, and are making their protests heard. Yet with the gas industry expected to drill 2,500 new wells every year, residents opposed to fracking are bracing for a drawn-out fight.

 

 

Gaza School for the Blind - Photo Essay

Gaza School for the Blind

The Al-Nour Rehabilitation Centre for the Visually Impaired was the first and only school established by the UN in Gaza strip to work with children who are suffering from partial or total blindness. The Al-Nour center was extensively rebuilt in 1996 using a grant from the Government of Japan. Blind and visually impaired girls and boys receive orientation and mobility training. Palestinian teachers give classes in reading, writing, social exercises, sport, and learning to play musical instruments. Visually impaired children receive glasses and other optical devices. A Braille printing press is also in operation at the center.

 

 

Africlowns in Johannesburg - Photo Essay

Africlowns in Johannesburg

Once a year, Dutch clowning organization Africlowns travels to South Africa to perform clown shows for the handicapped, poor and township schools in an attempt to put a temporary smile on the faces of those watching their shows. Willem Hans Elbrecht set up the group in 2000 and has performed in many countries in Africa. Often working in the heat of the day, the clowns staged shows in front of packed schools, under trees in the poorest of communities and to the handicapped at Little Eden near Johannesburg. All of the clowns are part time, and hold down day jobs where they earn the majority of their income.

 

 

Final Deployment - Photo Essay

Final Deployment

USS Enterprise is the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and the second-oldest vessel in commission in the US Navy. She has been deployed in almost every conflict and crisis around the world. According to the US Navy, she is scheduled to conclude its military deployment in late 2012 with most of the vessel’s 5,000 sailors and Marines shifted to other duties and vessels. However, a number of officers and sailors will still serve on board at port-side until it is officially decommissioned and stricken off the Navy’s register, something that occur when the process of shutting down its eight nuclear reactors commences.

 

 

Ayaka's Story of Survival, Loss and Remembrance - Photo Essay

Ayaka's Story of Survival, Loss and Remembrance

The tsunami overwhelmed Yoshimaha elementary school in Ishinomaki on 11 March 2011. As the tsunami hit, Ayaka evacuated to the third floor of the school with other schoolchildren and teachers. But to escape they had to climb onto the rooftop of the school building. From there they watched as the tsunami attacked and devastated other buildings. They spent the night on the rooftop, warming themselves by a makeshift fire. In February Ayaka Sasaki visited the graves of her father and grandfather who were killed by the tsunami. She also visited Jizo, the most popular Buddhist bodhisattvas in Japan, set up by her grandfather.

 

 

Perama Struggles - Photo Essay

Perama Struggles

The Greek coastal town of Perama is one of the many victims of the ongoing economic crisis. Thousands of workers were employed in Perama repair docks (known locally as 'the zone') thanks to the ship-repair industry, whereas nowadays the zone looks deserted and empty. The unemployment rate for the residents of the town is 60 per cent whereas the rate between steel workers is 95 per cent. The town's welfare services are insufficient to care and assist all the residents. In these hard times, the only thing keeping Perama from collapse is the resilient spirit of human solidarity among the residents themselves.

 

 

Americas Most Toxic Town - Photo Essay

America's Most Toxic Town

Thirty years after the Environmental Protection Agency declared Picher, Oklahoma the most hazardous Superfund site in America, the federal government is on the verge of erasing the town from the map. Lead mining here produced many of the bullets used by American soldiers. Yet mining tunnels left much of the Midwestern town structurally unsound, vulnerable to cave-ins. Above ground, giant piles of chat mine tailings laced with zinc and lead blew toxic dust into the air. Heavy metals seeped into the groundwater. By 1996, one in three children had elevated lead levels forcing officials to take drastic action.

 

 

Grape Grafting - Photo Essay

Grape Grafting

The largest workshop producing grape graftings in the historic wine-growing region of Tokaj in North Eastern Hungary is operated by owner Lajos Szabo in Tarcal. This year, Szabo plans to produce 300 thousand graftings, half of them for home wine growers and half of them to be sold to wine producers in Slovakia. The 13,425 hectares territory of the Tokaj wine region in Hungary has been listed as a cultural landscape on the World Heritage List of Unesco since 2002.

 

 

 

Rebuilding a Livelihood - Oyster Farming in Yamada - Photo Essay

Rebuilding a Livelihood - Oyster Farming in Yamada

Aqua farming which is the main industry in the town was devastated by the tsunami. Many aqua farmers lost their houses, fishing vessels, farming rafts and fishery workshops. A few months after the tsunami, some veteran and young oyster aqua farmers decided to work together in order to restart their aqua farming business sharing resources such as fishing vessels and farming rafts. Fortunately, some young oysters survived the tsunami and this prompted the aqua farmers to start as quickly as possible. They began cooperative work in early summer and made their first harvest in November 2011.

