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epa Photo Essays 2020
Deforestation and the unbridled exploitation of natural resources in the massively biodiverse Democratic Republic of Congo could leave humanity further exposed to the next super virus. While the world’s attention is fixed on Covid-19, conservationists in the DRC are calling for greater environmental protection not just for conservation’s sake, but in order to minimize future outbreaks of zoonotic diseases, which abound in rich ecosystems like the Congo. Scientists believe that mammals alone are estimated to host at least 320,000 undiscovered viruses, according to a 2013 paper by the American Society for Microbiology. The Congo’s biodiversity has already served as the launchpad for deadly novel viruses such as HIV and Ebola, both of which — like SARS, West Nile and Covid-19 — are zoonotic in origin.
Classic clocks are part of the landscape of Prague, known as the 'city of a hundred towers' for its centuries-old mechanical. Mariana Nesnidalova is the head of L. Hainz, a family business that was founded in 1836 which has carved out a niche in the production and manufacture of mechanical tower clocks - for town halls, churches and monuments - that are built using techniques that date back from the second half of the 19th century. The company also repairs and maintains the intricate timepieces. Hainz - which was appropriated by the communist regime that ruled the Czech Republic for four decades and which imprisoned her great-grandfather, grandfather and great-uncle - was returned in the 1990s to the heirs of the former incarcerated owners. Today, it produces large mechanical clocks for towers and churches, using a unique technology that is entirely its own. The company, whose manager and four craftsmen look after some 80 clock towers in the Czech capital, was the leading maker of chronometers from the time of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire until World War II.
An unresolved decades-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mostly ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan near the border between the two countries, flared up on September 27, resulting in the killing of thousands of soldiers and civilians on both sides over the next six weeks. The latest escalation of violence was the worst seen since the 1990s, turning Stepanakert - the de facto capital of the breakaway state, which calls itself the Republic of Artsakh - into a fading and besieged city. Civilians bore the brunt of the heavy shelling from the nearby battle front that destroyed some parts of the city. The few remaining survivors who refused to leave were forced to seek shelter in basements. Families had to share cramped living quarters as the loud shelling got ever closer, while the constant stream of wounded soldiers returning from the battlefront soon overwhelmed the city’s hospital and overburdened medical workers, who were forced into heartbreaking decisions of who to treat based on their survival prospects. Those deemed beyond saving were tragically left to die.
The small boat 'Samaria' that will carry me to Gavdos will set sail at 9:00 a.m. from the port of Sfakia on southwestern Crete. The local weather forecast calls for winds measuring 5 on the Beaufort scale, with velocity rising by the hour. Andreas Vardoulakis, the captain, assures me that the boat will set sail, as usual, something that calms me, as he has revealed to me that during winter he has to stay at port for days due to the strong winds. Even if Gavros is faintly visible from the start of the trip, it will take us four hours to get there. On the island, as I cross Kastri, the capital of Gavdos, I reach Princess, one of the local hangouts that remain open during the winter. Next to a lit fireplace, Vassilis Economakis, the doctor doing his rural medical service on the island, is strumming a guitar near an Italian couple that is touring the island in a van. Talk centers around the main concern of Gavdos residents: sea and wind velocity. Besides the locals, the number of permanent residents on Gavdos during the winter depends on the number of summer campers. As the island is a world-renowned summer destination for free campers, many of them continue to live on beaches the rest of the year.
At dawn on 01 January 2009, a North Korean Lieutenant Colonel in Han Hong Geun left the Bachelor Officer Quarters in Pyongyang to escape. That night, he crossed Yalu (Amnok) River and arrived at Kunming City, China. He took the route south through China, all the way down to Laos, where he crossed the Mekong River to arrive at the Korean consulate office in March 2009. He finally reached South Korea in 2011. In the course of being investigated by the South Korean intelligence agency, all of his effects were confiscated. After the process, he was able to reunite with his family, who had also escaped from North Korea to settle in South Korea a year earlier. After almost 10 years in South Korea, he is satisfied that he sacrificed his 53 years, including his military career, of life in North Korea now that he and his family can enjoy the happiness of leading life in a free country.
The natural beauty of Tibet, the thousand-year-old Himalayan roof of the world, still dazzles the few visitors who are allowed in. But today in many places, bulldozers, highways, and modern apartment towers have replaced the grazing yaks and the chanting Buddhist monks. The unstoppable advance of modernity and Chinese construction projects among the Himalayan snow-covered peaks mean it is now possible to travel distances in a matter of just a few hours that not long ago would have taken days to cover. You might even come across a shepherd tending his flock at 4,000 meters engrossed in a 5G-ready smartphone. According to the Beijing government, extreme poverty – an endemic problem in Tibet, where pastoralism has traditionally been the sole source of income for most people – has been eradicated.
