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Bulent Kilic: TIME Picks the Best Wire Photographer of 2014

Amidst a turbulent year, Bulent Kilic's photographs have consistently grabbed the attention of editors and viewers around the world

Wire photographers often work in the shadows — their names frequently overlooked in favor of their agencies’ monikers, from Agence France-Presse to Associated Press, Getty Images to Reuters, and many others.

For the past five years, TIME has turned the spotlight on these men and women who put everything on the line to bring us the news, to document what might otherwise go unseen. Their images have adorned the front pages of newspapers and covers of magazines around the world. Among these photographers, a handful of names repeatedly emerge from the fray.

Getty’s John Moore proved, once again, that he remains one of the best wire photographers out there, producing some of the most heart-wrenching and iconic images of this year’s Ebola outbreak in West Africa, where about 7,000 people have died. Oliver Weiken of European Pressphoto Agency (EPA) made a name for himself as well, documenting, early on, the African refugee crisis in Israel. In the summer, he made the long walk into Gaza — his third visit since October 2012 — where he produced an impressive series of images depicting the scale of the destruction in the coastal enclave during the seven-week war between Palestinian militant groups and Israel’s defense forces.

There’s no doubt we’ll see more of Moore and Weiken in 2015, but, when it comes to 2014, the year without a doubt belonged to AFP photographer Bulent Kilic.

The 35-year-old Turkish photographer, who joined the agency in 2003, systematically found himself at the heart of the news in Ukraine and Turkey all year. His striking, vivid and memorable images have captured the attention of photo editors across the planet, especially in October when he caught the exact moment when militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) were the target of an air strike near the contested Syrian town of Kobani.

For the last two months, however, Kilic has kept a low profile, working in Istanbul on local stories. “I was exhausted,” he says. “When I was covering the clashes in Kobani on the Syrian border, I would be driving every day, leaving the hotel at 5 a.m. and only coming back late at night.” That’s not the most ideal situation for a married photographer of an infant boy. “When you go on an assignment for many weeks or even months at a time, you have to find time to stay at home,” says the married photographer, who became the father of a boy this year.

Kilic’s busy year started in Ukraine where the pro-European protests took a turn for the worse in January and February. “I was sitting at home with my family, watching the television when I saw all of this black smoke in Kiev,” he says. “The photos [coming out of Ukraine] looked incredible.”

He asked his editors in Paris to go. “When I arrived in Kiev, the demonstrations were in their third month. It was still ongoing. I expected the situation to take a long time to develop.” Just hours later, Independence Square (known as Euromaidan), which had been overtaken by protesters, was a war zone, with pro-government forces firing on the crowd.

Bulent Kilic TIME 2014 Wire Photographer of the Year
Bulent Kilic (center), TIME’s 2014 Wire Photographer of the Year, in Turkey. Yasin Akgul

There’s no doubt in Kilic’s mind: his work in Ukraine stands out as one the best assignments he’s ever had. “You could just feel the emotions of thousands of people around you,” he says. “It felt good. The demonstrators were singing and chanting and I was there with them.”

But not everything went smoothly. Kilic had never been to Ukraine before, and he didn’t know how people would react to his work, especially when protesters started dying at the hand of pro-government snipers. “In the Arab world, people let you photograph people who have just been shot,” he says. “In Ukraine, I didn’t know what people would do.” So, he tried. “I saw this man die in front of me. I tried to photograph him, but his friends didn’t let me. They don’t like this kind of images.”

After a month in Ukraine, Kilic flew back to Istanbul, thinking he would be able to take a few days off. That’s when 15-year-old Berkin Elvan, who had been in a coma after being hit by a gas canister in the June 2013 street protests, died. “I felt that I needed to shoot this situation,” he says. “It was my responsibility, and I didn’t ask for any time off and just went to photograph the boy’s funeral.”

Over the following months, his images were again on front pages worldwide when 301 people died in the explosion and resulting fire at the Soma coal mine in Manisa, Turkey. “This was one of the biggest tragedies in Turkish history,” says Kilic. “I was there before other media organizations, and that’s when I took this picture of a man [kissing his son] when he came out of the mine. This was a very important photograph for me.”

