My year in pictures 2013

Features, News
No Comments

This has been another crazy year in the world of press photography. The highlight for me was spending a week experiencing life inside one of the world’s most notorious prison camps; Guantanamo Bay.  Closely followed by travelling to Iraq to photograph the Iraqi Prime Minister.

Here are my favourite pictures and experiences of 2013:

GUANTANAMO BAY:

I came up with the idea to visit Guantanamo almost a year ago. After endless phone calls, emails and contract signings with the military, a date was finally set.

I arrived during the week of Ramadan while most of the prisoners were being force-fed. I didn’t witness it myself but the guards hinted at it happening.

The whole experience was carefully monitored.  I was accompanied around the camp at all times by guards and only once managed to get a brief glimpse of prisoner’s back. After building up a relationship with some of the guards and after hours of negotiations I finally persuaded the military to let me photograph some of the detainees, through one tiny gap in the wall with minimal light. It was one of the most technically difficult assignments I’ve ever had.

As soon as the detainees heard the click of my shutter, they started shouting out “The American’s are torturing us and won’t let us pray together during Ramadan”. I was very quickly ushered out of the room.

I was there for five days in total and managed to take hundreds of photographs.  Every night however, I would have to sit with the military while they deleted any picture that showed a detainee’s face. The ones below are the only photos that managed to survive.

Guantanamo Bay was a bizarre place, almost like an entertainment park. I stayed in a great hotel, enjoyed a few pints of Guinness at O’kelly’s Irish bar in the evenings and even played a few games at the bowling alley! I was almost tempted to buy a t-shirt in the souvenir shop!

Detainees take part in Communal prayers in Camp 6, Guantanamo Bay

SYRIA: Following the chemical attack in August I was sent to the Lebanese side of the Syrian border to photograph Syrian refugees to talk to them about their experiences. I stayed in a hotel that was only 10km away from Damascus and could clearly hear the sound of shelling over the border every day.

With the threat of more chemical weapons being used I stayed well clear of Syria and spent two weeks documenting the lives of the Syrian refugees. This child (below) was very excited about the thought of the Americans bombing Assad’s regime, and was shouting “The Americans are coming to bomb” whilst excitedly throwing his paper airplane into the sky.

BILL GATES: I was originally supposed to have “at least 10 minutes” to photograph Bill Gates whilst on his visit to London.  Inevitably, I was given a generous 20 seconds and shot just five frames! Despite shouting orders at him, this is the only photo I manage to take with him actually looking in my direction. The man clearly can’t take direction!

NIGEL FARAGE: The UKIP party conference was an extremely interesting day. After seeing Nigel Farage deliver his speech in the morning it was followed by Godfrey Bloom calling a room of women sluts!  It was comical to say the least!

UKIP Leader Nigel Farage after his speech at the UKIP party conference

IRAQ: I travelled to Baghdad with a reporter to interview the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Iraq has been one country I’ve been desperate to visit for a while. I had two days to experience the real Iraq. Driving into Baghdad with an entourage of armored vehicles seemed a bit excessive, everything seemed peaceful. Baghdad was a great looking city. We were dropped off to our hotel inside a compound on the banks of the Tigris River and within hours I heard two loud blasts in the distance. I can’t verify it but we believe two suicide bombs went off around that same time killing 11 people.

The PM came to us at the compound to open the Standard Chartered bank – with him came a huge entourage of security and I managed to get this snap as the Iraqi special forces walked casually past the swimming pool.

Luckily, we managed to persuade a security guard to escort me to the local shopping mall before we left. I was keen on seeing normal Iraqi life. The mall was just like Westfield with all the latest shops and young people milling around enjoying their afternoon.

DOMINATRIX: I always get to meet very random people in my job and dungeon dominatrix, Jacky Donovan was know exception! I shot some pictures on Jacky in a swingers club on the Canary Islands. Yes, I got out alive!

ARCTIC TRAINING: I flew to the Arctic with Defence Minister Philip Hammond on one of the Queen’s private Jets. Then transferred to a Sea King helicopter to join the Royal Marines during Arctic training exercises near the Asegarden Camp in Harstad, Norway.

