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The mining town of Chiatura, Georgia, surrounded by steep cliffs, is criss-crossed by a network of aging Soviet-era aerial tramways that are still in use today. In the early 20th century, after the U.S.S.R. annexed Georgia, Soviet authorities were intent on extracting the vast manganese deposits beneath Chiatura. In the 1950s, planners began work on what locals call the "Kanatnaya Doroga," or "rope road," that still connects almost every corner of the town. Today, while some of the cars have rusted away, 17 of the aging tramways remain in service. Photographer Amos Chapple (who previously took us inside Iran and Turkmenistan) recently visited Chiatura, where he became fascinated with the cable cars and the locals who operate and ride them daily. [20 photos]

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Travel photographer Amos Chapple recently crossed into Turkmenistan on a three-day transit visa and was able to photograph many of the sights and monuments in Ashgabat, the capital and largest city. Turkmenistan is a single-party country, a former Soviet state, run by a president at the center of a cult of personality. Chapple: "Twice before I'd had tourist visa applications rejected, so it felt like entering a forbidden place. When we drove into Ashgabat I assumed there was some kind of holiday taking place -- the streets and all these beautiful parks stood deserted. In the area I first walked there were more soldiers than civilians. They patrol the city center and are extremely jumpy about photographs. Twice, soldiers shouted at me from a distance then ran up and demanded pictures be deleted." Ashgabat was recently noted by the Guinness Book of World Records as having the most white marble-clad buildings in the world -- 543 new buildings lined with white marble covering a total area of 4.5 million square meters. (Also, see earlier photographs by Chapple featured here in March: A Trip to Iran) [20 photos]

A young couple leave the Alem Entertainment Center in Ashgabat. The current president has a history of breaking obscure records. In 2012 the wheel atop this complex was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest enclosed Ferris wheel. The structure was built at a cost of $90m. (© Amos Chapple)     

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Kaspersky Lab

Researchers have uncovered an ongoing, large-scale computer espionage network that's targeting hundreds of diplomatic, governmental, and scientific organizations in at least 39 countries, including the Russian Federation, Iran, and the United States.

Operation Red October, as researchers from antivirus provider Kaspersky Lab have dubbed the highly coordinated campaign, has been active since 2007, raising the possibility it has already siphoned up hundreds of terabytes of sensitive information. It uses more than 1,000 distinct modules that have never been seen before to customize attack profiles for each victim. Among other things, components target individual PCs, networking equipment from Cisco Systems, and smartphones from Apple, Microsoft, and Nokia. The attack also features a network of command-and-control servers with a complexity that rivals that used by the Flame espionage malware that targeted Iran.

"This is a pretty glaring example of a multiyear cyber espionage campaign," Kaspersky Lab expert Kurt Baumgartner told Ars. "We haven't seen these sorts of modules being distributed, so the customized approach to attacking individual victims is something we haven't seen before at this level."

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Post-Soviet countries on the Caspian Sea face “the painful period of societal adolescence,” says Berlin-based photographer Mila Teshaieva. Twenty years after the fall of the U.S.S.R., countries in this oil-lush region continue to search for new national identities. Teshaieva’s project Promising Waters explores economic realities in three Caspian Sea states: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. “From almost the very beginning,” she says, “this story was about the dreams and changes both originated in and stimulated by the Caspian resources.”

Teshaieva’s lens responds to the sense of uncertainty in the region, and her subjects are striking, from migrant Uzbek workers building mausoleums for the new rich in Kazakhstan to refugees living in plywood settlements in Azerbaijan. The desolation and empty landscapes in her photos point to a fragile future. “Fishermen don’t know if they will find fish. Refugees are waiting to learn if they can return to Karabakh. The luxury resort remains empty,” Teshaieva says.

The photographer recalls one moment in her travels that captured the essence of Promising Waters. While she was working in Turkmenistan, her driver could not read the road signs or directions—the alphabet was changed from Cyrillic to Latin 20 years ago, and he has yet to learn the new symbols. Instead, he has resorted to intuition to find his routes. Teshaieva’s narrative in Promising Waters is the same idea: “I want to tell about societies that have lost direction but try to find the way, despite not being able to read signs,” she says.

Mila Teshaieva will be revisiting the region on March 29, 2012 to continue her project. She is a Berlin-based photographer represented by Laif photo agency, Cologne. See more of her work here.

