Monday, March 31, 2014

Feb. 2014 selects

Below are some photographs that I shot in Feb. 2014.

A "Tubing 101" participant enjoys the ride at Snow Creek in Weston, Mo., Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. The event, which had at least 200 participants, was organized by Snow Creek and Midwest Adaptive Sports. Locals with disabilities were able to take part in a free night of tubing at the ski resort, thanks to grants from Platte County, Live Well St. Joe and Healthy Partnerships, a partnership between Heartland Foundation, Heartland Health and North Kansas City Hospital, according to Stan Weston, the event's organizer. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
Brenna Hanken-Pike smiles at her cat, Lilly, on Friday at her home. Ms. Hanken-Pike was incorrectly diagnosed with TTP (thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura) in Jan. 2000. 13 years later, she found out that she actually had Atypical HUS. She said "it affected everything of mine, eyesight, energy, lungs." She realized how all tied into atypical HUS. She receives a IV drug treatment every two weeks. She said "the treatment wipes me out ... it feels like you ran a marathon." Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
Sharon Gillespie, an environmentalist resident of St. Joseph, Mo., sits for a portrait by her indoor plants on Tuesday, Jan. 28. Ms. Gillespie is also into herb gardening. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | Josephine
North Andrew fans react to a basket against Pattonsburg during Friday's District 14 semifinal at North Andrew High School in Rosendale, Mo. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
West Platte senior Adam Roe takes a shot, surrounded by North Platte defenders Austin Shanks (33), Andrew Roberts (43) and Jerry Copenhaver (22), during a Class 2 District 15 semifinal at Mid-Buchanan High School in Faucett, Mo. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
Bishop LeBlond cheerleaders support their basketball team during a Class 3 District 16 game against Hamilton at Lathrop High School, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
Northwest Missouri State guard Ashleigh Nelson reacts to a foul during an NCAA college basketball game against Missouri Western State at MWSU Fieldhouse in St. Joseph, Mo., Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A month-old article on photojournalism, press freedom and democracy in Turkey published now

On Feb. 24, shortly after the Photojournalists Association of Turkey announced the winners of its annual photojournalism contest, I wrote an article and offered it as an op-ed to a few U.S.-based publications, but there was no interest. I could have self-published it, but waiting for replies took away its timeliness so I abandoned it on my desktop. Today, I decided to share it here because I found out that Vakifbank unilaterally terminated its sponsorship of the contest. Here is a news article about it. The following is the piece I wrote on the day the results, which eventually led to the unpleasant termination of the sponsorship, were released:

Erdogan is not in the picture or maybe he is


A Turkish riot policeman uses tear gas as people protest against the destruction of trees in a park brought about by a pedestrian project, in Taksim Square in central Istanbul May 28, 2013.
CREDIT: REUTERS/OSMAN ORSAL

Photojournalists Association of Turkey announced the winners of their annual news photography contest today (Monday, Feb. 24). According to a tweet by the association, 4,381 photographs were submitted for consideration. The top award, the 'Press Photo of the Year,' went to a photograph taken by Osman Orsal of Reuters during the Gezi protests in Istanbul. Shortly after it was published, Orsal's photograph, which shows a police officer spraying tear gas into the face of a young woman in a red dress on May 28 in Taksim square, quickly became a visual symbol of the resistance against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's authoritarianism. The image, nicknamed 'the woman in red,' was popularly shared on social media not only as it appeared but also as a replica cartoon. As Reuters' Turkey correspondent Alexandra Hudson described the woman in her colleague Orsal's photograph, "in her red cotton summer dress, necklace and white bag slung over her shoulder, she might have been floating across the lawn at a garden party; but before her crouches a masked policeman firing teargas spray that sends her long hair billowing upwards."*