BRAZIL: With Brazil preparing for next year’s World Cup I joined some of the Brazilian police on patrol at a Favela’s in Rio De Janeiro. They were on a clean up job. Although we were kept well back from the action, one police officer proudly showed off horrific pictures of a young boy that his force allegedly killed a few weeks before. He had dozens of similar photos on his smart phone. This one was the only one that was printable.

DAVE LEE TRAVIS: Veteran DJ Dave Lee Travis arrives at the Old Bailey to face sex offence charges

UGANDA: I travelled to the north of Uganda with football charity, Coaches Across Continents to see how their work is helping former child soldiers. We drove right into the middle of Joseph Kony’s territory in Gulu, which was a very interesting experience. People still believe he is some kind mystical, all-seeing and all-knowing figure which completely terrifies them.

GANDYS: British brothers Rob & Paul Forkan founded Gandy’s Flip Flops to help orphans around the world after they lost both parents in the Boxing Day tsunami.

I first met Rob and Paul three years ago when I photographed them in their South London flat. Back then Gandy’s was a new idea. Now Gandy’s flip flops are in every major department store in the UK. I was delighted to join them on their first trip back to Sri Lanka since the tsunami. It was an emotionally difficult time for them but an extremely proud one too.

Despite flying from one corner of the globe to the next I also set up a small group travel company called The Flash Pack. I’ll be organising photography mentoring group trips to Istanbul http://www.theflashpack.co.uk/adventure-trips/istanbul

 

If you want to join me on the next one email me at lee@theflashpack.co.uk

A few days in Myanmar

Features
No Comments

I was looking forward to this one – a week in Burma, also known as Myanmar, to photograph British Farmer David Cundall in his search for the missing Spitfires in the former capital Yangon. Waiting around for permission to join his team on the heavily army-controlled land, gave me the perfect opportunity to explore daily life in the former Military pariah state.

It’s only since March 2011 that this country opened up to tourism and became accessible to rest of the world. Kind of obvious with the very limited English, which made for a very comical taxi ride. However, walking down the street with periodic shouts of “Myanmar is free now” and huge smiles, it seems the people of Myanmar are totally making the most of their new found freedom!

All the pictures below were taken in the breathtaking, gold Shwedagon Pagoda, said to have the relics of the past four Buddha’s enshrined within. It was well worth dragging myself out of bed at 6am to capture the perfect morning light.

Burma is an incredible place and I’m sure over the next ten years has the potential to have a thriving tourist industry like Thailand. Selfishly, I just hope it doesn’t change too much.

 
View Egypt in a larger map

My year in Pictures 2012

Celebrity, Features, News
1 Comment

This year has been an incredible year for sport and I was fortunate enough to be at Euro 2012 and the London Olympics. It hasn’t been as dangerous as last year with trips to Libya and Egypt but has been equally as enjoyable. Here are my favourite pictures of the year and some other random stories…

Katy Perry

KATY PERRY: I can now say that I had five minutes in a hotel room with Katy Perry even if it was only to take her photograph! A PR girl working for Katy literally timed it on a stop watch as I took my pictures, although it was more like three minutes after Katy clicked her fingers half way through and a team of hair and make-up girls ran in the room. I managed to get a few nice pictures and Katy was really great – I’m now a big fan!

90 year old Sidney Blackmore from the 2nd Battalion Parachute regiment

SIDNEY BLACKMORE: I photographed 90 year old Second World War soldier Sidney Blackmore on his return to Arnhem, Holland for the first time since he parachuted on to the ‘bridge too far’ in Arnhem and fought the Germans on the bridge in 1944. He was an inspiring man who told me he has been living with a constant reminder of his heroics for 65 years – a piece of shrapnel from a German tank blast is still stuck in his head.

Footballer Fabrice Muamba with his fiancé Shauna Magunda after he suffered heart failure

FABRICE MUAMBA: As news broke of Fabrice Muamba’s heart attack on the pitch in the FA Cup match against Tottenham I was sent to the hospital where he was being treated and spent many days outside of it waiting to get a photograph of him leaving. As soon as Fabrice was released from hospital I got to photograph him and his fiance Shauna Magunda in a hotel in London.They’re a lovely couple and it was great to see Fabrice kicking a ball for the first time since his heart stopped for over an hour.