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While photographer Anoek Steketee and writer Eefje Blankevoort traveled through Northern Iraq in 2006, researching a story on the Kurds and their efforts to create a united Kurdistan, they stumbled across a surreal scene amidst the daily reports of kidnappings and sectarian violence—an amusement park called Dream City, located on what was formerly a military base for Saddam Hussein. While outside the gates they may have been at war, inside the Disney-like park the pair saw Arabs and Americans, Christians and Muslims, Shiites and Sunnis peacefully rubbing shoulders while strolling around eating ice cream and popcorn, or waiting patiently in line for the bumper cars.

That visit spurred a four-year journey, documented in their series Dream City, through the world of carnies and Ferris wheels from Rwanda to Turkmenistan. The parks’ surreal fairy-tale settings, with perfectly manicured gardens in areas torn by genocide and ethnic clashes, showed the duo that the desire to escape from reality is a universal human need. Which was something America’s great creator of amusement parks, Walt Disney, based his empire on. “I don’t want the public to see the world they live in,” said Disney describing his parks, “I want them to feel they’re in another world.”

TIME‘s Alexander Ho spoke to Steketee about the project:

Did you ever encounter any sort of trouble from park security or local police? 

Most of the time, the management of the parks welcomed us. But there were some incidents. In Turkmenistan, the authorities are not so happy with western journalists. We went on a tourist visa to avoid any restrictions in our movements. After a few days working in the park we had to go with the security and hand over the material. Fortunately I was able to avoid giving it to them, but we were forced to stop photographing and were refused further access to the park. In Israel, it took me a few hours to convince the security that I was coming with all the equipment just to photograph amusement parks.

Are there plans to continue the project? Are there shows slated this year for Dream City to be exhibited—perhaps in America?

At the moment we are looking for the possibilities to bring it to the USA, and after that, to Colombia and the other places we visited for the project, like Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, China and Indonesia. Also, in cooperation with FOTODOK, an educational program is being developed which we would like to bring with along with the exhibition.

What projects do you have coming up? 

Our next project is, among others, about a popular radio soap opera in Rwanda, which is a sort of Romeo and Juliet story situated in two villages in the countryside.

Dream City is published by Kehrer Verlag. More of Steketee’s work can be seen on her website at: www.anoeksteketee.com.

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The Caspian Sea is bordered by five countries, Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan. The Caspian Sea is what remains of the ancient ocean. Around 60 million years ago the this ancient ocean connected the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Due to shifting of continents it lost its connection with the Pacific Ocean and then with the Atlantic Ocean. Chloe Dewe Mathews’ work on the Caspian Sea recently won the British Journal of Photography’s International Photography Award and will be exhibited in London at the Foto8 Gallery from Nov 22nd until Dec 5th. David Land of f2 Magazine caught up with Mathews as she hitchhiked her way back to Britain from China.

Mathews:

“.. I was mostly shooting in Central Asia (Xinjiang China, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan) but now I´m only weeks away from home. My boyfriend (who is also an artist) and I, wanted to do a substantial journey from Asia to Europe without flying, to get a sense of the gradual changes that occur as you move from East to West. We’ve been primarily hitchhiking, and crossing the seas by boat, to get a more immediate sense of the places we are traveling through. Although I did preliminary research, I didn’t want preconceived projects to dictate the way I worked. Rather I wanted to respond to whatever situations we found ourselves in, and once an idea had struck, I could go deeper from there. It´s been a real reconnaissance trip for a lifetime’s work ahead and an education, of course.

One of the biggest challenges has been knowing when to take photographs and when not to. There were periods when I didn’t take out my camera at all, which made me worry that I was wasting opportunities. I had to remind myself that sitting, listening, talking, watching, gathering is as important a part of being a photographer as shooting. Besides, sometimes if you are too busy taking pictures within the boundaries of a certain project, you are blind to what is happening right in front of you. I didn’t want that to happen during this trip.”

All images courtesy Chloe Dewe Mathews/Panos


A woman bathes in a bath of oil at the Naftalan sanatorium. Each session, patients bathe for ten minutes in a tub of crude oil. The oil is heated to 37 degrees for optimum effectiveness, Azerbaijan.


The SOCAR (State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic) oil fields in Ramana on the Absheron Peninsula. Wells in the Caspian were being hand-dug in the region as early as the 10th century and the world’s first offshore and machine drilled wells were built on the Absheron Peninsula during the 1870′s, Azerbaijan.


Boys splash in the Caspian Sea, in the shadow of oil rigs at Sixov beach in Baku, Azerbaijan.


