With support from two clients and a creative approach to funding, photographer Sim Chi Yin has just released this video showing an old project from a new, more immersive angle. The video profiles Zhang Xi, a college graduate turned street peddler who is part of Beijing’s “Rat Tribe,” so named because they live in sub-standard apartments in the basements and former bomb shelters of the city.
Sim’s portraits of “Rat Tribe” basement dwellers, which she began making in 2010, have been widely published–and widely acclaimed. She previously produced a multimedia slideshow of the portraits. But this video expands on her earlier work by exploring how one subject ended up living in a Beijing basement, the tension it has caused with his parents, and what day-to-day life is like for him.
The video, published January 24 by Creative Time Reports (CTR) and Al Jazeera America, is also a case study in multi-source production funding. Sim says it was first “leanly funded” by CTR, a media website that commissioned the video last fall for a European conference on migration issues. For additional funding, Sim applied to the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. Around the same time, Al Jazeera America asked Sim for new portraits of Beijing basement dwellers, and an updated multimedia piece. So she put CTR and Al Jazeera in touch with each other, and “they decided to work together and timed their publications to appear on the same day.”
Sim hired producer Yin Jiawei, a recent college graduate, to work as a fixer and assist with the shooting. The video was edited by Jian Yi, a freelance Chinese filmmaker.
Kidnapped photojournalist Luke Somers was killed December 5 in the midst of a failed attempt by US forces to rescue him from al Qaeda militants holding him hostage in Yemen. Somers, 33, had been kidnapped in Sana’a, Yemen, in September 2013. He had been working in the country as a freelance photographer.
After President Barack Obama announced Somers’s death on Saturday, several news outlets that Somers had worked for, including Al Jazeera, and his agency, Corbis, shared samples of his photos, starting with images from Yemen’s revolution ousting President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011. Writer Tik Root of National Public Radio, who had crossed paths with Somers while they were covering Yemen, said the photographer’s work “reveals his deep and persistent love for the country.”
Last week, the photographer’s captors released a video threatening to kill Somers if the US did not meet their unspecified demands. According to CNN,The Yemen Times and other news outlets had pleaded for Somers’s release, noting days before his death that he “loves Yemen.”
Citing an anonymous source, BBC reports that Navy SEALs had tried to rescue Somers from the compound where he was being held, but a gunfight broke out when the militants spotted the SEALs. Somers was shot, and then evacuated to a US navy ship, where he died. Committee to Protect Journalists reports that this is the third attempt by US special forces to rescue hostages held in Syria and Yemen; all three failed to rescue captured journalists.
To protest the arrest and imprisonment of members of the Al Jazeera English staff in Cairo, journalists around the world are carrying out a social media campaign that asks: What if all journalists were muzzled? As part of the protest, journalists are posting self-portraits on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook showing themselves with their mouths gagged and taped. Some hold signs demanding the release of the Al Jazeera journalists. They’re posting the images with the hashtag #FreeAJstaff.
On December 29, Egyptian authorities raided the Cairo office of Al Jazeera and arrested four employees. Last week, the government announced it was charging 20 journalists affiliated with the network, including five foreigners, with inciting terrorism and being agents of the Muslim Brotherhood, the ruling party that was ousted from power by the Egyptian military in July. Journalists have been repeatedly attacked since the military took power, according to human rights and press freedom groups.
Today CNN International Correspondent Christian Amanpour held a #FreeAJStaff sign on the air. Journalists in Nairobi have staged a protest outside the Egyptian embassy to demand the release of imprisoned Al Jazeera staffers. Among those who have been detained since December is the Nairobi-based, Australian-born journalist Peter Greste, the East Africa correspondent for Al Jazeera.
Zuma Press photographer Narcisco Contreras of Mexico and freelance photographer Showkat Shafi of India were beaten by police and government forces, then arrested while covering a violent street protest in Srinigar, Kashmir on August 19, the Committee to Protect Journalists reports.
Shafi, who has shot for Al Jazeera online and Reuters, reported that he and Contreras were covering a clash between youth protesting Indian rule in the disputed region of Kashmir when police and soldiers charged the crowd, beating protesters and the photographers. “We were covering the protests, standing on the side of the demonstrators, when the police charged the protesters … we were verbally abused and beaten with bamboo sticks and batons,” he told Al Jazeera.
Contreras said he tried to take shelter in a tailor’s shop. “The soldiers descended there and started beating everyone, including me.”
The photographers were then taken to a police station, along with protesters; according to the photographers and eyewitnesses, they were held for hours. The two have reported that they were beaten while in police custody. Contreras told Al Jazeera, “I repeatedly told them I’m a foreign journalist, but they continued beating me as if I was some criminal,” he said. A police officer told Al Jazeera that the two photographers were released after they showed their press credentials, and denied that they were beaten.
Responding to reports that the photographers had been beaten, Farooq Khan, president of the Kashmir Press Photographers Association, told Al Jazeera, “Let’s remember that incidents like these have become a routine here.”