Former Chelsea manager Avram Grant visits the gas chamber at Auschwitz

AVRAM GRANT: I went out to Poland to meet Avram Grant and the Football focus team at the Auschwitz concentration camp. It was my first experience of Auschwitz and Avram was keen to show me around. Avram lost 15 members of his family at the Nazi camp and he was very emotional throughout.

Model Tali Lennox in Sierra Leone for Christian Aid

SIERRA LEONE: My only job for Christian Aid this year was an amazing one – one week in beautiful Sierra Leone with Annie Lennox’s model daughter Tali. Sierra Leone is the most amazing country I’ve visited in Africa. The 10-year civil war has left families and communities without the tools they need to grow food and lift themselves out of poverty so our trip was to get the great work that Christian Aid do in the newspapers.

A fisherman in the small fishing village of Mo Albert in Sierra Leone

A woman has breast implants at a Harley Street clinic

COSMETIC SURGERY: This job was probably the most interesting one of the year and thankfully the patient was more than happy to be photographed.  Surgeon Mr Azhar Aslam performed a breast implant operation at the Linia Harley Street surgery, and I photographed every moment from the second she walked through the door to when she left. Weirdly the first thing I felt like doing when I left was having some lunch!

England player Joleon Lescott scores against France at the Euro's

EURO 2012:  This was the job I was looking forward to the most in the year but England let me down and I had to come home early! I was based in the beautiful Polish city of Krakow throughout and flew out to all of England’s matches in the Ukraine until we were knocked out by the Italians.  Now I’m hoping I get to cover the World Cup in Rio!

English football fans out numbered by the Swedes

England players as they lose a penalty shoot out to Italy at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev

The Sun's Pakistan corruption exclusive

PAKISTAN PASSPORT EXCLUSIVE: I’ve put this story in this year because my job isn’t always about taking pictures. I spent two weeks in Lahore, Pakistan with reporter Stephen Moyes and a undercover reporter and together, with the help of some hidden camera equipment helped to expose corruption with the main Passport office in Lahore and corruption within the Pakistan Olympic team. This became headline news across Pakistan for weeks after and hundreds of officials were arrested.

Mo Farah wins gold for team GB in the 5000m

LONDON OLYMPICS: This was an incredible job and I’m so proud that I was a part of it. Photographing Usain Bolt and Mo Farah were the best moments for me and the atmosphere in the Olympic Stadium was electric. London was buzzing and I loved every minute of it.

Usain Bolt helps Jamaica win the 100m relay final

GB Gold medal winners Anna Watkins and Katherine Granger

British Terror suspect Jermaine Grant leaves the Mombasa Law courts in Kenya

TERROR SUSPECT: I had two trips to Mombasa in Kenya this year covering the trial of the British Terror suspect Jermaine Grant. Muslim convert  Grant was picked up by Kenyan anti-terror officers after plotting to bomb Western tourist targets in Mombasa. It’s the easiest court job I’ve ever done as the prison officers parade him to the court for you and and then you can photograph him in the dock.

English Defence Leader Tommy Robinson in his local pub

EDL LEADER TOMMY ROBINSON: I was well aware of the EDL leader when I was asked to do some portraits of him in Luton. As we walked through Luton town centre everyone knew him and some were very abusive. Tommy showed me his local pub which was boarded up after the windows were allegedly smashed by a Muslim gang and we did the pictures in there.

An Israeli soldier with rockets that have been fired in to the country from Gaza

ISRAEL/ GAZA CONFLICT: Having photographed the last war in 2009 I was keen to get back to Israel as fighting broke out between the two countries again. I landed to news that a ceasefire had been announced, so I had one day of running in to bomb shelters to avoid rocket attacks in the South of Israel before the first quiet night the country had for weeks.

Olympic star Mo Farah at home in Portland, Oregon with his wife Tania, his stepdaughter Rihanna and twins Amani (left) and Aisha

AT HOME WITH MO: I was delighted to photograph Great Britain’s double gold winning athlete Mo Farah at home in Portland, Oregon with his family. Reporter Nick Francis and I spent three hours with the family although at least 20 minutes of that was on FIFA as I beat him 3-1 before he got competitive and demanded a rematch, which he won!