A mother and daughter sit on the artificial sea wall in Astara, near the border with Iran. The Caspian Sea borders are still unresolved between these two countries, almost twenty years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Both countries claim ownership of lucrative oil fields in the southern waters, which has led to a series of confrontations, as each side has forged exploratory missions to profit from the region, Azerbaijan.


Two sisters run down to the underground mosque in Beket-Ata near the Caspian Sea. They have come on a pilgrimage with their family from Aktau, to pray for the recovery of their uncle, Kazakhstan.


In a coastal cemetery, Uzbek migrant workers wear makeshift masks and sunglasses to protect themselves from the sun’s glare, reflecting off the mussel-chalk they work with. They are building elaborate mausoleums for the newly rich middle class. These grave builders work from dawn til dusk, sleeping on site for months at a time, Kazakhstan.


An Uzbek migrant worker pastes plaster into the cracks of a mausoleum. When the Koshkar-Ata cemetery was first established mausoleums were reserved for local saints, a status that was obtained through wisdom and benevolence, through contributions to the well being of the community. Today the splendid tombs belong to the local oil barons. These grave builders work from dawn til dusk, sleeping on site for months at a time, Kazakstan.

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EARLY MORNING FIRE EARLY MORNING FIRE: Firefighters battled a fire Thursday in Dubuque, Iowa. A family fleeing their flooded home ignited the blaze when they tried to start their partially submerged car. (Jeremy Portje/Telegraph Herald/Associated Press)

JOYOUS CROWD JOYOUS CROWD: Fans of the Indonesian national soccer team celebrated their team’s Thursday 4-3 victory over Turkmenistan during a match in Jakarta, Indonesia. ( Adek Berry/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

FOREST BLAZE FOREST BLAZE: A helicopter sprayed water to extinguish a forest fire that started Thursday morning near Nelas, Portugal. (Nuno Andre Ferreira/European Pressphoto Agency)

A MAZE OF SLIDES A MAZE OF SLIDES: A visitor slid down a water slide Thursday at a water park built inside Beijing’s National Aquatics Center, also known as the Water Cube, in China. (Diego Azubel/European Pressphoto Agency)

WATER FOUNTAIN WATER FOUNTAIN: People rested Thursday near a water fountain in Moscow. (Nikolay Korchekov/Reuters)

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Let’s start with some World Press Photo winners’ interviews…

Interviews - Daniel Morel (BJP: February 2011)

Interviews - Jodi Bieber (Mediaclubsouthafrica: February 2011)

InterviewsAndrew McConnell (Msnbc: February 2011) Photoblog exclusive: Interview with World Press Photo winner Andrew McConnell

InterviewsMichael Wolf (BJP: February 2011) World Press Photo: Is Google Street View photojournalism?

Photographers - Michael Wolf

I took another look at the winners gallery on the Word Press Photo site, and I couldn’t feel a bit baffled that the 1st prize sports story went to photographer Adam Pretty for ‘sports portfolio’… his photos were great, but how portfolio can be seen as a story, I don’t understand…I preferred the 2nd prize winner Tomasz Gudzowaty’s Mexico Car Frenzy piece in the sense that it was a clear story and very, very strong… Had to check out his personal site…

Photo: Tomasz Gudzowaty

PhotographersTomasz Gudzowaty

Wasn’t familiar with his work before…Neither did I know of these photographer…no that they were the only ones…

Daily Life 2nd prize singles winner…

PhotographersMalte Jaeger

Daili life 2nd prize stories winner…

PhotographersFernando Moleres

It was nice to see some smiles in the World Press Photo winners gallery too..Such a great and simple idea by Amit Madheshiya…

The above is from Arts and Entertainment: 1st prize stories

Interesting fact, if true, in Scott Strazzante tweet yesterday…”All you need to know about subjectivity of contests- World Press Photo of the Year voted out in 1st round of POYi portrait judging”

Articles – BagNewsNotes: What’s Wrong with the World Press Choice of “Photo of the Year”? (BNN: February 2011)

Articles – DuckRabbit: World Press or Propaganda? (Duckrabbit: Februrary 2011)

Articles - Joerg Colberg: It is that time of the year again(Conscientious: February 2011)

Photos: Jodi Bieber (left); Steve McCurry (right)

Articles – David Campbell: Thinking Images v.10: Jodi Bieber’s Afghan girl portrait in context (David Campbell blog: February 2011)

Articles – Jeremy Nicholl: An Unfortunate Event At World Press Photo (Jeremy Nicholl blog: February 2011)

Articles - Greg Ruffing: On Technology and Photography: Damon Winter in POY, Michael Wolf in World Press (Photographer’s blog: February 2011)

POYi…

Articles - PDN: Damon Winter Wins Newspaper Photographer of the Year at POYi (PDN: February 2011)

Bill Allard on photo contests…

Articles - William Albert Allard: Awards (Photographer’s blog: February 2011)

PhotographersWilliam Albert Allard

Back to Cairo….