Working around the mine wasn’t easy, though. “Some miners and their families were attacking the press,” he says. “You have to understand, their children, their husbands were trapped in the mine.” Kilic was targeted twice, necessitating police intervention to calm the crowd. But the photographer was unfazed. “You have to find a way to continue working,” he says. “You have to control the situation, but you shouldn’t stop.”

And Kilic never stopped working. On Sept. 15, he was driving home after a soccer game when an unexpected message came on the radio. “I heard a call for all Kurdish people to go to the border with Syria to save Kobani. I thought it wasn’t normal, and I felt something unusual was going on.”

He called his editors, booked his plane ticket to the region and the next day, he was on a Turkish hill in Yumurtalik overlooking Kobani, offering a direct view of the fighting between Kurdish forces and ISIS. “I thought this was going to be a very big story.” He wasn’t wrong. On Oct. 23, as Kilic learned that militants had planted their flag atop another hill, he rushed to find a villager that would allow him on the roof of their houses. “It was getting dark, and that’s when the bomb dropped.” Using a 400mm lens with a 1.7 converter, Kilic captured a series of four frames that showed the jaw-dropping explosion. The image has since appeared in most media organizations’ selections of the best photos of the year – including TIME’s Top 100.

“A lot of people ask me if it was easy to see these people killed in front of me. They ask me if I felt something,” says Kilic. “It wasn’t easy. But this is war, and these people are also killing other people. Sometimes, you can’t really feel anything. Sometimes, you don’t want to talk about it.”

Speaking matter-of-factly, “this is my life,” he says. “I chose this many years ago, and I’m still [learning] and trying to find my style. I’m a student of Yuri Kozyrev, James Nachtwey, Josef Koudelka, Robert Capa and Larry Burrows. I’ve been watching their work for many years to get a stronger vision. I can’t say that I’ve found it, but it’s starting to feel right.”

And with the support of his family — “they know I like this life and this job, and they respect it,” — and from AFP, Kilic is looking forward to 2015. “I don’t know where I’ll be going next. Maybe I’ll be back in Ukraine. But one thing I’ve learned in this job is that you have to be ready at all times.”

Bulent Kilic is a photographer with Agence France-Presse. He is TIME’s Wire Photographer of 2014. Previous winners include Muhammed Muheisen in 2013, Marco Longari in 2012, Pete Muller in 2011, and Mauricio Lima in 2010.

Phil Bicker, who edited this photo essay, is a Senior Photo Editor at TIME.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

TIME Syria

U.N.: $8.4 Billion Needed for Syria and Neighbors Hosting Refugees

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Guterres gestures during a news conference for the Global Humanitarian appeal for 2015 in Geneva
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres gestures during a news conference to launch of the Global Humanitarian appeal for 2015 at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva Dec. 8, 2014 Pierre Albouy—Reuters

Nations hosting refugees to also benefit from improvements to infrastructure and services

The U.N. is seeking $8.4 billion to help the nearly 18 million victims of the Syrian conflict.

The money will go toward jobs, education, public health and public works, reports the New York Times. The request for development aid is an acknowledgement that the conflict may last for many years and that it has seriously disrupted the lives of the Syrian people.

Syria’s war is still escalating,” said António Guterres, the head of the U.N. refugee agency, in a statement Thursday. “And the humanitarian situation is becoming protracted.”

For the first time, this war chest includes aid for neighboring countries, which are feeling the strain of the flood of Syrian refugees.

More than 12 million Syrians are displaced inside the country while 3.2 million have fled to neighbors such as Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Egypt and Jordan. The U.N. estimates that the number of Syrian refugees will rise to 4.3 million in 2015.

In addition to helping Syrian refugees, the U.N.’s financing plan includes estimates that 20.6 million people in host countries will benefit indirectly from improvements to infrastructure and services.

TIME

The Most Powerful Protest Photos of 2014

There wasn't a corner of the planet untouched by protest this year, from the tear-gassed streets of Ferguson to the student camps of Hong Kong

In 2011, TIME named the Protester as the Person of the Year, in recognition of the twin people-power earthquakes of the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street. TIME named the Ebola Fighters as the 2014 Person of the Year, but you could have forgiven if we went back to the Protester. There wasn’t a corner of the planet untouched by protest this year, from the tear-gassed streets of Ferguson, Missouri, to the squares of Mexico City, to the impromptu student camps of Hong Kong. Many of the protests were remarkably peaceful, like Occupy Hong Kong, which was galvanized by public anger over the overreaction of the city’s police. Others turned bloody, like the Euromaidan protests in Kiev, Ukraine, which eventually brought down the government of pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, in turn triggering a war that led to the annexation of Crimea by Russia, the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in May and the deaths of thousands of Ukrainians.

