Looking back at 30 years of Reuters Pictures

19 Feb 2015

To mark the 30th anniversary of the launch of the Reuters Pictures service, a three part retrospective of iconic images is now available to view on Reuters The Wider Image and license via the Reuters Pictures websiteFor three decades, Reuters photographers have captured images illustrating the human tragedy of natural disaster and war, as well as the fallout of economic events across the continents. They have brought their lenses to bear on sport, culture and show business as well as world political and economic leaders – creating iconic images that are recognized around the world.

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Alexia Singh, Editor-In-Charge of the Wider Image Desk, had the daunting task of curating a selection of the best images from an archive of over 7 million images. “Iconic images rise to the surface over the years, you see them again and again in publications around the world and they become fixed in our collective consciousness. On the one hand this makes the job of editing a retrospective of 30 years of Reuters Pictures an easier task. However there are, of course, many more pictures that could have been included in this selection. When the iconic pictures match iconic events they are the obvious choices. But it’s also interesting to include images that stand up purely on the power of their aesthetic.”

“We didn’t set out to tell the story of the last 30 years, we do that every day on the wire, this is more of a look back at our “greatest hits”. We also wanted the photographers perspective on our history so they have been selecting their own iconic images and throughout the year we will releasing some of the photographers choices, on the day they were originally taken, in a kind of ‘On this day in Reuters History’ initiative.”

View the entire selection including behind the scenes text from the photographers Part 1Part 2Part 3

File photo of frantic Kurdish refugees struggling for a loaf of bread during a humanitarian aid distribution for hundreds of thousands of stranded Iraqi-Kurds in the mountains of Isikveren at the Iraqi-Turkish borderReuters Photographer Yannis Behrakis 

At the end of the first Iraq war about 1.5 million Kurds were fleeing in panic trying to escape from forces loyal to Saddam Hussein. About 600,000 of them fled to Turkey but half of them were stranded in the mountains at the Iraqi-Turkish border.

I hitch-hiked a ride on a tractor pulling a cart full of bread to feed the stranded Kurdish refugees atop the snow capped mountains at the border. 

As the tractor made its way slowly through the dangerous dirt road, it was attacked by hundreds of hungry refugees who fought against each other and the aid workers. The men I was riding with tried in vain to stop the refugees from taking the bread but the refugees were absolutely desperate and the aid workers gave up.

Getting up the mountain to cover the story was extremely difficult. I remember leaving the hotel every morning at 4 am in order to reach the bottom of the mountain two-and-a-half hours later. Then I hitchhiked my way on either a tractor carrying bread or on a snow-removal vehicle clearing the road. Once, my hands were so cold they stuck to the snow-removing vehicle. 

Pictures like this put pressure on the Turkish government to allow proper humanitarian aid to reach the refugees. It also alerted the international community about the tragic events in this part of the world and received very good play in what was the biggest story in the world at the time. 

It was the first time I was covering a humanitarian crisis and I was stunned with the cruelty some people demonstrated towards unprotected humans. I also understood that photojournalism is a very strong medium that can make a difference and help people in need. 


File photo of rescue workers carrying fatally injured New York City Fire Department Chaplain, Father Mychal Judge from the World Trade Centre

Reuters Photographer Shannon Stapleton

I will never forget the phone call from my bureau chief on the morning of September 11, 2001.  “Shannon. A plane has hit the World Trade Center. Can you get down there as soon as possible?”

I went to Times Square and looked at the jumbotron where people were starting to gather. Images of the first tower on fire were being shown. 

I made it by subway to Canal Street. Upon emerging from the station I saw people were running and screaming away from the World Trade Center site. 

It was at that point I knew I was about to cover probably one of the biggest stories of my young career right here in New York City, not somewhere far away that I had only seen in magazines.

I gathered my gear, which at the time was one of the first digital cameras, the Kodak DCS 520, and my Contacx G20 film camera with B/W film, and ran towards the towers. 

Through the clouds of dust and shards of metal I noticed a group of men carrying a man slumped in a chair covered in dust. Time stood still. It struck me that among all this chaos these five men were carrying a man I knew was dead out of the rubble. I took several photos of them carrying him out as they yelled at me to get out of the way. 

I had no idea that the man they were struggling to get out of there was Father Mychal Judge, the Chaplain of the FDNY and the first reported death at the World Trade Center.

I met the guys who carried him at the first 9/11 anniversary; they thanked me for taking that picture. They felt it was important that all know the story of Father Judge and that I had made that possible. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton


File photo of a Turkish riot policeman using tear gas against protestors in Taksim Square

Reuters Photographer Osman Orsal

I was covering protests in Istanbul which began as a demonstration against government plans to demolish a small park in central Taksim square but evolved into one the biggest anti-government protests in over a decade.

I was standing between the protesters and the police as the police began firing tear gas at a close distance. The crowd started to run in different directions, causing chaos. I started shooting and the lady in the red dress was standing right at the front. 

The picture depicts the somewhat unequal struggle between the police and the protesters by showing a police officer firing tear gas from such a close distance towards a woman who had little room to defend herself. 

How popular this image became has actually made me proud. It was described as “iconic” by politicians, artists, writers and ordinary citizens. I have won around a dozen awards and I was and still am humbled by people’s appreciation of my work over this picture. REUTERS/Osman Orsal


License images from the selection on the Reuters Pictures website 

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