Posts Tagged ‘univ. practice’

Review: World Press Photo Exhibition

What ties the US President Barack Obama, a Hungarian kingfisher and Ceci, a tango dancer from Buenos Aires? Moments of their lives are engraved in photographs that have become part of the 53rd World Press Photo Exhibition.

It brings together more than a 100 striking pictures taken by international photojournalists everywhere in the world from Antarctica to Greenland. All of them won prizes in World Press Photo Contest, the world’s largest and most prestigious annual press photography competition.

Every year following the contest, the winning images go on tour around the globe. Londoners and guests of the city can join the ranks of worldwide audiences of this splendid free collection in the Royal Festival Hall.

This exhibition is not about advanced technologies in modern photography or which picture has the best composition and angle. All of that might be important, but once you see the images all you can think about is their content, world tragedies and little everyday dramas they show.

A picture by Kent Klich from Sweden depicts an empty room with grey walls, two sofas, a cupboard, and a big hole in the roof. It is very simple and looks almost peaceful.

But when you look at it again having read the description, the photograph makes your hair stand on end. The house was hit by a tank shell in northern Gaza. The family that lived in the house had fled during the Israeli attack. But the 39-old father had returned to fetch clothes for his children and was killed when the shell struck.

Tough, but true

Every single photograph tells a story. The daily life of 13-year-old Adrian who has autism and lives in Peru. A family enjoying a picnic on a beach in Mozambique. A giraffe killed by drought in Kenya…

There are pictures that are shocking, revolting, confusing, desperate. There are some you wish you did not see and the ones you would like to see again and again. There are none that leave you indifferent.

In fact, some of the pictures are so powerful that I would not recommend the exhibition to children and sensitive people. The majority of pictures that show horrors of war are extremely distressing. Some of them are very detailed as well.

I have seen teenagers, businessmen and old ladies looking at them with the same tension and anguish in their eyes. It is the pain of discovery, the pain of empathy.

This exhibition is a magnifying glass that focuses on burning issues and unreported problems of the world. You will leave it with a heavy heart, but enlightened.

When and where

The exhibition is open daily, Friday 12 Nov – Sunday 5 Dec, 10am – 11pm.

Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre. Waterloo tube station.


Writing profiles: Hilary

Hey, everyone! This is the first draft of a profile I have written for my newspaper module portfolio. Commentaries, especially critical ones, are very welcome!

Hilary has a gift: she can travel through time. What is even more striking, she is always happy to take you with her.

A first-class guide, knowledgeable and accurate, she has been unveiling the secrets of British history to tourists for more than 20 years now.

Hilary has been guiding tourists through space and time for more than 20 years now.

Warm bright red coat, brown corduroys, comfortable shoes, a backpack with a bottle of water in the side pocket, a scalf and gloves. Her cozy outfit manifests years of guiding experience. Her glasses, the “accredited guide” bagde over the coat and articulate manner of speaking leave no doubt: she is the boss here.

A teacher by birth

“Please be careful when you cross the road,” Hilary asks another group of tourists as we step out of the station in St. Albans on a lovely autumn day. There are 29 of us, and I wonder how she is going to manage such a big group.

“Oh, it might look huge to you”, says Hilary, “But I had once 106. It was very hard work.” Then she adds, with an arch smile in her eyes: “Luckily I’ve got a very loud voice if I need it”.

That loud voice and an ability to control large groups of easily distracted people are presents from her past. For 30 years, she taught History at secondary school, leading field trips to Russia and battlefields of the First World War.

“I think it’s really important children are made aware of what war means,” Hilary, who has a poppy pinned neatly to her coat, is very serious now. “There’s nothing like showing them a huge graveyard full of crosses to make them realise that it’s not just a number, it’s actually people.”

In 1998, Hilary qualified as a prestigious Blue Badge Guide and started working full-time as a tour guide.

“I loved working with children, but got tired of interference with politicians in the end,” Hilary explains why she decided to change the profession. “Every government in England that comes in tries to do something different to teaching. And being a tour guide means teaching people, but without constant change of the rules, without all the hassle of marking essays.”

A favourite tour guide

One thing the job of a tour guide does involve, though, is surprises. Hilary shares some of the “scary stories” that have happened on her tours while we have lunch in one of the little cafés of the old town.

Once an elderly English lady slipped on the walk, fell and cut her head. Hilary asked the group to wait and took the woman to the nearest pub, to ring a taxi for her.

“The man in a pub was really helpful,” Hilary remembers the incident. “And the group decided they want to pay for this lady’s taxi. She rang me a few days later to say she was fine. She also told me the taxi driver who had taken her to the hospital wouldn’t just leave her, he made sure she was seen by the nurse.”

“There are some really nice people around, aren’t there?” Hilary concludes, and somehow I feel that the story means a lot to her.

Another day she did the walk with just two tourists. “That was the smallest I had,” she says. “That was a jolly walk in a pouring rain with two Australians”.

