Phil Coomes, Picture editor

Phil Coomes Picture editor

Exploring the world of photojournalism, photos in the news and BBC News' use of photographs, including those by our readers

The Rwanda photographs that reunited families

5 April 2014
Polaroid photographs of separated children taken for Save the Children's tracing programme after the genocide in Rwanda

Throughout my years at the BBC I have watched photographs arrive on the news wires from all parts of the globe, many depicting the latest conflict, natural disaster or refugee crisis.

The images are often distressing and stick in the mind, yet the conflict in Rwanda from 20 years ago is arguably one that saw some of the most heart-wrenching pictures I have seen. Plus, some that are beyond description.

Between April and June 1994, in the space of 100 days, extremist Hutus slaughtered some 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis but also some moderate Hutus. You can read the background to that in other stories on this site, but I wanted to mark the moment here.

There are times when a photograph can raise awareness of an event and perhaps act as a catalyst for action, and at other times they can seem to be little more than an intrusion into times of sorrow. Sometimes, even when the event depicted is one of total horror, the world fails to react in a way that perhaps we'd hope it might. Of course there might be complex and diverse reasons for that.

A Polaroid photograph of a separated child taken for Save the Children's tracing programme after the genocide in Rwanda

But there are also pictures that do so much more, and a set of photographs unearthed in the offices of Save the Children in Kigali, Rwanda, did just that. They are not well-crafted pictures by professionals, but Polaroid snaps that do what photography does best by providing a facsimile of the real world. These pictures changed lives, and gave some hope for their future.

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Tackling the hidden weapons left behind

4 April 2014
After inserting a special pin to stop the mine initiating, team leader Salahaddin Mahamad carefully lifts the crown out of the body of a V69 Valmara mine, Iraq 2010

Photojournalist Sean Sutton has worked for Mines Advisory Group (MAG), a not-for-profit humanitarian organisation, since 1997, after almost a decade covering conflicts as a freelance photographer. To mark International Landmine Awareness Day, he has written about his work and selected some of his pictures from his archive from the past 25 years.

I started my career as a photographer back in 1988 and found myself drawn to conflict and the impact it had on people's lives.

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Rural India in black and white

2 April 2014
Despite the torrential rains, cyclists continue to move indifferent to their discomfort. 1977-79

Gianni Berengo Gardin is one of Italy's most celebrated living photographers, best known for his pictures of his post-war homeland.

An exhibition of the work is to be held at Prahlad Bubbar gallery in London, the first UK exhibition of the project since he was selected by Bill Brandt for the Twentieth Century Landscape Photographs exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1975.

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Under the flight path, the landscape of Heathrow

2 April 2014
Heathrow's perimeter wall

London Mayor Boris Johnson has announced that a new city with 190,000 homes and thousands of jobs could be created if the capital's hub airport moves from Heathrow in west London to a new airport in the Thames Estuary. The Airports Commission will rule on the Estuary option later this year.

Photographer Dan Norwood who completed a Masters in Photojournalism from Westminster University last year has been working on a project entitled, Heathrow Villages, in which he explores the area around the current airport.

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A Fine Beginning: Made in Wales

14 March 2014

The photographic collective is not a new idea - but it seems to be enjoying a resurgence, with small bands of photographers finding common ground to work together on combined projects or each taking a different angle on a theme or region.

The latest of these to catch my eye is A Fine Beginning, which was established last year by James O Jenkins and offers a platform to photographers working in Wales. Their first exhibition opens on 14 March at Arcade Cardiff and runs until the end of the month.

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24 photographers capture 24 hours

28 February 2014
Photographs by the 24 House team

Each year 24 photographers document the first 24 hours of every New Year, each one tasked with capturing a single moment within their allotted hour.

The original 24 met while on a postgraduate photography course at Central Saint Martin's in London more than 10 years ago and this is the 11th year of the series which they hope will run for 24 years.

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An evocative view of London's streets

27 February 2014
Giacomo Brunelli, Untitled from the series Eternal London, 2012-2013

Italian photographer Giacomo Brunelli's latest body of work focuses on the streets of London, rendering the landscape in atmospheric black and white.

The series was commissioned by The Photographers' Gallery and includes a number of London landmarks, but with each reduced to act as the backdrop to the moment that caught Brunelli's attention.

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Faces of the Floods

20 February 2014
5. A Moorland villager clears debris in his front garden

The recent floods in the UK have affected about 6,500 homes, forcing many people to leave their properties and others to fight as best they can to try to keep the water out.

As the worst of the weather passed, photographer Charlie Clift headed to one of the areas affected to create Faces of the Floods, a project that he says "shows the incredible effort and solidarity among those tackling the difficulties in the Somerset Levels".

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Trading to extinction

11 February 2014
A small group of Royal Nepalese soldiers patrol the Royal Chitwan National Park (RCNP) at dawn

On 14 February, the UK government is hosting an international conference on the illegal trade in wildlife, at which it hopes to obtain high-level political commitment from governments around the world to fight the issue.

According to the government, the illegal wildlife industry is worth more than £6bn each year, and it is growing. Rhino horns can sell for up to £40,000 ($65,000) per kg, making it more expensive than gold. According to Cites - the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species - more than 22,000 elephants were slaughtered for their tusks in 2012.

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Syrian refugees looking for a life in Lebanon

24 January 2014
Syrian refugees in Lebanon

The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has now passed one million, according to a recent government estimate. Many have nowhere to go, few possessions and are struggling to survive. In some villages, near the border, the refugees now outnumber the Lebanese residents.

In December, photographer Ed Thompson travelled to Lebanon to photograph some of those displaced from their homes by the Syrian conflict.

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About Phil

Phil has worked in the photographic arena for many years, as both a photographer and picture editor, primarily at the BBC where he has covered news stories, features and audio slideshows, both in the UK and abroad.

He obtained a BA (Hons) in photography from the University of Westminster where he studied under Andy Golding, Tom Ang and Gus Wylie, the latter of whom instilled in him his love of the colour photographic document and street photography.

Despite the obvious advantages of digital photography in news, Phil can often be found running film through his old cameras and spent 64 weeks shooting a project to mark the end of Kodachrome in 2010.

Phil is a member of the British Press Photographers Association.

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