 

 

Wildlife Conservation in Kenya - Photo Essay

Wildlife Conservation in Kenya

Wildlife plays a major role in Kenya's socioeconomic development, serving as one of the major drawing cards for tourism, Kenya's largest source of foreign currency revenue. However, the human-wildlife conflict has been a serious obstacle to wildlife conservation. As a result of increasing human population, further development, unplanned changes in land use and the climate change, people from the surrounding communities and wildlife are put in direct competition for a diminishing resource base. Nevertheless, Kenya still teems with wildlife, with dozens of terrestrial and marine National Parks and Reserves.

 

 

Iitate village After the Great East Japan Earthquake - Photo Essay

Iitate village After the Great East Japan Earthquake

The village of Iitate is located about 40km from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. The village remains relatively untouched by the earthquake thanks to its solid geology, but badly contaminated by the plume of radioactive isotopes generated by a series of meltdowns and explosions at the nuclear plant. Residents, who have been totally ignoring that their village has been contaminated, were finally ordered to evacuate almost a month later, in April 2011, after the government announced that high radiation would exceed 20 millisievert per year. Iitate residents are now living in evacuation centers or supported housing.

 

 

Great East Japan Earthquake - One Year After the Disaster - Photo Essay

Great East Japan Earthquake - One Year On

The magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered giant tsunami waves that reached heights of 40.5 meters and led to a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. Official estimates put the death toll of the earthquake and tsunami at around 15,000. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced in the Tohoku region and in dire need of shelter, food, water and medicine. The meltdowns at three reactors and consequent radiation leaks into the air, soil and sea only compounded the crisis. A year later Japan is still coming to terms with its terrible social, economic and environmental impact.

 

 

Chopstick Factory - Photo Essay

Chopstick Factory

The Georgia Chopsticks factory in the small town of Americus, owned by Jae Lee, a US citizen and South Korean immigrant, opened in May 2011. Lee says his factory is the only chopstick factory in North and South America. The close proximity of fast growing soft hardwood trees was one of the reasons the facility was located in South Georgia. Also, Lee was given a favorable lease at the site of a former automobile parts plant. The factory is exporting 99.7 per cent of the chopsticks to Asia, where they are sorted and repackaged to the particular country and/or company needs.

 

 

Daily Life After the Great East Japan Earthquake - Photo Essay

Daily Life After the Great East Japan Earthquake

In the prime fruit producing region west of Fukushima city, Geiger counter readings in the local orchards famed for their high quality fruit have dropped from 28,000 becquerel per meter to less than 3,700 after spraying the trees with high pressure water guns. The local farmers, many of whom lost upwards of 90 percent of their income due to the nuclear contamination, have started cleaning their trees of radiation and removing the top soil of their fields. Residents wait for the government and TEPCO to provide accurate information on the disaster and to come up with appropriate compensation to start a new life.

 

 

Harsh Winter - Photo Essay

Harsh Winter

Since many of the farm tracks are not suitable for cars two policemen have to patrol on horseback to ensure public safety and assure elderly residents in the area have enough food and heating material during the extremely cold winter. They perform an important role as there is a limited number of social workers in the area. Approximately 700 to 800 people live in the region, in 12 to 15 clusters of farms. The police perform much the same role in the summer, looking out for the well-being of the locals. Crime rates are average in the area, and theft of produce and livestock is one of the main crimes committed.

 

 

Karen Revolution Day - 63rd Anniversary - Photo Essay

Karen Revolution Day - 63rd Anniversary

About 500 people gathered to celebrate the 63rd anniversary of the Karen Revolution Day. Some came from neighbouring villages. Others crossed the Thai border to participate in the festivities as they now live in refugee camps after their homes were burnt down and destroyed by Burmese troops during what was considered one of the world's oldest conflict. Wearing the traditional attire, villagers prepared to attend the parade of about 200 Karen National Union (KNU) fighters though the village and the commemoration of this remembrance day.

 

 

Chinese Opera in Thailand - Photo Essay

Chinese Opera in Thailand

The Chinese Opera is a spectacle combining song, dance, acting, poetry and martial arts. The performers wear colorful costumes and elaborate make-up. The opera is based on ancient legendary tales of heroes and the supernatural. Some stories are interpretations of actual historical events. Traditional musical instruments present unique melodies with a high-pitched voice and the dialogues are considered to be of high literary value. The traditional Chinese Opera has been a part of Thai culture for centuries. Due to the country's economic recession many fear that the art form is in danger of being wiped out altogether.