She confesses that knowledge is not the only thing that makes you a good tour guide. Every group you have is different, so a guide has to be a psychologist in a way, to be able to shape the walk according to people’s reactions.

Hilary is keen on spotting details, like this weird figure of a succubus on an old pub in St Albans.

And Hilary does the job so brilliantly, that some tourists call London Walks, the company she works for, before coming on a tour, to make sure Hilary is guiding it.

Sue, a tourist from United States, is one of her fans. She has taken lots of walks with Hilary, starting in 2004.

“She is my favourite. She really knows a lot about history and she loves what she’s doing. And I think she makes you love it, too,” Sue says.

A busy Grandma

But history is not Hilary’s only passion. She cares about these days as well.

In 1980, she joined Soroptimist International, an organisation that creates opportunities to transform the lives of women around the world. Today she is co-ordinating the work of hundreds of volunteers who address issues like human trafficking, gender discrimination, women’s health, and lots of others.

“It’s very rewarding, it gives you lots of opportunities, and it feels like you do some good work that makes a difference”, says Hilary.

With life so full of action, it’s no wonder she has almost no free time at all.

“I am very busy, horribly busy,” she admits with a cheerful smile. “But I’m not good at sitting doing nothing, and I never have been. I’m always happier with too much to do than not enough to do.”

A teacher, a tour guide, a soroptimist. She has three successful careers, yet she says her life’s greatest achievement is her family. Looking at her smart close haircut and rapid confident gait, it’s hard to believe she is four times Grandma.

“I’ve got a very tolerant husband. He’s also a very busy person, but he does all the cooking and shopping,” she chuckles.

“We have two daughters and a son, and we managed to bring them up so that they turned from being our children to being our friends. We enjoy their company. For me, that’s quite special,” she says.

It’s getting darker now as we approach our last stop on the walk around St. Albans. With a last amusing fact and a round of well-deserved applause, Hilary leaves us, to greet another group of tourists tomorrow and guide them through space and time.

Writing news features: bailout for Ireland

“When have Britain ever given anything out of good will?”, ask the Irish, but accept the helping hand.

Last night, Ireland finally asked for an international financial rescue package of €90bn (£77.3bn), after seven days of denying it would need help, The Guardian reports.

The reaction was immediate, with stock markets welcoming the decision and political crisis being caused in the republic.

But what do you have to say? We followed you on Twitter and Facebook to find out what you think.

“Britain giving us money sounds a bit… skeptical. When have Britain ever given anything out of good will?”, asks JaelMurphy from Ireland.

Danielasabatini from Dublin is outraged at the Irish Minister for Social Protection Éamon Ó Cuív for saying that “prayer is powerful” on She tweets: “Pray won’t save Ireland from incompetence and corruption”.

A discussion on Facebook group “I’m from IRELAND and I’m PROUD to say *I’M IRISH*” gives several opinions, including one from Greg Dowling who considers the bailout a disgrace and reckons “ the good people of this great nation don’t want” the money.

Thinking deeper

And indeed, there is some place for jeering among the British. The tweet “One can confirm that one has bought Ireland” got retweeted repeatedly.

Some of the tweets are mean. User daraobriain tweets: “A lot of tweets from the British about how you now ‘own’ Ireland. How dare you! You ‘part-own’ it, with Germany and Sweden.”

However, some of the British seem to think deeper and ask where the UK government is going to get the funds from:

“Coalition have no money so they increase aid and offer Ireland a loan that the EU is able to cover?”, tweets brucestorm from Scotland.

“So let me get this right. We have no money to spare for the ill, or poorly paid, but enough for bankers and Ireland”, states vertigojones.

International reaction

“Yesterday Greece, today Ireland, tomorrow… Portugal, Spain, Italy?” asks a rhetorical question Nouriel from New York.

It seems like most of the international audience feels sorry for the country, and would like to help.

JorgePastine from Argentina says: “Ireland’s not unlucky, just an inevitable victim of the euro project.”

“Gonna go pound back pints of Guinness and try to get Ireland out of this little financial problem they’re having I suggest you do the same”, thejonrandall from Canada tweets.

With all the range of reactions and consequences of the Irish accepting the bailout, the situation for the republic seems shaky. But there is some optimism in the hearts of the nation. The tweet by Kkunlimited, from Ireland, proves it:

“Ireland is full of talented people who don’t fit neatly into the establishment – now is the time to let them shine and show us the way”.

Writing profile features for the Web: Rena

Qun Gu, or simply Rena, looks just like another MA Journalism student. She is young and willing to learn, her eyes shining with enthusiasm as she approaches another task. Yet she is a married woman with seven years of work experience.

Rena did her BA in International Politics at Fudan University in China, and in 2003 she joined Shanghai Media Group, multimedia television and radio broadcasting news company, to work as a global news editor.

