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Photos from the terrorist attack in Mumbai

When the terrorists opened fire inside Cafe Leopold in Mumbai, I was across the street a few meters away. After the terrorists had left to begin their rampage at the Taj Palace Hotel nearby, I arrived inside the restaurant and discovered carnage, mayhem, and death. I started documenting the following events with my point and shoot camera and then ran to my hostel nearby to grab my camera gear and spent the next week documenting the attack and the resilient spirit of the people of Mumbai. You can find these photos in my galleries

by Andri Tambunan at 2008-12-05 14:14:24 UTC Mumbai , India | Bookmark | | Report spam→

Cafe Leopold stuff is great. Have you published these images elsewhere?

by [former member] | 05 Dec 2008 16:12 | Brooklyn, United States | | Report spam→
Agree Alan, but maybe there are other words besides “great?” I was thinking of “horrendous,” as well, just to qualify it.

Andri, there are a few frames that you might want to enter in World Press— for example perhaps the shot of the bullet casing, and a few others.

Also I don’t know your background but if you are not used to scenes of violence but make certain to check in with your inner self from time to time….or maybe some yoga, I find in very good for that kind of thing.

by [former member] | 05 Dec 2008 18:12 | | Report spam→
what i mean by great is: uncensored, dramatic, well-seen, well-documented, close and direct photographic reportage of the horrendous terrorist attack. better than anything i’ve seen published elsewhere, and therefore deserving to be seen by a wider audience.

Some other thoughts: the rest of the galleries show (if I am reading the images right) how access was restricted (necessarily) after the initial hours and the images of the Taj hotel burning and the police forces on the scene aren’t different from what we did see from the wires. So Tambunan’s luck was to be right at Cafe Leopold when the horror began, to survive, most importantly, and then to do his job as hie saw it, and well.

The pictures he made in those first few minutes or hour are by far the best and most important. Which is not to detract from his diligent coverage in the following days as the sieges played out, but simply to point out that what he did initially turned out to be crucial.

The other photos do show how woefully under-equipped the Mumbai police force was…they are using World War II era Lee-Enfield bolt action rifles! These are still fine, accurate guns, but they had no scopes for them and the bolt action is no match for the Kalashnikov AK automatic rifles that the terrorists had. The final death toll includes something like 18 dead from the Indian security forces, including high ranking officers, and I, for one, wonder if this wasn’t partially because they were badly outgunned by the terrorists. Even the better equipped commandos and rapid-reaction teams that showed up later (hours later) are not up to the level of equivalent units in the other countries…you see snipers climbing up onto the Gateway Of India monument, a few hundred meters away from the Taj, with only standard assault rifles and scopes. Would not have been easy to make a shot at a terrorist in the Taj, and the NYTimes reported on a sniper who said that he was at his position for 60 hours without firing once. Compare this to the heavier duty sniper rifles with bipods or larger caliber bullets that are in wide use elsewhere.

All in all Tambunan did, and I don’t hesitate to repeat it, a great job under very difficult and dangerous conditions. Of course it is stressful and awful to witness such scenes, especially unexpectedly.

by [former member] | 05 Dec 2008 22:12 | Brooklyn, United States | | Report spam→
Alan, I have not published these images. This is the first site. I met some NY Times photographers covering the attack and they suggested to file them but they didn’t get picked up. Thank you for your honest feedback. Somehow, the only way I could focus and gain my sanity was behind my camera.