In addition to Orsal's image, 21 single photographs in six categories and four photo essays won awards in the 'Press Photos of the Year 2014' contest. Not in a single photograph was Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's strongman, seen. In the 'politics' category, the first place award went to Volkan Furuncu's intimate frame of Mustafa Balbay, a member of Parliament with the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). Balbay, a career journalist with the daily Cumhuriyet, was kept under arrest for five years, five months and eight days as a suspect in the infamous Ergenekon trial. While under arrest, he was elected to Parliament in June 2011 but could not take his oath until he was finally released in December 2013. When Balbay was taken, his daughter, Yagmur, was 6 years old. The award-winning photojournalist Furuncu photographed Balbay at the door of his house as his and his son Deniz's arms were wide open to hug each other. Deniz, now 5, was only 8 months old when the police handcuffed and took away his dad with the accusation of plotting against Erdogan's government. Ironically, Furuncu is a photojournalist with Anadolu Agency, a semi-official wire service managed under tight control by the government. Since 2002 the agency has been continually criticized for acting almost as a PR company for Erdogan and his party.

The second and third place awards in the 'politics' category went to the pictures of Turkey's President Abdullah Gul and the leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu. One would wonder about the lack of an image of PM Erdogan in a contest sponsored by Vakifbank, a public capital bank with the Turkish Prime Ministry's General Directorate of Foundations as its largest shareholder. The 'politics' category showed a very strong image of Balbay, an imprisoned journalist, Gul, the President who comes from the same Islamist political root with Erdogan but is considered relatively moderate, and Kilicdaroglu, Erdogan's most important secular democratic rival in Turkish politics.

In the 'environment' category, the daily Zaman photojournalist Kursat Bayhan was awarded first place for an aerial photograph of road construction ripping the forest in northern Istanbul for a third intercontinental bridge in the city connecting Asia and Europe. Actually, the scope of the impact on the environment in this photo surpassed the destruction of Gezi Park that sparked the anti-Erdogan protests during the 'Turkish Summer' following the Arab Spring. In an opinion piece published in the New York Times in November 2011, Turkey-based expert Andrew Finkel wrote about the ecosystem threatening urban development projects that PM Erdogan "cheerfully calls 'zany.'" Finkel said "these include a huge canal that would run parallel to the Bosphorus Strait and, zaniest of all, a third bridge over the real Bosphorus." Bayhan's photograph, taken two years later, shows the environmental cost of Erdogan's project underway.

Bayhan is not the only Zaman photojournalist who received an award in the contest this year. The newspaper's photo department, led by photo editor Selahattin Sevi, has a reputation for its devotion to good imagery. This year, too, the staff dominated the contest with 13 awards. Another award-winning strong Zaman image was taken by Huseyin Sari at the Reyhanli bombings site close to the Syrian border. The 2013 Reyhanli bombings were the single deadliest act of terrorism to occur on Turkish soil, killing 51 and injuring 140. Erdogan's government, immediately holding the Assad regime responsible, had a difficult time explaining Turkey's very involved Syria policy to the public in the wake of the attacks. A blanket media ban was imposed to deal with the bad publicity for the government.

As a working photojournalist, I am confident in saying that Zaman's deserved acknowledgement is all about the pictures, but it is easy to imagine a character, one not familiar with the industry, who could see it only as the domination of the contest by a newspaper owned by Erdogan's latest foe, the Gulen community. Erdogan recently countered a corruption probe, involving his son, Bilal, too, with an investigation into Turkey's police, an organization known to employ a good number of Gulenists. In 2011, when Erdogan was 'buddies' with the Gulen community, journalist Ahmet Şık was detained for more than a year for a book draft, the Imam's Army, he wrote that investigated the strong presence of the Islamist Gulen movement in the police force. In 2013 the community and Erdogan fell out over Erdogan's plan to shut down the community's prep schools. The recent investigations into Erdogan's party and the leaked phone conversations of Erdogan and other members of his family, which reveal the scope of the corruption in AKP, were widely perceived as a countermove by the Gulenists. Erdogan himself called the community a medieval cult of 'assassins.'