Four year old, Rio Woolf runs for the first time with the help of his new prosthetic leg

BLADE BOY RIO: This was my last job of the year and it was amazing to meet with this inspiration -  four year old, Rio Woolf.  Rio’s right leg was amputated at 14 months after he was born with a rare condition called Tibial Aplasia. I photographed him running on his prosthetic leg for the first time and his proud parents couldn’t believe how fast he was. The biggest star of the year and hopefully a future Paralympian!

Christian Aid Week in Sierra Leone

Features
No Comments

Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world but it’s also one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. I travelled to West Africa with model Tali Lennox and John McKie from Christian Aid to see the fantastic work that Christian Aid are doing to fight poverty. We drove across the beautiful countryside towards the town of Gbap in the Bonthe district where we stayed with the community chief for two nights and documented Christian Aid‘s agricultural work, before taking a boat to the small fishing village of Mo -Albert where we filmed and photographed Christian Aid‘s fishing projects. The civil war in Sierra Leone lasted for 11 years between 1991 and 2002 and evidence of the war is everywhere. Bullet holes can be seen in buildings,  there are many amputees and we passed a mass grave where over 2000 people were buried.  I hope that Sierra Leone can carry on rebuilding and become the tourism hot spot that is was in the 1980′s.

Please take a look at the videos I shot below and click on this link to donate to Christian Aid

Court Photography: The Kenyan way

News
No Comments

In my time as a press photographer I have stood outside more courts than I can remember to cover stories ranging from the Josef Fritzl case in Austria to the Louise Woodward trial in my home town of Chester. When someone is in custody it is becoming extremely rare to be able to get a shot of the person. I have just had a really interesting few days in Mombasa, Kenya covering the case of the British terror suspect Jermaine Grant where for the first time ever I was able to take photographs of the suspect in the dock, inside the court room. Not only that but as the prison bus pulls up outside the law courts in the mornings the prison officers parades the suspect in handcuffs to make sure you can get a great picture. I ended up taking so many pictures that I had around 500 of them to go through at the end of each day! I only wish that it could be that easy the next time I’m stood outside London’s High court!

Boy’s Ferrari to help him sleep!

Features
No Comments

Kuwait has never been on my list of places to visit but this was an easy job that turned out to be great fun. Sun reporter Gary O’Shea and I met up with millionaire Sheik Jassim Al Wathiqi and his family in Kuwait City and enjoyed his great hospitality before photographing him, his son Manof and daughter Mayar in their brand new £380,000 Ferrari 458 Spider super car. The story was about three year old Manof who demanded his father bought him the car after spotting it in a magazine. Manof is driven around in it for ten minutes every night before bedtime as the vibrations from the exhaust send him to sleep. The first time I watched from another vehicle as Manof fell asleep just minutes after been driven from the family home, it worked a treat. However, the last thing I felt like doing as a passenger in this awesome machine was falling asleep! (see video below!) It was terrifyingly fast at 0-60 in 3.5 seconds but a fantastic experience that puts my Audi A3 to shame!

 

My year in pictures 2011

Features, News
No Comments

This year has been the craziest year of my life, I’ve witnessed two revolutions, two major earthquakes, riots in London and pretty much every other major news story!

From photographing Colonel Gaddafi’s body in Libya to bumping in to Kate Middleton in a supermarket in Wales, these are my pictures of the year.

 

Egyptian Revolution: February

I began 2011 covering the revolution in Egypt. I arrived a few days after the uprisings began and didn’t expect to see as much as I did. Thousands of people filled Tahrir Square in Cairo in what appeared to be a peaceful protest but large groups of pro Mubarak supporters began to protest in another corner of the square and when the two sides met it was like a medieval war with both sides throwing rocks at each other. For the next three days I watched as men went through the streets fighting on camels and saw a man being stabbed to death right in front of me. I watched through the night from my hotel balcony as they were setting fire to everything and wondered if my hotel would be next! The scariest moment for me though was being stopped at road blocks at gun point and standing underneath two fighter jets as they came low over the crowds – I later found out that the pilots were under orders to fire at the protesters. Thank god they didn’t!