In Finland you can find edible, wild, naturally growing food everywhere, from national parks and to green public urban areas. Wild food includes but is not limited to herbs, vegetables, fish, berries or mushrooms. Foraging for berries and mushrooms is deeply rooted in Finnish culture. A central aspect of this culture is 'everyman's right', which refers to the right of everyone in Finland to enjoy outdoor pursuits - including nature's nutritious yields - regardless of who owns or occupies a given area. Food tourism and visits to wild nature inspire people, both in Finland and around the world. There are already a few restaurants in Finland that serve dishes and event entire menus that are prepared using only ingredients sourced from nearby forests, which can be treasure troves of nutritional gems, providing unique flavors from wild vegetables and herbs such as nettles, dandelions, horseradish, clovers, birch leaves and pine or spruce cones. Chef Jyrki Tsutsunen is one of the leading advocates of wild food in Finland and promotes responsibility and ecology in modern gastronomy.
With one of the worst healthcare systems in the world, Myanmar is confronting a surge in Covid-19 cases with the help of an army of community volunteers. Myanmar's biggest city, Yangon, is in lockdown with a stay-at-home order in place to control the spread of infections. The area has become the outbreak epicenter of the country. With health workers overwhelmed by the number of Covid-19 patients within a fragile health system, thousands of frontline volunteers are now playing an important role in fighting Myanmar’s epidemic. The Yangon Region Youth Affairs Committee has nearly 500 volunteers helping around Covid-19 facilities and the committee has recruited more than 1,400 who spend most of their days delivering foods and supplies, collecting garbage, disinfecting and taking care of the needs of patients.
Over the past four decades, China says it has lifted more than 800 million people out of poverty. China’s poor, rural population is largely located in the southwest, with Sichuan province being one of the country’s most poverty-stricken regions. According to official figures, there were six million people living in poverty in Sichuan seven years ago. Under the poverty alleviation program, villagers in remote areas are relocated to towns that have been built by the state and are equipped with water and electricity, healthcare facilities and schools while providing the possibility of finding employment and leaving behind the hardship of rural life. But for many of the relocated families, the sudden transition to an urban lifestyle after generations of working and living off the land has been difficult. The open air of the fields has been replaced by small, often overcrowded urban dwellings.
The Czech Republic’s world famous beer industry has for centuries been one of the country’s major cultural attractions, an industry that flourished through world wars, occupation by an invading army as well as decades of communism, all while barely losing a drop in sales. But all that has changed with the Covid-19 pandemic, which has severely dented Czech beer profits as restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the deadly disease, including the closure of bars and restaurants, have taken a heavy toll, brewers say. Between March and June, when authorities imposed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, Czechia’s beer industry reported losses of almost five billion Czech koruna ($215 million), the Czech Beer and Malt Association said last month.
As the Japanese proverb 'The nail that sticks out will be hammered down' implies, Japanese are under enormous pressure to conform and avoid becoming that nail — an outlier from the rest of society. Many feel suffocated having to live within the confines of such strict social norms. That is where Leiya Arata and her ‘factory’ of fantasies come in, catering to those with desires and dreams that might not be welcome in mainstream society. As well as providing the chance of regenerative transformation with the human love doll package, Arata offers another peculiar ceremony in which people can say their final farewells to love dolls or sex dolls. In a country known for its high rates of social alienation and isolation (hikikomori) and starved of human companionship, many Japanese grow emotionally attached to love dolls, going so far as holding funerals for these life-sized plastic partners.
Every year in Provence, the start of summer is marked by the flowering of lavender fields, much to the delight of tourists but especially for bees coming from far and wide to forage this sacred flower. Beekeeper Jérôme Payen practices the transhumance of bees, which consists of transporting beehives to the Valensole plateau, renowned for its lavender fields stretching as far as the eye can see. From his 150 beehives, he selects the most numerous and strongest hives that will make the long journey to pollen paradise. Two days later, at nightfall, when the bees have all returned to their hives, the transhumance begins. A race against time starts to unload the hives 150 km away on the plateau of Valensole before sunrise. The first rays of sunshine herald the start of a busy day for the bees buzzing between the hives and the lavender flowers. At the end of the summer Jérôme returns to harvest lavender honey labelled 'Flowers of Provence'.
In the barren expanses of the Karoo (great dry land) in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, a perfect storm of circumstances has had a major and devastating effect on the local people.
Three months of Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown, a harsh seven-year drought, and ongoing impact of the general economic slowdown over the past years along with an ill-prepared local and provincial government have left the vast majority of the local people under financial, physical and spiritual pressure.
Although Covid-19 has only recently started to take lives, the lockdown implemented by the national government to flatten the curve of infections in South Africa already has a major impact on the region.
'Here come the astronauts! COVID, COVID!' Bystanders joke around while covering their mouths as a group of volunteer health workers enter an alley in Village 775, Zone 84 of Manila to check on positive and suspected cases of COVID-19. 'It's funny; we used to get irked when we were called names, but now we’re used to it. 'Astronaut' is their favorite,' quips one of the volunteers. Mercelina Villacampa, Vannessa Morales, Fe Bacunawa and Richell Arsenio have been conducting home visits twice a day since mid-March, when the northern Philippine island of Luzon was put under lockdown in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The group shares that they also experience discrimination because of their constant exposure to patients. To assuage the fears of their families and neighbors, all four volunteers have undergone rapid testing, which luckily produced negative results.