Photo: Alex Majoli

Features and Essays - Alex Majoli: The Agony and Ecstacy (Newsweek: February 2011) Egypt

Photo: Peter Turnley/Corbis

Features and Essays - Peter Turnley: Turning Point of Revolution in Egypt (Photographer’s website: February 2011) Same series on The Online Photographer with interesting notes by Turnley himself.

Photo: David Degner

Features and Essays - WSJ (David Degner and Guy Martin): Celebrations Follow Resignation in Egypt (WSJ: February 2011)

More photos added since Saturday to the Cairo gallery by Dominic Nahr on the TIME website…

Features and Essays – Dominic Nahr: Uprising in Cairo (TIME: February 2011)

Features and Essays – Etienne De Malglaive: Fort Liberty in Tahrir Square (Photographer’s archive: February 2011)

Articles - BJP: Dispatches from Tahrir Square – Photographers recount their experiences in Cairo and look at the future (BJP: February 2011)

Photo: Francesco Alesi

Features and Essays – Francesco Alesi: The Limbo Nation (Parallelo Zero: 2011) Nagorno Karabakh, South Caucasus

Features and Essays - Ed Kashi: The Leaves Keep Falling (VII Magazine: February 2011) Legacy of Agent Orang

Features and Essays – Richard Nicholson: London’s Last Darkrooms (Telegraph: February 2011)

Features and Essays – Evan Joseph: New York City At Night (Telegraph: February 2011)

Features and Essays – David Trilling: Turkmenistan: While Officials Frolic, Caspian Gas Mecca Rusts and Groans (Eurasianet.org: 2011)

Features and Essays - Sebastien van Malleghem: Police (burn: February 2011)

Poulomi Basu’s To Conquer Her Land now in Guernica….

Features and Essays - Poulomi Basu: To Conquer Her Land (Guernica: February 2011)

Daniel Cuthbert’s Bushmen on BBC…

Features and Essays - Daniel Cuthbert: South Africa’s Bushmen under threat (BBC: February 2011)

Eugene Richards interview Gerry Badger did with him in 2009…related to his War is Personal work and book

InterviewsEugene Richards (BJP: 2009)

Speaking of books…Congratulations again to Ben Lowy …

Photo: Ben Lowy

Articles – BJP: Benjamin Lowy wins First Photography Book Prize (BJP: February 2011)

Articles - CDS Awards: William Eggleston Selects Benjamin Lowy to Win First Book Prize in Photography (CDS: February 2011)

More books…

BooksDewiLewis : new 2011 catalogue is now available to download.

Interviews - Larry Clark (Guardian: February 2011)

InterviewsPhilip Lorca di Corcia (NYT: February 2011)

Interviews - Jon Levy (Vimeo)

Intervews - Misha Erwitt (Leica blog: 2011)

Saw Andrew Burton tweet this: “If you work, contribute or are interested in any form of media, entertainment or journalism, READ THIS:”

Articles - NYT: David Carr: At Media Companies, a Nation of Serfs (NYT: February 2011)

Articles – NYT: War Photographer Remembered at Paris Show (NYT: 2011)

Articles - A Photo Editor: Recent Facebook Changes Are Bad For Professional Photographers (APE: February 2011)

Articles - Verve Photo: Rachel Mummey (Verve: February 2011)

My friend Conor O’Leary, is probably even a bigger PJ hound than me… tweeted this the other day…

“New website and new work from Mikhael Subotzky”…better check it out then…

The above is from Subotzky’s couple of years old Beaufort West series

PhotographersMikhael Subotzky … the new work

Photographers - Will Berridge

AgenciesVII Network February 2011 newsletter

InterviewsEdward Linsmier (Tampabay.com: February 2011) St. Petersburg Times photo intern Edward Linsmier

Resources - Shakodo

TutorialsHow to shoot video for News and documentary (iTunes)

Resources - The Pocket Locator | more info

Videos / InterviewsPhotographer Alec Soth on a Life of Approaching Strangers (Youtube)

Grants - Michael P. Smith Fund For Documentary Photography

To finish off, a joke… “So this SEO expert walks into a bar, grill, pub, public house, Irish bar, bartender, drinks, beer, wine, liquor…” via @pud

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