1,000 words and then some: The stories behind the shots

Curating the most unique perspectives from some of the world’s leading photographers, “1,000 words and then some” is AP’s monthly photo series that takes a look beyond the lens and camera data at the stories behind some of our favorite shots.

This month observes a wide spectrum of humanity in its many forms — from portraits of passionate conflict and the grief after devastation to welcome sights of collective celebration, the power of childhood imagination and unadulterated joy among the children at heart, even amidst the most austere settings.  

Produced for Canon by AP Content Services, the paid content service of The Associated Press.

Members of "Vella de Xiquets de Valls" try to complete their human tower during the 26th Human Tower Competition in Tarragona, Spain, on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. The tradition of building human towers, or Castells, dates back to the 18th century and takes place during festivals in Catalonia, where "colles,” or teams, compete to build the tallest and most complicated towers. The structure of the castells varies depending on their complexity. A castell is considered completely successful when it is loaded and unloaded without falling apart. The highest castell in history was a 10 floor structure with 3 people in each floor. In 2010 castells were declared by UNESCO one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

Model: Canon EOS 5D Mark III  Lens: EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM  Focal length: 35mm
F-Stop: 2.8  ISO speed: 400  Shutter speed: 1/800

From the photographer: "When the tower base is completed the participants begin climbing to create the different levels,” says Morenatti. “From that moment on, the whole audience is totally silent. A band of musicians play their drums and blow their trumpets accompanying the participant completing the last level, and when the youngest member reaches the upper levels, the crowd erupts in a roar. It is a very emotional moment when the ‘Enxaneta,’ a girl normally as young as 5, crowns the top and raises one hand with four fingers held up.”


Pope Francis frees a dove after meeting with Assyro-Chaldean community in the Chaldean catholic church of St. Simon Bar Sabbae in Tbilisi, Georgia, Friday, Sept. 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Model: Canon EOS-1D X Mark II  Lens: EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM  Focal length: 95mm  
F-Stop: 2.8  ISO speed: 3200  Shutter speed: 1/640

From the photographer: “During a Pope trip, the schedule is very tight and there is very little room for the unexpected, but sometimes it happens,” says Tarantino. “The Mass with the Chaldean community in a small church in the center of Tbilisi had just finished. The church was besieged by Orthodox opponents holding banners against the Vatican. The Georgian security was very concerned and we were almost kept outside of the church as a result. As we were leaving someone said, "Perhaps the Pope will free a dove,” so I rushed back toward the exit of the church crawling my way through a group of  believers armed with mobile phones and tablets to capture the moment. I managed to get a partial view of the spot where the pope was supposedly coming. Finally, he came out surrounded by several priests and cardinals and a child handed him a basket with the dove. The pope freed it very quickly and before I could even check my shots I suddenly felt something falling on my head. The poor dove had crashed onto my head and became tangled in my long hair and was desperately attempting to escape. As everybody was laughing an officer helped me and let the symbol of peace fly free.”


Children play at the top of a tent at Ritsona refugee camp north of Athens, which hosts about 600 refugees and migrants on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. The refugee crisis is expected to be a central issue in discussions Friday at a meeting in Athens of leaders from Mediterranean countries in the European Union. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Model: Canon EOS-1D X Mark II  Lens: 50mm  Focal length: 50mm  
F-Stop: 3.2  ISO speed: 200  Shutter speed: 1/1000

From the photographer: “I was at the Ritsona refugee camp as part of a series of visits for an in-depth story on the life of the 600 mostly Syrian camp residents when I saw these children bouncing on the roof of a tent in what looked like a parkour exercise,” says Giannakouris. “As I rushed toward the tent, shooting three or four frames on the run, I heard a voice calling to them from inside — the children’s mother. Seconds later, I was there, and they had disappeared. 

“Children, war refugees or not, will find a way to play with anything, anywhere, with whatever materials are at hand. They have an inexhaustible imagination and bounce, something that most adults seem to outgrow fast. Although these children live in rough conditions, they have all the outward signs of happiness.”