Andy, how would I enter my images into World Press. I am somewhat green in this field. I used my CA drivers license since to gain access I don’t have a press card. Fortunately, the Indian police couldn’t tell the difference. Oh yeah, I am planning to do some yoga after this experience.

by Andri Tambunan | 06 Dec 2008 05:12 | Mumbai, India | | Report spam→
I think Alan Chin can help you or I will— PM one of us. I think you need to tighten your edit a bit….but the elements are there. Submitting is easy……

by [former member] | 06 Dec 2008 15:12 | | Report spam→

by teru kuwayama | 08 Dec 2008 18:12 (ed. Dec 11 2008) | Islamabad, Pakistan | | Report spam→

for instructions on how to enter your photos to the contest. it can all be done online and unlike some other competitions, is free. and whether you win or not, you will receive a nice copy of the catalog (a well-printed book) for entering.

your photos are certainly contest quality, you have nothing to lose and much potentially to gain by entering them. but do a very tight edit and concentrate on the first hours, Cafe Leopold, etc.

and yes, time is of the essence in getting images like these out to the world. of course you cannot be expected to know this and be able to act on it when you are under that kind of pressure and stress. but do show them in as many places as you can even if you can’t get anyone to pay you at this point.

it’s very important that images of terrible events like the Mumbai terrorist attack get out, and be seen. it becomes the historical record, and is also the only way people on the other side of the world can relate and understand.

by [former member] | 08 Dec 2008 19:12 | Brooklyn, United States | | Report spam→
Shiva-nanda yogista here……

by [former member] | 08 Dec 2008 21:12 | | Report spam→
I agree with Alan, completely! The cafe leopold pictures are everything i expect and hope for from an ontheground, atthemoment photographer:

unflinching, honest, unfiltered, “keeping your head and focusing on the event” reporting…in other words, these images are the only images i’ve seen too that took me immediately into the horror of the moment and the madness of the aftermath and did it without censor or tricks. Just great great reporting that still makes the truth that photojournalists are still our electric tube into the heart of what happens before our eyes…your work is in those intense moments is laudatory and i commend and thank you!

….and as Alan and Andy have so articulately expressed, they also reveal alot about ancillary content (essential content), like the weaponry, the response by police force, etc….

submit to worldpress.org

and though the “timing” of the pics may have passed, these images are still valuable and viable as material…get them out there!

thanks so much for sharing, now i wont be surprised if an insightful PE sees this post and contacts you!


by [former member] | 08 Dec 2008 21:12 (ed. Dec 8 2008) | toronto, Canada | | Report spam→
A selection of Andri’s photos, along with his text, is here:


Let’s hope he gets a big bounce.

by [former member] | 08 Dec 2008 21:12 | New York, United States | | Report spam→
Good meeting you over here Andri. Come back soon.

by Michael Rubenstein | 09 Dec 2008 19:12 | Portland, Oregon, United States | | Report spam→
Oh, also…

Local photographers Dhiraj Singh (http://www.lightstalkers.org/dhiraj_singh) , Prashanth Vishwanthan http://www.lightstalkers.org/prashanth_vishwanathan and Atul Loke http://panos.co.uk/bin/panos.dll/go?a=disp&mainnewsid=574&si=CFB431DD670246ABAAAA0B02608365&se=20&t=us\ft-floader.html&tick=1383794253&psrc=9&gid=580 did a fantastic job covering this horrible situation. I have to say that the local photographers here in Mumbai worked tirelessly and under serious duress and came out with some very good images.

I was working for the NYT for the first five days as a part of a team. I was stationed at Nariman (Chabad) house for most of the crisis while our other photographers covered the Taj, hospitals and other hotels.

I put 100 images, start to finish on my blog at http://www.alittletoofast.com . I arrived about 4 hours after the shooting started.


by Michael Rubenstein | 09 Dec 2008 19:12 | Portland, Oregon, United States | | Report spam→

Once you have done all this stuff for your photos, don’t forget to look after yourself. PTS is a funny thing…

by lisa hogben | 10 Dec 2008 01:12 | Sydney, Australia | | Report spam→
Agree with all the comments about Andri’s images, and Lisa’s comments about PTSD. I saw several cases when I served in the military and it is something that you shouldn’t try to deal with yourself… Andri, make sure that you look after yourself and seek professional help if you need to.