Japan Tsunami: March

I watched the amazing footage on the news as the Tsunami hit North-East Japan and two days later I was seeing the devastation for myself. one thing that TV can’t show you is how vast the damage was. I went out there with the British Search and Rescue teams and we would drive for hundreds of miles and the coast line was destroyed. The team I was with found no survivors, the weather was freezing and we kept finding dead bodies. On day one we discovered the body of a young man on an industrial estate, his hands in the air like he’d been trying to grab hold of something as the wave swept him away. The lady pictured above is sat on the foundations of her home and the picture below shows the body of a man upside down in his car, still holding his car key and looks as though he had tried to out-drive the wave.

Kate Middleton shopping at Waitrose: May

While trying to get a photograph of Prince William arriving back at work one week after his royal wedding, I dropped by Waitrose supermarket in Anglesey on my way back to London and spotted a royal protection vehicle. As I quickly put my camera together Kate walked out of the front,  which I missed completely but thankfully she went to return her trolley where I got a nice set of pictures of the future Queen just days after her wedding!

London Riots: August

I wasn’t planning on photographing any of the London riots but when I could see hooded youths with weapons right below my flat I had to go and  photograph it. I took these pictures in Clapham Junction and my flat mate Simon Dawson and I watched as hundreds of thugs smashed every shop and stole as much as they could before the police arrived half an hour later. Half the skill was not being seen taking these pictures as anyone caught with a camera was getting badly beaten.

Malawi: September

I had an amazing week in Malawi photographing the great work Christian Aid do to help fight the stigma surrounding HIV. The sun was going down and I saw these three kids taking water back to their homes. Malawi is the friendliest place I’ve ever been to and I can’t wait to go back.

Libya Revolution: September – October

I traveled to Libya three times between September and October. The first time as the rebels took Tripoli where I got to have a look around Colonel Gaddafi’s compound Bab al aziz which was an incredible insight to Gaddafi’s dictatorship. Despite the constant threat of snipers and the continuous sound of gun and Mortar fire I feel privileged to have witnessed the party on Martyr Square that night as thousands celebrated. The funniest moment for me was while the reporter and I were on the phone to our office in London telling them it was safe then two fighter jets flew over us and dropped a bomb on a Gaddafi target right in front of us – perhaps not as safe as we thought!

The picture above is the body of Colonel Gaddafi in a supermarket fridge with the bodies of his son Mutassim and his ex-defence minister Abu Bakr Younis in Misrata. Never in a million years did I ever expect to be standing next to Colonel Gaddafi’s corpse and it only happened because our driver stopped to ask someone for directions to a garage to get a new tyre for the car – by chance the man we asked told us how he had been guarding Gaddafi’s body the night before and within minutes we were in the fridge with him!

Sun reporter Oliver Harvey and I found these bodies (all 66 of them) at a hotel in Sirte. They had been shot in the head and most had been cuffed by Gaddafi loyalists and used as human shields. I felt sick as I took these pictures, truly the most shocking thing I’ve ever seen. The picture below shows a charred body in the bombed out convoy of cars that the colonel was traveling in before he ran to a nearby drain and was killed.

Earthquake Eastern Turkey: November

I spent a few days in Ercis in Eastern Turkey following the 7.2 magnitude earthquake. It was freezing cold and situation was awful with hundreds dead, hundreds missing and thousands homeless. The man in the picture above could only watch as rescuers searched for his children in the rubble. Each night reporter Oliver Harvey and I traveled around 100km to the Bayram hotel in Van where cracks could visibly be seen on the walls. One week after we left the hotel it collapsed in an aftershock killing 13 people.

What can next year possibly have in store for me?!

Face to face with Colonel Gaddafi!

Features, News
3 Comments

The body of col Gaddafi with his son Muatassim and Libya's ex-defence minister Abu Bakr Younis in Misrata.

