Find Out The Real Stories Behind The Most Powerful Photos Of This Year

Photographers reveal the emotions and struggles of taking some of the most memorable shots of the year.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words – it’s true.

Behind a single photograph lie emotions, struggles and stories we may never know. We view dozens of images on the Internet every day, ignorant of the effort it must’ve taken to capture it.

But here’s a chance to know the background stories for some of the most powerful photos taken by photographers working for Reuters news agency.

Have a look:

A girl from the minority Yazidi sect rests after fleeing violence in Sinjar

girl from the minority Yazidi sect

Photographer Youssef Boudlal says:

“I remember the scene well. It was the day that I arrived at the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing of Fishkhabour. With shocked, sunburnt faces, men, women and children in dirt-caked clothes were struggling in temperatures of over 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit). At first, I focused my camera on a group of women sitting on the ground, but when I turned away I saw this little girl. I took one shot of her there and as she saw me, she gave me a smile. I captured another frame of her with her mother. I was drawn to her wild beauty in this terrible situation. There is a kind of intensity, distress and sadness in her eyes. It was really sad not only to see this girl, but also to see the hundred others who were dirty, exhausted, and sitting amongst garbage in the heat. I would be very curious to see the blonde girl who I photographed again. I wonder what will become of her. I wonder what will become of all the others."

Palestinian boy mourns family in Gaza

Palestinian boy

Photographer Mohammed Salem remembers:

"The strike on the family home of Al-Batsh, Gaza's police chief, killed 18 people. While I was shooting this picture loud explosions from air strikes could be heard and battles from the ground offensive were ongoing. Moments before taking this pix, mourners brought out the bodies of the family members and their relatives started to cry and shout. Suddenly, this boy fell on the ground and burst into tears shouting: 'My dad, my dad.'

"The situation was risky and I had to take the pictures quickly and leave the area as fast as possible. This picture has affected me the most from the war. As a father, I was totally shocked and sad to hear this boy crying out for his dead father."

Riot police use pepper gas against residents of the Telerj slum as they attempt to repossess the land in Rio de Janeiro

Riot police

Says Ana Carolina Fernandez:

“I was shooting the clear-out by the police of a building which belonged to a giant telecommunications company and had been taken over by homeless people a week earlier. It was my third day there as I was doing a photo essay on the occupation and I was more interested in the aesthetics of the shacks and how people managed to build a home. Still, there was tension in the air that the police could invade the place at any moment. When I arrived that morning, it was still dark and I saw more than 1,000 police officers surrounding the area. Some of the homeless were leaving on their own but there was a lot of confusion and small riots outside. I took this picture about 15 minutes after I managed to enter the area, which was very challenging. The image is both strong and sad because the man is poor, black, unarmed and helpless against a whole squad of a heavily armed police spraying tear gas right into his eyes.”

A masked pro-Russian protester sits on a chair as he poses for a picture inside a regional government building in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine

masked pro-Russian protester

“On March 3, a couple hundred pro-Russian demonstrators stormed the Donetsk regional government building after clashing with police who were guarding the main entrance. They successfully entered through a side door, and in the end made it to the second floor where the parliament sits. Unrest continued to spiral in Ukraine and the following month separatists declared a "People's Republic of Donetsk". Two months after these initial attacks, protestors were still inside the regional government buildings and masked men guarded the barricades. I asked to take a series of portraits of these men. I saw a massive chair underneath a neon light and I picked my lens, adjusted the light, and people began to pose in shifts. Each subject was relaxed, and struck whatever pose suited him. Later, they asked with interest how people in Europe see the situation in Ukraine and wanted to know if anyone supports them, and what will happen in the end. They seemed a bit scared. I didn't have a good answer to their last question,” recalls photographer Marko Djurica.

Two women wearing nun outfits drink beer while watching the 2014 Tim Hortons Brier curling championships in Kamloops, British Columbia

Two women

According to Ben Nelms:

“Although some people might conclude that a curling event could produce a dull atmosphere, it is actually far from it. Some of the most energetic and loyal fans are committed to showing their colors at tournaments around the world. There was a lull in the games that were being held on this day and I remember spotting these nuns sitting in their seats earlier. Although them just sitting there didn't produce a picture, I kept my eye on them for the entire match. As soon as I spotted them with beer in their hands, I slowly turned my camera towards them and waited for them to take a drink. One of the challenges of shooting this image was to not have everyone notice me taking the photo. I had a longer lens on and was right in the middle of the rink. I slowly turned my lens, not to make my intentions too obvious, and waited until they drank from their beers together.”

A man is doused with milk and sprayed with mist after being hit by an eye irritant from security forces in Ferguson, Missouri

man is doused

“As the evening rolled past midnight, I saw one man among the crowd who looked particularly agitated. He seemed to be a local resident, very upset with the police, and people were holding him back as he yelled towards the officers. As he kept shouting, the police targeted him with some kind of eye irritant it looked like pepper spray. He wasn't very close, but they got him right in the eye and his friends immediately pulled him to a parking lot nearby, where they poured milk on his face to flush away the effects of the spray. As they started to pour the milk, I began photographing and noticed a bright spotlight in the background. I believe it was from the police. At that point the people taking care of the man started spraying mist or water to further clear his eyes and I positioned my camera and used the light source to create a rim light around his head and bring attention to the droplets,” writes photographer Adrees Latif.