I’m not sure that I agree with Alan’s comments on the equipment though! It is true that the Indian police appeared to be poorly equipped, but I think the main problem is that they also appeared to be very poorly trained. According to photographer Sebastian D’Souza’s account here, the police at the railway station seemed reluctant to engage the terrorists at all, or to warn incoming trains of the danger, and it seems that a number of people lost their lives as a result.

WWII equipment may not be up to modern standards, but then the most up-to-date equipment would have been no use if the police concerned decided not to engage the terrorists at all. In my opinion lack of training is the most likely reason for their reluctance and, if that is the case, I feel sorry for the guys involved because they are going to have to live with the result of their inaction, I doubt that their superiors will stand up and take the blame.

If a photographer could move around taking photographs of the terrorists whilst maintaining cover then the police should have been able to do the same and WWII Lee-Enfield rifles would have done the job required.

I’ve often wondered why police and military around the world don’t adopt the AK47, it is hardly new technology itself, but is very reliable (and relatively cheap)… if I had to choose between the AK47 and the SA80 (L85A1) I was trained on then the AK47, or even one of the Sterling submachine gun used by the British between 1953-1988 (and still used by Indian military as I understand it), would win hands down! Newer technology doesn’t always mean better technology!

by Nicola J Cutts | 10 Dec 2008 18:12 | Brighton, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Nicola, you’re clearly more expert on this than I am, and your points are well taken, especially with regards to the train station, how “leftover” bombs were found there days later when it was already re-opened to thousands of passengers passing through at every moment. But does the high number of police casualties including high-ranking officers show that they were out-gunned in the initial firefights? Did the loss of leaders contribute to inaction? Were the more junior officers not well-trained to take the place of their fallen superiors? Did the high casualties force the police into a “force protection” mode of defensive passivity rather than aggressive rapid reaction? Of course training and morale matter as much or more as good technology and equipment.

I am reminded of accounts I’ve read of the 1972 Munich Olympics attack, during which the German police had no idea how to respond to Palestinian terrorists, or the more recent Chechen attacks on the Moscow theater and the Beslan school. Contrast those horrible scenes with the 1996-97 Japanese Embassy takeover by Tupac Amaru terrorists in Peru, or the 1980 Iranian Embassy takeover in London, during which the security forces were able to storm the buildings and free most of the hostages, with few deaths. (Of course in both cases they did summarily execute the terrorists on the spot, it seems.) They had a lot more time to prepare the rescue operations in those cases, but the 1993 Branch Davidian fiasco in Waco, Texas, shows that even with a lot a time, first-world technology, and presumably well-trained units, things can go very wrong with heavy loss of life.

I guess part of what is shocking about Mumbai and similar incidents is how it clearly requires a certain kind of brainwashing to shoot unarmed civilians in cold blood, and not one or two but hundreds. There were at least 150-60 civilian dead in Mumbai with at least another two hundred wounded, which means each of the ten terrorists had to consciously shoot an average of 35 or more people. That’s Einsatzgruppen or Bosnian or Rwandan war type behavior which is impossible for any of us to understand. Even a suicide bombing, it seems, requires one ultimate, fatal, murderous moment of detonation. Serial killers and post office or school mass shooters are typically insane. But to calmly and coolly shoot 35 people, one after the other, each one whose face you see and make eye contact with, for a political reason, that is so beyond the pale of any kind of acceptable morality, that it defies the imagination even in a world inured to such atrocity.

And I am sure that applies to the police as well, especially if they’re not well-trained or equipped, that the sheer shock and unbelievability of what’s happening paralyzes them and leads to poor decisions. With the benefit of hindsight, we tell ourselves after each horror that we’ll be better prepared the next time. We’ll spend billions on departments of homeland security, beat our breasts that somehow how we have to decrease the alienation felt by the disenfranchised under-classes of failed states, and desperately hope that the better angels of reason and enlightenment will somehow triumph in the end. And then, sooner or later, it happens again somewhere.

by [former member] | 10 Dec 2008 22:12 | Brooklyn, United States | | Report spam→
Your photos need to be shown to the entire world, so all can witness the horrid acts that usually go unnoticed among the snake charmers and desert havelis that India is so loved for. I remember times when a gang of friends would just crash into Leopold’s for weekend beers, to organise get-togethers and just groove along in the sorta shady upstairs disco. Hell! I even met my girlfriend just 50m away from Leopold’s.