“Journalism is a job you never get tired of. Every day is different”, says Rena. “It gives you lots of opportunities to meet people and cover all sorts of international events”.

Among other things, she reported on the 2007 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Vietnam, 2008 presidential elections from Chicago, USA, and World Expo 2010 in Shanghai. And she talks about it with no arrogance at all.

“Reporting from the ground is something I really enjoy, it’s unique experience that broadens your outlook”, Rena talks eagerly about her passion for journalism.

“I used to dislike travelling before I became involved in media production. But now I agree with the old Chinese saying that “Travelling 10,000 miles is better than reading 10,000 books.”

In 2010, her company recommended her to apply for the British Council Chevening scholarship. And she won it, leaving hundreds of young graduates behind.

“Family is important”

Rena seems to be a very strong and independent woman, career being the main priority for her. But family is important as well, she confesses.

Back in China, she has a caring husband whom she married last year and had to leave soon to come to London.

“He loves me. He knows that for me it’s a great opportunity, that it will benefit my career. He let me chase my dream, and I appreciate that”, says Rena, sounding more tender now as she talks about her family. “And I am thinking about children, but I’m in no hurry”.

“I’m not paid as much as my classmates who work in foreign companies do, but then I have more time for my family, and I like the balance.”

Writing profile features: Stephy

Can a group of 20 students save a factory from closing? Xudong Tseng, a 21-year old MA Journalism student at University of Westminster, knows that the answer is “Yes”.

Stephy – as her classmates call her – might look tiny and defenceless, but do not be deceived by the appearance. In her free time, she used to lead projects that brightened the world of hundreds of poor people in China.

Her life was quite ordinary for 17 years. She was born in a small city at the north of China, in what you might call a traditional Chinese family.

“My family is rather old-fashioned, but in a good way. My parents taught me to respect elderly people, be kind to children, be polite and amiable,” says Stephy. “And I was quite shy, too, often preferring to follow an example rather than make my own choice.”

Everything changed in 2006, when she joined SIFE (standing for Students in Free Enterprise), an international non-profit organisation that encourages students to make a difference in their communities by helping people in need.

“In fact, I didn’t plan it. I just stumbled upon that ‘new recruitment’ poster with young guys in suits, all looking so fancy and professional that you couldn’t resist the urge to join them, just to look as cool.” Stephy is very sincere and modest when talking about her reasons to join the organisation, but those seem to be the core traits of her character.

“So I became a SIFE freshman and found out that what those guys did was in fact hard work,” she says.

One project they worked on was trying to save an important cultural heritage – soy sauce. The ancient Chinese tradition of making this famous dressing was vanishing in their neighbourhood because the local factory had no funds to buy new equipment and bring in advanced management technologies. Stephy and her team-mates stepped in and built the bridges between the factory and shop chains, pushing up sales.

“We also set up retail outlets near major tourist sights. We often had to stay up late and felt sleepy during the day, sometimes we even skipped our classes,” Stephy smiles – a rare smile – when she remembers her days with SIFE, “but I fell in love with what we were doing”.

During her third year with University and SIFE, Stephy won the elections and became the President of the team. This meant a great step in her personal development. And a huge responsibility.

“No one cares what students have to say about local businesses, so you should develop great projects and be really persuasive,” Stephy sounds passionate now as she talks about projects she was involved in, “There is a stereotype that if you are a student, you know nothing about real life. Breaking down such stereotypes is not fancy, it’s hard work. But it is extremely fulfilling, it makes you feel happy when you help people.”

Stephy confesses she is now much more confident and organised than she used to be, and feels far more comfortable when approaching strangers.

Having just graduated from University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, she is facing a new challenge – a MA course in Journalism, her latest passion.

“I would love to eventually get into magazine production, to become a lifestyle and fashion journalist”, says Stephy.

And, judging by her stylish look, determination and a great appetite to learning, she will do a good one.

* Pictures by Yue Yu

Lifestyle feature exercise

If you think you have seen enough musicals and would like to pass on to something more complicated and elite, evening concerts at St Martin-in-the-Fields might become your door to classical music.

The night I went there, the London Concertante chamber orchestra was performing. And although their picture on the playbill was very vivid, I still had some fears I might have to run away if it becomes too solemn and tedious.

Then I saw my neighbours. Well, actually I first saw beers in their hands, but I didn’t get a chance to express my indignation as I was then shocked by the fact that they turned out to be teenagers.

The words “church”, “classical music”, “beer” and “teenagers” have always belonged to different parts of my inner world. Writing for a newspaper in Russia, I wouldn’t get a chance to use them in one sentence.

But the two young Londoners seemed to enjoy the evening, and so did I. All was there: first-class performers, amazingly beautiful melodies, vaults of the church that made the sound almost three-dimensional, a witty host who made you feel at home, and candlelight to bring some magic to the night.

London is full of surprises.

Related links:

St Martin-in-the-Fields

London Concertante