In the 'Press Photos of the Year 2014' contest, the Photojournalists' Association of Turkey honored 25 Gezi protest photographs out of a total of 68 award winners (including each image in the photo essays). In addition to the 'Press Photo of the Year' award, Orsal's 'the woman in red' photo was also the first place winner of the 'news' category. AFP's Bulent Kilic received the third place in the same category with his picture of the tear gas clouds over Gezi Park. Kilic also won the first place award in the 'photo reportage' (photo essay) category with a 12-image edit, including his 'news' category third-place winning frame of the Gezi protests against Erdogan and his government.

In photojournalism, there's a type of picture that we call 'people without people;' a simple example would be an empty coffee cup and bunch of cigarette buds showing someone's long night after he or she left the scene. In that sense, Erdogan is in Bayhan's aerial environment picture. The PM, who looked down on the concerns over, in his own words, 'a few trees' in Gezi Park might be seen in the dust road tearing the forest. Erdogan is also in Volkan Furuncu's, Osman Orsal's or Bulent Kilic's photographs with his initiatives to silence his critics.

Sait Serkan Gurbuz
Twitter: @SJNPGurbuz


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Jan. 2014 selects

Below are some of my pictures that we published in the News-Press in Jan. 2014.
Eugene Field Elementary School first graders demonstrate higher and lower pitches with movement during Mrs. Janell Becerra's music class on Wednesday. The songs they performed were a French song, Bonjour Mes Amis [Hello My Friends,] and Miss Mary Mack. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
St. Joseph Fire Department works to put out a fire Wednesday night at 1416 Main St. No one was injured. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
Utilizing a long stick and a chair, Fairfax High School principal Dustin Barnes tips the ball game that got stuck above the back board during the Fairfax Invitational Tournament girls' final game between Nodaway-Holt and Tarkio on Friday. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
Savannah senior Bryson O'Callaghan, right, reacts to pinning Cameron's Colt Banks during a 285-pound match in Thursday's quadrangular at Lafayette High School. O'Callaghan pinned Banks in the third overtime. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
DeKalb coach Dru Linebach, left, hugs his mother, Shelby, Thursday at St. Joseph Christian School. Dru and his brother Clay, St. Joseph Christian's coach seen at right, presented their mother with a T-shirt and a pink basketball during a ceremony between games on a night dedicated to breast cancer awareness. Shelby is winding down her treatment of the disease. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
A group of girls perform a dance at the Chinese New Year celebration at Blum Union on the MWSU Campus on Thursday. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
Central senior forward Kyle Fox saves the ball from going out of bounds on his own team during the game against Ruskin on Tuesday at Central High School. Fox managed to hit the ball to the nearby Ruskin player. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press

Friday, December 27, 2013

Cars into buildings

The first picture below is from today, Dec. 27. I took it at an accident scene on the South Belt Highway. The second picture is from Jan. 23, close to a year ago. I took that one at an accident scene on the North Belt Highway. I hope this doesn't turn into a pattern.

Nurses at the Kendallwood Hospice nearby, Christy Hanson, left, and Teresa Heavilin, right, help Lois Hager, center, walk away from her vehicle after an accident on Friday at 503 S. Belt Highway. Ms. Hager, 84, drove into the back of a retail building as she accidentally struck the accelerator instead of the brake of her brown Mercury Marquis. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
Scottie Anderson, 49, assistant manager of Ray's Green Hills on the North Belt Highway, talks to the store manager on the phone after a woman crashed her car into the store Wednesday, Jan. 23. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Plenty to cheer about

This is about the Cats, a Special Olympics cheerleading team based in St. Joseph, Mo. They are an awesome group of athletes. There's so much positive energy and love. Thank you for letting me hang out with you.

Between daily newspaper assignments, St. Joseph News-Press allowed me devote time to this project. Our photo editor Todd Weddle finalized the edit. The newspaper generously gave a whole separate section of 4 pages with 15 photos in color.  Our presentation editor Paul Branson laid out the pages. The pictures were published with my colleague Jennifer Hall's wonderful article, which you can read here: http://bit.ly/1gxjINQ (There's also a ginormous photo gallery for the Cats and the community to enjoy more moments.)