I watched on TV at home in London as news came through of Col Gaddafi’s capture and death, by the following afternoon I was sat inside Gaddafi’s final hiding place in a drain in Sirte! Surrounded by bodies and with rebels celebrating with gunfire it was exactly how it must have been the day before. Just yards away remained a convoy of bombed out cars that the colonel had ran away from and within those cars were dozens of charred bodies.
The journey to Sirte had been horrendous and involved a flight from Heathrow via Istanbul then on to Benghazi where immigration insisted on keeping our passports because we didn’t have the correct visa. We quickly managed to get a good driver and a fixer and drove for nine hours across the desert to Sirte where I quickly photographed Sun reporter Oliver Harvey in the drain using the last five minutes of day light and then sent it via sat phone in pitch darkness surrounded by rotting bodies and that continuous sound of gun fire. After spending the evening in a fly infested compound with rebels eating just crisps and biscuits we drove back to the drain where locals were keen to show us a hotel where Gaddafi’s men had been staying. Completely unexpected I found myself surrounded by 66 rotting bodies. According to the rebels the men had been prisoners because they lived in the Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte but supported the revolution. The men were freed but only to be used as human shields when the rebels had approached the area. The smell made me feel sick and flies were all over the mouths and eyes of the bodies and they were all over me. As I took photographs of the massacre I had to step over bodies, being extra careful not to stand on anyone. They were everywhere and most had gunshots to the head and were cuffed at the hands and legs. I was trying not to look at the faces but I couldn’t help it, I’ve seen many bodies before and it doesn’t affect me too much but I struggled to get this site out of my head.

Badly shaken from the morning experiences we drove another 200km to Misrata where our plan was to find Gaddafi’s golden gun, which was taken, by one of the rebels after Gaddafi left it in the drainpipe. This was proving difficult and with know where to go the driver insisted on getting new tyres on his car. In what turned out to be the best bit of luck ever the man whom we had stopped to ask for directions to a garage said he had just been guarding Gaddafi’s body and gave us directions to it! Within minutes we were at the location and picked up a local soldier at the gate who proudly walked us in to a supermarket fridge containing the bodies of Col Gaddafi and his son Muatassim and his ex-defence minister Abu Bakr Younis.
I was in complete shock and shaking nervously and quickly posed Oliver Harvey next to his body and took as many pictures as possible before a guard told us to leave, I then went back in a second time and shot some video. I still can’t believe we actually managed to get within touching distance of one of history’s most savage tyrants. Pinching ourselves and laughing nervously we knew we had a great picture for Mondays Sun!
Our luck continued as the soldier that had so proudly shown us Col Gaddafi went on to show us where his belongings were at a near by barracks and then the young boy who took Gaddafi’s golden gun showed up waving the gun around with pride. Job done!

As we drove back to Benghazi the atmosphere was amazing as all Libyans were celebrating and I would have enjoyed it even more if Libya weren’t a dry country, I needed a beer!

Getting our passports back at the airport was proving more difficult than finding Gaddafi and with just seconds to spare before our plane took off we were given them back!

Gaddafi's belongings that he had with him when he was killed

Nabil Ali Darwach who found col Gaddafi's golden gun in the drain pipe where he hid in Sirte

Libyan rebels at the drain that Col Gaddafi was captured and killed from in Sirte

66 dead bodies at a hotel in Sirte. The men were tied up and used as a human shield for Gaddafi's men

One of the 66 bodies with his arms cuffed behind his back

 

Libyan rebels at Col Gaddafi's last hiding place

 

Me with the Golden Gun!

I couldn’t resist having my picture taken with his golden gun and I got one with his boot as well! I keep thinking I should have had my picture taken with the Colonel himself, but would that have been wrong?

Paul McCartney gets married (again!)

Celebrity
No Comments

Spending the best part of nine hours on a Sunday stood on a 6 foot ladder is not my idea of a good time but it was all worth it as Paul McCartney and his new wife Nancy happily posed for photographs before and after yesterday’s wedding. Here are my pictures of the happy couple, and Ringo!


 

Malawi

Features
No Comments

I had an amazing week in Malawi with Christian Aid. A team of us including singer Beverley Knight went out there to document how Christian Aid are helping to fight the stigma surrounding HIV. Malawi goes straight to the top of my favourite African countries list as the people are the the friendliest I’ve ever met. I can’t wait to return!

Singer Beverley Knight sings with children at Tune for Life in Lilongwe, Malawi