Jerry Lambert, left, a supporter of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, and Asa Khalif, a Black Lives Matter supporter, scuffle, after Khalif took Lambert's sign during a protest outside the location where Trump was to meet with African American business and civic leaders in Philadelphia, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)


Model: Canon EOS-1D X Mark II  Lens: EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM  Focal length: 24mm  
F-Stop: 2.8  ISO speed: 200  Shutter speed: 1/2000

From the photographer: “The photo was made at a demonstration outside of a campaign event for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump,” says Rourke. “Most of the people present were protesting in opposition of Trump except a small handful of supporters including Jerry Lambert. A short distance away from where I was monitoring the protest I saw Asa Khalif, a Black Lives Matter supporter, take Lambert’s sign from his hand as Lambert was being interviewed. I immediately began taking photographs as Lambert vigorously attempted to recover his sign from Khalif. Police officers promptly separated the two men. As a news photographer I have learned over the years that protests have a way of rapidly evolving, as did this one. Experience has also taught me to have my cameras ready and to be aware of my surroundings because one never knows when a picture may present itself. And when a situation does occur, I try to maintain my presence of mind to strike a balance between documenting and getting caught in the middle of an encounter.”


A couple embrace standing among the debris of their home destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Baracoa, Cuba, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016. The hurricane rolled across the sparsely populated tip of Cuba overnight, destroying dozens of homes in Cuba's easternmost city, Baracoa, leaving hundreds of others damaged.  (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Model: Canon EOS-1D X Mark II  Lens: EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM  Focal length: 24mm  
F-Stop: 2.8  ISO speed: 200  Shutter speed: 1/2000

From the photographer: “The afternoon when Matthew was impacting Baracoa, I walked down from the Malecon to Third Street, where the government had evacuated everyone there to avoid victims,” says Espinosa. “However, some residents were still in their homes to prevent theft while the hurricane was tearing through the walls of houses leaving their belongings exposed. I walked again and again through the streets in the storm looking for images that could show what was happening when a man named David offered me his house to protect myself from the storm. He had no idea that the next day his house would be totally destroyed by the waves of Hurricane Matthew. 

“At dawn, I returned to that same area where I was walking the day before and found that everything was destroyed. I saw a couple hugging disconsolately on the rubble of their house, and prepared to take a photo. As I tried to take an image I realized that because of the amount of seawater that fell on my cameras the previous day, my autofocus was malfunctioning. I was able to manually focus the lens and get some images of the moment the couple was hugging. In the nervousness of those seconds, though, thinking I might miss the moment, I leaned my left foot too hard on the rubble and the debris caved and my foot became trapped between two metal plates of a roof. I tried to get it out but couldn't and noticed that it was cutting the skin of my foot, so I decided not to try to move it. I continued taking pictures of the activity around me until it calmed down enough to ask someone to help me get my foot unstuck.

“A few minutes later, the man from the photo of the couple I had just taken came over to help. I realized it was David, the man who had taken me into his home the day before to shelter me from the storm. He helped me bend the metal plates so I could get out and continue taking the images of the disaster.”


Men on horseback ride through a pine tree forest chased by a brave bull in Tordesillas, Spain, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. Men on horseback and on foot traditionally have chased the bull and speared it in front of thousands of onlookers in what became known as one of Spain's goriest spectacles, but amid increasing protests by animal rights activists the regional government last year banned the killing of bulls at town festivals, though traditional bullfights were not affected. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

Model: Canon EOS-1D X  Lens: EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM  Focal length: 35mm  
F-Stop: 3.5  ISO speed: 800  Shutter speed: 1/800

From the photographer: “I decided to pack light with just a camera and a lens since I was going to be on foot and the area of this event is huge,” says de Olza. “You can end up running miles just to end up tired in front of the horns of a charging bull, and then you really will need to run! To avoid the danger of a bull raised to be strong, furious and brave is not an easy task. In the site where this special running of the bull event takes place, the charging bull can move freely between a pine tree forest and an open field area. As long as you are in the pine tree forest, you are more or less fine, as you always can hide behind a tree. When you are in the open field, though, it is much harder to find a safe place. A brave bull is no joke at all, and can easily kill you. Three years ago, a photographer was badly gored in a leg and took years to recover, so it's better to be as careful as possible. Even still, there's no sure way to avoid the bull charging you, as it is a brave animal in a very stressful situation.”