For the blog, I wanted to put together an edit in black and white. Comments are welcome.
From left, Laura Oliver, Tammy Stoddard, Tawsheena Cook and Caitlynn Butler react to the possibility of going to a Kansas City Royals game on a field trip. As well as cheerleading, the Cats enjoy social activities as a team. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
Coach April Veale leads the Cats during their performance at a Special Olympics basketball tournament at Lafayette High School, Monday, March 4, 2013. Coach Veale said "[four years ago] I was very nervous and skeptical about what we could do as a group ... They're my 'kids' and I push them and push them because I know their abilities far outweigh any negative ... They are always up for any challenge." Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
From left, Madeline Phillips, Sha-Ko-Ka Ellis, Cassie Hildenbrand, Krystal Lammers, Frankie Thomas and Cooper King perform during a Special Olympics basketball tournament at Lafayette High School, Monday, March 4, 2013. The Cats cheer at both Special Olympics events and other opportunities such as college basketball games in the area. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
Cooper King, right, gives a hug to April Veale, the Cats' coach, in the UCP parking lot, Monday, March 18, 2013. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
Cooper King performs his signature dance during a Cats performance at the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics Northwest Area Spring Games in Savannah, Mo., Saturday, April 27, 2013. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
Cooper King enjoys the YMCA pool during his swimming practice, Wednesday, March 20, 2013. In addition to being a Cats cheerleader, Cooper is also a Special Olympics swimmer. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
Cooper King, left, reacts to a photograph on his caregiver Anthony Means' cell phone during a cheerleading practice at UCP, Monday, April 1, 2013. Mr. Means has been working with Cooper and his two roommates at their group home for 15 months. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
Cooper King, center, stands during the national anthem at the opening ceremonies of a Special Olympics swim meet at the YMCA, Saturday, April 6, 2013. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
Cooper King, left, chats with Ruth Phillips, as he pushes his teammate Drew Paxton's wheelchair at Staley High School in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, March 15, 2013. The Cats were at Staley to perform during the opening ceremonies for the Special Olympics basketball tournament. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
The Cats rehearse their dance to Michael Jackson's Thriller during a practice at UCP, Monday, March 11, 2013. Drew Paxton, center, screams at the finale. From left, Bridget Cruise, Preston Seever, Drew Paxton, Jackie Pollard, Laura Oliver and Tammy Stoddard are seen in the photograph. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
Marsha Ingersoll, top, helps Drew during a physical therapy session at UCP, Monday, March 18, 2013. It is a challenge for Drew to roll over during physical therapy. Ms. Ingersoll has been working with her since Drew was less than a year old. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
From left, Krystal Lammers, Preston Seever, Chelsea Martin and Drew Paxton hang out during a Cats practice at UCP, Monday, May 6, 2013. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
Marsha Ingersoll, right, helps Drew stand up during a physical therapy session at UCP, Monday, April 1, 2013. Ms. Ingersoll has been working with her since Drew was less than a year old. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
Madeline Phillips gives a kiss to Scottie, a retired show horse, at SpiritHorse of Broken Creek Youth Ranch in Stewartsville, Mo., Monday, May 6, 2013. SHBCYR provides equine assisted programs for at-risk and special needs youth and adults. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
Ruth Phillips, right, tightens her daughter Madeline's helmet before a session at SpiritHorse of Broken Creek Youth Ranch (SHBCYR) in Stewartsville, Mo, Monday, May 6, 2013. SHBCYR provides equine assisted programs for at-risk and special needs youth and adults. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
The Cats warm up before their performance during a Special Olympics basketball tournament at Lafayette High School, Monday, March 4, 2013. Madeline, left, sometimes prefers to sit down. She had 60 various surgeries throughout her life. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
From time to time, Madeline finds something else to do on her own during cheerleading practice at UCP; she enjoys to play with a ball or often sit in a swing. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press
Brad Phillips, center, gives his daughter Madeline a kiss during the wedding of his son, Tyler, and his wife Mercury. Ruth Phillips is seen in the background. Sait Serkan Gurbuz | St. Joseph News-Press