 

 

Love for Soccer - Photo Essay

Love for Soccer

Whilst Africa's soccer stars are playing for their countries in the Africa Cup of Nations young soccer enthusiasts are pursuing their sport with extra zeal. Hundreds of young boys take to the streets and dirt fields in Johannesburg's oldest and poorest shanty town every afternoon after school to play their favorite game. Often players must warm up next to open refuse areas where trash is burned. Across the middle of the soccer field runs a path that people take to walk or cycle back from work and school. Despite the lack of funding, proper boots and good balls, the enthusiasm of the young players remains high.

 

 

Camel Wrestling Festival - Photo Essay

Camel Wrestling Festival

According to reports tens of thousands visitors attend the annual event. A total of 110 camels fight one on one in around 55 fights. A camel wrestling event involves considerable pomp and ceremony. The camels are decorated, and participate in a march through town followed by musicians on the day before the event. A fight puts together two bull camels with a female camel on heat nearby. The camels fight it out for the female, leaning on each other to push the other one down. The sport is most common in the Aegean region of Turkey, but is also found in the Marmara and Mediterranean regions of the country.

 

 

Felt Boot Factory - Photo Essay

Felt Boot Factory

The Smilovichi Felting Factory was founded in 1928, when Smilovichi was a small Jewish settlement of craftsmen. Five of those craftsmen organized a small artel, which produced warm boots called ‘valenki’ for cold weather. Later the artel was transformed into the enterprise 'Red Star', which was to supply Germany during the Second World War, when Belarus was occupied by the Nazis. Much of the work performed at the factory, is handiwork. The production of the factory is exported to Russia, the Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Baltic States and to the countries of Western Europe.

 

 

Food Fermentation Tradition in Japan - Photo Essay

Food Fermentation Tradition in Japan

Japanese sake, soy sauce, miso, vinegar and pickles are enjoying a growing popularity around the world. What they all have in common is that they are fermented using a particular mold, called koji, or Aspergillus oryzae. The koji mold is found throughout South and East Asia. The tradition of fermenting foods using koji mold is believed to have been introduced to Japan from China in the Kamakura period (1185-1333). Its usage was then developed and expanded as a way to preserve foods stuffs during the winter months. Now, one can find a broad variety of fermented foods distinctive to the various regions of Japan.

 

 

Buddhist Cremation Ceremony - Photo Essay

Buddhist Cremation Ceremony

The Buddhist cremation ceremony ‘Dabisik’ signifies returning the human body to nature. The procedure first sees the setup of a pyre made of wood, charcoal and thatched bags. After the casket was put on it and the fire was set, an homage service is held. After the burning is completed, the bones are gathered out of the ashes, crushed and ground up. This ceremony was held for Ji-Kwan, a former head of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, who died at the age of 79. Ji-Kwan was renowned for his vast knowledge of Buddhist scriptures and set up a Buddhist culture research institute using his private funds.

 

 

Fertility Cave - Photo Essay

Fertility Cave

Many Black South Africans retain their traditional pre-Christian belief system of ancestor worship in parallel with their Christianity. This mix is very evident in the members of the United Apostolic Church who make the pilgrimage to the Fertility Caves to both pray to their Christian God as well as chase away evils spirits and connect with their ancestors. The cave is called 'Fertility cave' because many of the pilgrims pray to God for help in life including more children, money and happiness. The massive cave has a small village built inside it and sees a population of diviners, who help treat pilgrims and help them connect with their ancestors.

 

 

Egyptian Uprising - First Anniversary - Photo Essay

Egyptian Uprising - First Anniversary

On 25 January 2011 thousands of Egyptians took to the streets in most of the country demanding the departure of Mubarak and the dissolution of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). The protests culminated in the occupation of Tahrir square, until the President announced his resignation on 11 February 2011 and handed over power to a military council tasked with heading the country during a transitional period and organizing new elections. Months after that, protests, sit-ins and strikes with various political and labor related demands were made leading to clashes with security forces.

 

 

Republican Fred Karger Candidate for US President - Photo Essay

Republican Fred Karger Candidate for US President

Fred Karger of California announced his candidacy for United States President in March of 2011. A former senior consultant on campaigns for Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Gerald Ford, Karger says his 35 years of experience in politics, 'inspired me to run.' Although he has not been included in the televised presidential debates, he has campaigned heavily by purchasing television advertising and in person, knocking on doors and visiting establishments. In fact his slogan is 'Fred Who?' An advocate for Gay rights, Karger is the first openly gay candidate for US President.

 

 

American Civil War Reenactment - Photo Essay

American Civil War Reenactment

The 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War was observed in 2011. Several major battles including those at Antietam, Shiloh and Gettysburg will be reenacted in 2012 and 2013 as part of the Civil War Sesquicentennial. The Civil War was by far the bloodiest war in American history, killing about 600,000 people. Many re-enactors see their hobby as vital to keeping US history alive, honoring veterans and caring for monuments and historical sites. In addition to travel costs, period-authentic guns, uniforms, tents and other equipment can cost thousands of dollars and are paid for by individual re-enactors.