Not every protest was as effective as those that began the year in the cold of Kiev. Hong Kongers still don’t have full democratic rights, gay rights are on the retreat in much of east Africa and every day seems to bring news of another questionable police killing in the U.S. But the wave of social action that ended 2014 is unlikely to crest in 2015. The ubiquity of camera phones means no shortage of iconic photographs and videos from any protest, whether in Lima or Los Angeles, and social media gives everyone the means to broadcast. What follows are some of the most powerful images from the global streets in 2014.

TIME Turkey

Tourist Dies in Hot Air Balloon Accident in Turkey

(ISTANBUL) — A hot air balloon fell in the popular tourist region of Cappadocia on Wednesday, killing a Chinese tourist and injuring six other passengers from China and Malaysia, the region’s governor said.

Gov. Mehmet Ceylan said a sudden change of wind direction appeared to have caused the balloon — which took off from Goreme — to make a rough landing. The exact cause of the accident was under investigation, he added.

The injured tourists were hospitalized but were not in life-threatening condition, he said.

Dozens of hot air balloons carry tourists aloft most mornings in Goreme to watch the sunrise over the world-renowned landscape of geological formations in the area.

Three Brazilian tourists were killed last year when two balloons collided in flight over the Cappadocia region.

TIME isis

The Fight Against ISIS on the Border Between Turkey and Syria

Here's what the conflict looks like from the border town of Kobani

In recent weeks, the town of Kobani in Syria has become a symbol of resistance against Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) militants.

A battle to control the border city has raged for over two months between ISIS and Kurdish fighters, as the town occupies a strategic position on the Turkish border that, if it were to fall, would allow ISIS to control much of the region.

Every day, groups of Kurdish men and women gather to watch the war from across the border in Turkey as their relatives fight the extremist organization. One Kurdish supporter, Hasan Kara, spoke with fear if Kobani were to fall in the hands of ISIS. “As a Kurd I can’t just wait here and watch. Actually as a human being… they shouldn’t expect anyone to stand here and do nothing.”

In recent weeks, coalition forces led by the U.S. have conducted a series of air strikes near the border city and have dropped weapons, ammunition and medical supplies in the Kurdish held areas.

Turkey has resisted calls to help the Kurds in their offensive against the radical group, describing them as a terrorist group like the Kurdish militant group the PKK.

But with no clear victor in sight, and an estimated 1,400 killed during fighting according to the Syrian Observatory for Human rights, thousands of Syrian refugees have attempted to escape the war-torn town to reach refugee camps in neighboring Turkey.

 

 

 

 

TIME Turkey

Journalists, Police Are Detained in Turkish Raids

(ANKARA, Turkey) — Police conducted raids in a dozen Turkish cities Sunday, detaining at least 24 people — including journalists, TV producers and police — known to be close to a movement led by a U.S.-based moderate Islamic cleric who is a strong critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

It was the latest crackdown on cleric Fethullah Gulen’s movement, which the government has accused of orchestrating an alleged plot to try to bring it down. The government says the group’s followers were behind corruption allegations that last year that forced four Cabinet ministers to resign.

Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, denies the accusations.

During a speech on Saturday, Erdogan vowed to “bring down the network of treachery and make it pay.”

The state-run Anadolu Agency said a court issued a warrant to arrest 32 people connected to the movement, and that 24 of them were detained in raids in Istanbul and other cities across Turkey on Sunday. They included Ekrem Dumanli, the chief editor of Zaman newspaper, who was taken into custody at his paper’s Istanbul headquarters, which was broadcast live on television.

Those with arrest warrants included Hidayet Karaca, the chief executive of Samanyolu television, as well producers of two of its TV shows. Both Zaman and Samanyolu are affiliated with the movement.

Anadolu said those detained are suspected of “using intimidation and threats” to try to wrest control of state power. The state-run news agency said some of the police officers detained are suspected of fabricating crimes and evidence while investigating an organization close to the al-Qaida terror network back in 2010.