Your pictures truly depict the terrible, terrible time that Bombay went through. And they bring tears to my eyes. Bombay has survived all this, but after a massive change, it will bounce back stronger than ever.

by Parikshit Rao | 13 Dec 2008 19:12 | Bangalore, India | | Report spam→
Mumbaiker are very resilient people and they have bounce back from this tragedy. Leopold reopened its restaurant before the terrorist seize at Taj Palace even ended. I had a beer there before I left Mumbai and the mood was calm and cheerful as people engrossed in eating their meals and personal conversation without giving the bullet holes in the wall a second glance. And when I walked the the streets of Colaba, it was crowded with shoppers, beggars, taxi driver, workers, money changers, shopkeepers, etc. I admit that I was surprised that things got back almost to normal so quickly. I admired their strength. I just finished reading Shantaram and the last paragraph Gregory Roberts writes

“For this is what we do. Put one foot forward and then the other. Lift our eyes to the snarl and smile of the world once more. Think. Act. Feel. Add our little consequence to the tides of good and evil that flood and drain the world. Drag our shadowed crosses into the hope of another night. Push our brave hearts into the promise of a new day, With love: the passionate search for a truth other than our own. With longing: the pure, ineffable yearning to be saved. For so long as fate keeps waiting, we live on. God help us. God forgive us. We live on.”

by Andri Tambunan | 14 Dec 2008 17:12 | goa, India | | Report spam→
fantastic covereage Andri. You captured some great images that explain what happened over the days of the attack. Nice work.

by Kevin Anthony Griffin | 15 Dec 2008 00:12 | Ireland, Ireland | | Report spam→
fotonya cakep lain, asli keren…luar biasa…publis dimana saja? salam

by Ardiles Rante | 17 Dec 2008 19:12 | Ambon, Indonesia | | Report spam→
Ardiles, terimah kasih! My bahasa Indonesia is somewhat rusty =) But thanks for the compliment. I will be in Jakarta soon. Are you going to the World Press Photo Exhibit in Jakarta?

by Andri Tambunan | 19 Dec 2008 14:12 | goa, India | | Report spam→
I just got down from my flight from NYC to Mumbai at 1.00AM. I was collecting my baggage when I saw people thronging at the TV screens and I found out about the attacks. Later, when I got into the Taxi, I got a call from NBC News and ITN to go to the attacks site and I immediately rush over there and start covering the story and doing phoners and later the NBC & ITN crew joined me!

I was there at the site for 4 days, sleeping hardly for a couple of hours every day, doing live shots all around the clock! Some of the pictures can be found on my website www.yaduproductions.com

by Uday Sripathi | 08 Jan 2009 06:01 | Mumbai, India | | Report spam→

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Andri Tambunan, Documentary Photographer Andri Tambunan
Documentary Photographer
(Available for Assignments)
Jakarta , Indonesia
teru kuwayama, I/O teru kuwayama
New York , United States
Michael Rubenstein, Photojournalist Michael Rubenstein
New York , United States ( JFK )
lisa hogben, Visualjournalist! lisa hogben
Sydney , Australia
Nicola J Cutts, Photography/Digital Nicola J Cutts
Sheffield , United Kingdom ( LBA )
Parikshit Rao, Photography Parikshit Rao
((Available for Assignments))
Hyderabad , India
Kevin Anthony Griffin, Photographer Kevin Anthony Griffin
Dublin , Ireland
Ardiles Rante, Freelance Photojournalist Ardiles Rante
Freelance Photojournalist
Jakarta , Indonesia ( CGK )
Uday Sripathi, Fixer / Line Producer Uday Sripathi
Fixer / Line Producer
(Made in India!)
Mumbai , India ( BOM )


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