Throughout the history of art, the window as a point of view is a recurring motif among painters, portraitists, filmmakers, and visual artists in general. Amid the global confinements imposed by Covid-19, contemporary artists are finding renewed significance and meaning in these windows. Windows have started to represent the border between the outside and the inside world, between society and solitude, between freedom and confinement. Photographer Bruno Alencastro, keen to illustrate the strange times that the world is living through during times of lockdown and quarantine, settled on the idea of the 'camera obscura', or 'dark chamber'. He sealed off his apartment from any light source and projected the outside image in his living room. He invited other photographers who agreed to transform their homes into large-format pinhole cameras, and captured their lives in times of quarantine, confinement and lockdowns.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on 16 April expanded a state of emergency to the entire country, after originally only declaring one in limited parts of the country, as the nation struggles to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The government is requesting companies and employers to allow employees work from home in a bid to reduce commutes by 70 percent, but many workers in the capital are unable or not allowed to do so, resulting in tens of thousands commuting in packed trains and stations in key areas of the city. The government is also asking bars and restaurants to remain closed or reduce their business hours. While many shops are heeding calls from the government to remain closed, some bars and restaurants have been defying the government requests and remaining open nightly with customers sitting side by side with their face masks pulled down to their chins, seemingly complacent to the social distancing guidelines.
Ever since the COVID-19 disease caused by the new coronavirus knocked on the door of our country, Greece, with the announcement of the first confirmed case, our daily life has radically changed. We#ve acquired new habits, we've even distanced ourselves from our loved ones, we’re wearing face masks, we’ve filled our pockets with antiseptic wipes and sprays and – most importantly – we’ve learned to 'stay home.' But this does not apply to everyone. There are some citizens who do leave their homes, risking their health so that the rest of us stay healthy and remain safely inside. People whose profession, conscience and sense of responsibility do not let them stay confined within the security that their houses provide.
Every year the Chilean Antarctic Institute organizes an Antarctic Scientific Expedition (ECA) to the White Continent – the 56th campaign included 49 projects carrying out fieldwork. Scientists began arriving in July 2019 with the last group closing bases by late March 2020. This was the longest campaign ever organized by the Institute, despite serious external setbacks: Chile faced months of social turmoil and the devasting crash of a logistical support plane that killed all 38 people on board. A further complication was the recent Covid-19 outbreak. A total of 505 people took part in the 56th ECA, ranging from logistical support specialists to scientists. The nature of investigations varied from climate change in the region to biotechnology, to the presence of human footprints and analysis of the Antarctic ecosystem.
Marie-Antoinette, born 1755 in Vienna, Austria, who became the Queen of France and Navarre by marrying Louis XVI, entered one of the darkest chapters of the French Revolution when she died at the guillotine in 1793. Her rumored relationship with the knight Axel de Fersen has never been confirmed. There are even rumors that the heir to the throne, Dauphin Louis XVII, was their love child. To protect the state’s security, the correspondence was coded and cyphered. But the most sensitive and controversial passages were crossed out in ink, making them illegible. These sections have still never been fully deciphered despite various analyses carried out over the past decade. But modern science, with its new testing techniques, has sparked hopes of revealing more secrets of this centuries-old love affair.
The coronavirus shutdown has affected every aspect of Czech life, including the arts and the country’s most famous National Theater, which is home to the Czech National Ballet. The nationwide quarantine has forced all non-essential workers into home confinement. For ballet dancers whose profession requires a rigorous exercise routine, these new restrictions pose major challenges to keep fit and ready to put on a show. The ballrooms in the historical center of Prague are empty, and the dancers have to take care of their condition by themselves, in their apartments, with their families, but they are helped by video-training sessions with their ballet masters.
On March 23 Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson implemented social distancing measures banning social gatherings and groups of more than two people. People must stand more than two metres apart as several European countries have closed borders, schools as well as public facilities, and have cancelled most major sports and entertainment events in order to prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus causing the Covid-19 disease. The UK government rules are to only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you cannot work from home). If you go out, stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people at all times and do not meet others, even friends or family. This means for most people in the United Kingdom, life has completely changed.
A valley in the Southern tip of Chile, dubbed as the Rosetta Stone of Paleontology in the Southern hemisphere. New findings of well-preserved fossils of vertebrates, invertebrates, and plants from the Cretaceous period could be the key to unlocking significant tracts of the common past of South America and Antarctica.
Every year the Chilean Antarctic Institute (INACH) and the Universidad de Chile organize a paleontological expedition to shed some light on the end of the Cretaceous period when dinosaurs became extinct. In its 10th anniversary the expedition, a group of 20 researchers of various disciplines, embarked on a two-week journey into the heart of Chilean Patagonia.