Hundreds of supporters gathered outside Zaman’s headquarters to protest the detention of Dumanli and other suspects, shouting: “Free press cannot be silenced.”

Turkey’s journalism associations also denounced the raids targeting journalists, while Human Rights Watch said the detentions look “like another attempt to crack down on critical media.”

Several police officers believed to be close Gulen’s movement were arrested earlier this year for alleged illegal wiretaps and other charges. The government has said it wants Gulen extradited to Turkey from the United States. Many see his moderate movement as an alternative to the more radical interpretations of Islam.

TIME infectious diseases

Avian Flu Outbreak in British Columbia Spreads to Seven Farms

The virus has affected 155,000 birds in the past week

A sudden spike in avian influenza cases in British Columbia in the past week has now spread to seven farms and affected thousands of birds, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Some 155,000 birds have either died or will be euthanized, the Associated Press reports.

The outbreak originated in the Fraser Valley near Vancouver last week, where turkeys and chickens from two farms tested positive for the H5N2 strain of the virus.

Although the bug does not pose a major threat to humans as long as the meat from these birds is cooked properly, its sudden resurgence a huge blow to the region’s poultry industry.

[AP]

TIME portfolio

The Best Pictures of the Week: Nov. 28 – Dec. 5.

From ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s acquittal to protests over Eric Garner’s chokehold death verdict and the launch of NASA’s unmanned exploration spacecraft Orion to the White House’s Christmas decorations, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

TIME celebrities

Why Did Meryl Streep Borrow Gwyneth Paltrow’s Oven on Thanksgiving Day?

Streep had a “Thanksgiving disaster”

Next time you find yourself faced with some kind of holiday cooking snafu, just remind yourself: Even Meryl Streep has these moments. The difference between us and Streep? We don’t get to ask our neighbor Gwyneth Paltrow to help bail us out.

Streep appeared on Live with Kelly and Michael Wednesday morning to promote her upcoming film Into the Woods, and shared a peek at how a certain conscious uncoupler had her back on Thanksgiving Day.

Streep, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Nov. 24, had a “Thanksgiving disaster,” she tells host Kelly Ripa. “My oven didn’t work. I hate my oven, I hate it, and you never hate your oven more than on Thanksgiving day when it won’t cook the turkey.”

Streep goes on to explain that they “cooked it for about eleven hours on low heat” and that the white meat was done, but the rest had to be tossed. “But my brother was in charge of the cooking so I could blame it on him,” she adds. Of course, there was still a problem: How to prepare the sides, and that’s where Paltrow came in.

“In my building is Gwyneth Paltrow. She has the best oven I have ever seen in my life,” Streep says. “So I emailed her, and they weren’t there, so I went over and I did all the sides in her oven, and my brother was in charge of the turkey that would not cook.”

Streep says that “The sides were fantastic,” and when Ripa asks if she “walked through” the rest of the GOOP founder‘s home, her answer was no. “I didn’t. I brought one of my daughters, who was dying to. They had to draw lots for who went with me. It’s a beautiful, beautiful place.”

And in case you wondering, Streep doesn’t have a spare key to Paltrow’s place. “The doorman let us in,” she explains.

This article originally appeared on People.com

TIME Turkey

Pope Francis Begins Turkey Visit

Pope Francis waves as he boards a plane at Fiumicino Airport in Rome
Pope Francis waves as he boards a plane at Fiumicino Airport in Rome Nov. 28, 2014 Giampiero Sposito—Reuters

The 77-year-old will become only the fourth Pontiff to visit the Muslim-majority nation

Pope Francis begins a three-day visit to Turkey on Friday, during which he is due to discuss threats to Christian communities in the Middle East with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

After meeting Erdogan, the 77-year-old Argentine will travel to Istanbul over the weekend. He claims to want to forge a closer relationship between the Catholic Church and the Muslim world, reports Al Jazeera.

Turkey boasts only around 80,000 Christians compared to 75 million Muslims. The nation has hit the headlines in recent months as a launching point for jihadists wanting to join the sectarian slaughter wreaked by groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS.)

A radical Sunni cult, ISIS has vowed to exterminate both the region’s Shia Muslims and Christian sects such as the Yazidis.

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