Italy's Giorgio Chiellini shows teeth marks on his shoulder where he was bitten by Uruguay's Luis Suarez, during their 2014 World Cup match

Giorgio Chiellini

“I was covering the match between Italy and Uruguay and it felt almost just like any other match. But in the second half, there was some strange contact between Italy's Giorgio Chiellini and Uruguay's Luis Suarez. I was following the action elsewhere on the pitch, but I saw them both fall down. They both looked like they were in pain, and I started to take pictures until Chiellini reacted angrily right in front of me, pulling down his shirt to reveal his shoulder. I shot some photos and, for me, the story was finished. But I only did part of the work. The second, very important part of the job was done by our great editors who spotted the teeth marks on Chiellini's shoulder, and a cropped version of my picture was sent out to our clients so they could see too,” remembers Tony Gentile.

Zhiliang, whose fiancee was onboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which disappeared on March 8


“Zhiliang is silhouetted at an empty house which he had planned to decorate with her for their marriage, in Tianjin, in this August 26, 2014, file photo. Almost six months had passed since the Malaysian Airlines MH370 disappeared. Although authorities concluded that the plane crashed in the remote Indian Ocean and lost all the passengers, many family members refuse to accept that conclusion. They hope that they are still alive. However, public interest towards this incident faded, so I decided to record what these family members are still going through and shed light on this mysterious incident once again. I thought that portrait-style pictures showing family members together with the missing passengers' mementos would tell a story. I was very careful not to hurt their feelings or invade their privacy when taking these pictures. My first priority was showing my respect for the family members, so before photographing them, I would wait to ask their permission to take pictures until I felt that they were ready and would always spend some time listening to them talk. Sometimes this brought tears to my eyes,” says Kim Kyung Hoon.

A large TVS (tornadic vortex signature) thunderstorm supercell passes over storm chaser Brad Mack in Graham, Texas

tornadic vortex signature

Gene Blevins remembers:

“I was covering the Tornado and Dixie Alleys, areas of the central and southern United States which are vulnerable to strong tornados, due to the severe weather forecast for that week. We had been chasing the storm for almost 18 hours when I saw this tornadic cell coming at us at about 45-50 miles per hour. With very little time, I had to quickly switch to a wider lens to capture the storm coming over us. The image shows just how big these cells are and how close we had to get to create the image. I had one chance to get the shot and I'm just happy I was able to switch lenses in time.”

Uttara Saud, 14, sits inside a Chaupadi shed in the hills of Legudsen village in Achham District in western Nepal

Uttara Saud

“Chaupadi is the practice of treating women as impure and untouchable when they menstruate. In isolated regions like Achham, chaupadi has been a custom for centuries. But those from Nepal's cities or from abroad often don't know what it means. When women go through their monthly cycle, they are not allowed to enter a house or pass by a temple. They cannot use public water sources, touch livestock, attend social events like weddings, or touch others. And at night, they are not allowed to sleep in their homes - instead they have to stay in sheds or outbuildings, often with no proper windows or doors. As I worked on this story, I met many women who had been affected by the tradition. Uttara Saud, a shy 14-year-old girl, told me that she has to miss school during her monthly cycle. I realized that chaupadi does not just bring discomfort and isolation to the women practicing it - sometimes they even have to pay with their lives. Isolated and poorly protected from the elements, they can be killed by snake bites, freezing weather, wild animal attacks, or fires they light to keep warm, which can cause blazes or suffocation in small sheds with poor ventilation. There have also been cases of these women, cut off from their families, being the victims of rape,” reveals Navesh Chitrakar.

Actress Angelina Jolie cries at the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial in Potocari, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Actress Angelina Jolie

"I was covering Angelina Jolie's visit to the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial and Cemetery, commemorating the brutal murder of 8,000 people in 1995, when she started to cry. Afterwards, she was due to visit rape victims' homes in the town of Zenica, so many photographers fled to the entrance to capture her departure. But I stayed on the floor, shooting, and was one of the lucky few to see her tears. Capturing this image was a challenge as there was a lot of traveling involved for very few photographs. The weather was hot, there was a lack of organization and I was often bothered by colleagues. But this image had a great impact when the whole world wrote about her visit to Bosnia, this photograph was especially powerful because of her tears. Angelina's tears and the photos I took meant a lot to me. I was happy because the whole world will hear about what happened in Srebrenica. But I was also sad, because of the reason for her arrival and because Srebrenica was mentioned solely in the context of war." - Dado Ruvic

A Hindu devotee worships in the polluted waters of the river Yamuna during the Hindu religious festival of Chatt Puja in New Delhi, India

Chatt Puja

“I enjoy photographing religious events, especially those which involve late evening and early morning shoots. Chatt Puja is a Hindu festival worshipping the Sun God Surya, and thousands of people come and go throughout the day. Upon searching for images to shoot I came across a portion of the river where the foam had gathered in large amounts. I saw the men trying to push back the layer of foam on top of the water to make enough space for the women to stand in order to complete the rituals before sunrise. It was quite a struggle, men against foam. It looks like soap or a mountain of snow but actually it's all pollutants from sewage waters flowing into the Yamuna river. I started shooting women praying but had one eye on the men working their way through the foam. Once they spotted the sun which took longer due the fog in the air the man in the picture was at his best. I had a minute and thankfully some clean space to frame it,” says photographer Ahmad Masood.

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