A model displays a 2017 Spring/Summer design by Devota & Lomba at the Madrid's Fashion Week in Madrid, Spain, Friday, Sept. 16, 2016 . (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

Model: Canon EOS-1D X  Lens: EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM  Focal length: 70mm  
F-Stop: 3.2  ISO speed: 800  Shutter speed: 1/30

From the photographer: “The catwalk was illuminated with strong lights and there's no light pointing to the public,” says de Olza. “I set up the camera to expose for the public, who watch the show from the darkness, and waited for a blonde model wearing white clothes to walk by. The hard lights of the catwalk reflect so much light that it overexposes the model to become flat white, giving to it this ghost-like appearance. When I was in the pressroom writing the caption for this picture, a writer from a magazine came to me to showing me some pictures and complaining that she took the pictures with her phone and she had the same problem as me, and ‘the clothes are completely white on the picture too' and how we can fix it. When I told her that I was doing that on purpose, she walked away questioning why I would want to shoot a fashion picture like that. She didn't even wait me to help her with the exposure of her phone’s picture!”


A woman dances with flags at Tiananmen Square on National Day in Beijing, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016. Saturday marks the 67th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Model: Canon EOS 5D Mark III  Lens: EF35mm f/1.4L USM  Focal length: 35mm  
F-Stop: 1.4  ISO speed: 160  Shutter speed: 1/2000

From the photographer: “This picture was taken at Tiananmen Square on China’s National Day, when every year thousands of people crowd the square to watch the flag-raising ceremony at dawn,” says Schiefelbein. “I saw this woman set down a bag and start taking brightly colored flags out, so I drifted closer to see what she was going to do. She began twirling and dancing to music that only she could hear. I waited for her to turn until she was facing me, and then fired off a few frames as she looked upward with an expression of joy on her face. To my surprise, neither her fellow tourists nor the omnipresent Chinese security personnel, who are always on guard for any disruption or protest, seemed to pay much attention to her. After a few minutes she stopped, rolled her flags up and put them in her bag, and disappeared back into the crowd.”


Members of a South Korean military honor guard throw their guns into the air during the 68th anniversary of Armed Forces Day at the Gyeryong military headquarters in Gyeryong, South Korea, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)


Model: Canon EOS-1D X Mark II  Lens: EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM  Focal length: 262mm  
F-Stop:6.3  ISO speed: 3200  Shutter speed: 1/2000

From the photographer: “It was military honor guard ceremony for the country’s Armed Forces Day, and they showed a variety of different honor guard skills,” says Jin-man. “At the beginning, I was shooting in front of them, but I knew that eventually they would throw their guns into the air, so I moved to the side position. Members of the honor guard stood in a row and I searched for the best composition, and then waited for the moment. In choosing this picture, I liked the soldiers’ faces and guns. Other pictures showed the guns much higher, but I loved their pattern in this photo.”


In this Friday, Sept. 16, 2016 photo, a nun confronts Bolivarian National Police officers as they block demonstrators during an opposition protest in Caracas, Venezuela. The opposition called for protests across the country to demand from the government clear legal conditions for the collection of voter signatures that would enable a recall referendum on the mandate of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Model: Canon EOS 5D Mark III  Lens: EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM  Focal length: 16mm  
F-Stop: 3.5  ISO speed: 200  Shutter speed: 1/1000

From the photographer: “People walked quietly on this Caracas street until a barrier of policemen dressed in anti-riot gear blocked the way, and little by little the protesters were piling up and shouting slogans against the government and trying to continue the march,” says Llano. “After a while, without success, this nun appeared and with a calm but forceful voice asked to speak with the commander of the police officers. To much heat, noise and jostling, this woman prayed and asked God for the police commander to change his order and permit to resume the march. After a while, the nun disappeared and the protest dissolved peacefully.”


This post was produced for Canon, AP’s exclusive vendor of still photography equipment, by AP Content Services, the paid content service of The Associated Press.


AP photographers were interviewed by a third-party reporter on behalf of Canon.


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