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Friday, 6 December 2019

A Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, December 6, 2019

A debate is raging. Are the nearly dry Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe a consequence of
climate change or just seasonal and quite ordinary? Either way this is a striking image
that makes you stop and think about the debate.

Low water levels are seen after a prolonged drought at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, December 4, 2019. 

Better still if you can see what the waterfall looks like when it’s at full flow. The use of a
combination ‘before and after’ provides a visual solution. At the same time the format of
two images on top of each other creates its own problem. It won’t fit into the
conventional horizonal shape that is seen on most digital platforms. The solution is to use
two combination pictures next to each other. Read on here  

A combination picture that shows water flowing (top) and low water levels after a prolonged drought at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, taken January 17, 2019 and December 4, 2019. 

No matter how much you prepare, knowing that you are going to be surprised by love,
you are still surprised. Just look at Nevine’s face and gesture as she meets her son after
20 years. Even though Mohamed Abd El Ghany has shot this quite wide to give it a little
space, your eye just zooms into her face. It’s the complex arrangement of compositional
zigzag lines and shapes made up by the stairwell, the doorframe and their arms that keep
you centered on her joy. Read on here.

Palestinian Amjad Yaghi and his mother Nevine Zouhier, reunite after 20 years of separation in Banha, Egypt December 2, 2019.   REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

A slightly different pick for the week, but I just can’t resist the echo of the shape of the
flag being carried by Abdelkarim Hassan and the image of the flag on the hoarding in the
background in Ibraheem Al Omari’s picture. I also like the illusion of the giant ball
bouncing off the player’s knee too. Good luck or good judgement? A photographer’s eye
or a careful pick by an editor? I think a combination of all that.

Qatar’s Abdelkarim Hassan celebrates with a flag after their Gulf Cup qualifying match against UAE in Doha, Qatar December 2, 2019. REUTERS/ Ibraheem Al Omari

In a similar sense to the football picture above, Khalid al-Mousily uses the backdrop
graffiti to build his image. The success of this picture is the perfect timing that places the
woman, at full stride, in the centre of the tableau, poised between gunman and injured
protester. The matching scale of the figures helps the illusion.

An Iraqi woman demonstrator walks past a mural during anti-government protests in Baghdad, November 22, 2019.   REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily  

From the foreground, the cracked and dried-up earth of a reservoir stretches out to the
distant horizon like an alien landscape. Mike Hutchings has captured two tiny figures in
the bleak landscape who break the horizontal line where the cloud-heavy skies meet the
dried-out earth, giving the image a focal point as your eye races to the distance at
breakneck speed. Read on here

Clouds gather but produce no rain as cracks are seen in the dried up municipal dam in drought stricken Graaff-Reinet, South Africa, November 14, 2019.   REUTERS/Mike Hutchings 

I love pictures that have chaos and calm in them and Afolabi Sotunde delivers both with
this terrific image shot with a wide-angle lens. You feel that you are in the middle of the
fight as people grapple in the courtroom. You are not a bystander as the scene opens up
momentarily, giving you a view from the very core of the affray to the rear of the court,
where you can see the lawyers in the background, one of whom is causally shooting the
whole scene with his phone while the others glance around the wood-paneled room.

Fighting breaks out as security personnel re-arrest Nigerian activist Omoyele Sowore at the Federal high Court in Abuja, Nigeria, December 6, 2019.   REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde 




 image that makes you stop and think about the over-all debate.

Friday, 15 November 2019

A Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, November 15, 2019


Very hard to choose a single image from the hundreds of powerful news pictures that have moved on the wire in the last few weeks from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Algeria, the Palestinian Territories and Israel, but here goes. First thing I need to do is thank the whole team in the Middle East and Africa for their hard work and dedication to deliver fast, unbiased and powerful news image via the Reuters network.

The temptation would be to lead with an image of clashes from Iraq, but I wanted to start with the less obvious, but no less powerful, picture by Ahmed Jadallah. As well as shooting the violence, Ahmed wanted to explain, through the words and portraits of the demonstrators, why the violence is happening. The half-length portrait is shot in cool, soft light, giving the image a feeling of pensive, uneasy and temporary calm. The long stare, straight into the camera, by the subject, tells us he wants to say something. The chaos of the situation around him, his broken arm and the ad hoc safety gear he is wearing tell us that what he has to say is worth listening to. The extended caption (something I am never really a fan of) works well here as it adds the details we want to know. You can see the whole series of picture here.  

Mohammad Said Yasseen, an Iraqi demonstrator poses for a picture during the ongoing anti-government protesters in Baghdad, Iraq, November 5, 2019. He said “we are only carrying flags, we don’t have anything else in our hands, but they keep hitting us and we’ve had at least seven martyrs here. I want my rights, we are being oppressed, we have nothing, no schools, no decent hospitals, no riches for the people. They only know how to steal, and they steal from us, leaving is with nothing. We are only asking for education and health. We must get rid of the corrupt ones and without that there is no solution. We want a civil state, we don’t want corrupt parties and corrupt politicians. I want these youths to govern us.” REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

Stretched to the last inch, Alaa al-Marjani’s picture has the same feeling of apprehensive tension we all get when we watch a pin slowly being pushed into a balloon. We know there is going to be a bang and we brace ourselves for it. Heads bowed, arms tensed, protesters hold the industrial-sized catapult as a man pulls back the loaded elastic. Everyone else is standing in the detritus of street conflict, watching and waiting for the explosive moment of release. As we look we hold our breath. Latest from Iraq here

Iraqi demonstrators use a catapult during ongoing anti-government protests in Baghdad, Iraq, November 14, 2019. REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani

The demonstrations in Lebanon at times have a party feel and are less violent than the protest in Iraq, but there is an undercurrent of a sense of fear of a wider conflict. In a sense the potential conflict in Lebanon has much greater regional and global implication given the powerful forces which operate in the background of local power politics. With this in mind, I am very drawn to Andres Martinez Casares’ image. It has a very complex composition: a slight tilt gives you a sense of unease, the strong reds and harsh light in the foreground fight for your attention, with the back focus that wants to draw you past the policeman in the foreground to the sharp background through a gap in the fence. As your eye jumps between the two, you notice the demonstrators banging rocks on the metal fence. Finally, you settle of the three solders standing on the rubble. You get a sense that they are waiting, and something else is going to happen. Latest from Lebanon here

Police officers stand guard as protesters hit the fencing as they demonstrate outside Lebanon’s Central Bank during ongoing anti-government protests in Beirut, Lebanon, November 11, 2019.   REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

Another picture by Andres also caught my eye, as it too has a strong sense of the mood of the demonstrations. But I could not quite understand why I had a feeling that something visually was amiss. I spent quite a long time looking, then it struck me. The highlight on the wall on the far right distracts your eye from the sleeping protester in the car and lead you to the flames and smoke the background.  
A man sleeps in a car next to burning tyres barricading the highway during ongoing anti-government protests at Nahr El Kalb, Lebanon, November 13, 2019.   REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

Crop out that highlight and suddenly you see him and you eye is drawn to the shadows in the foreground. And now you can see the man sleeping you get a better sense of the mood of the protests. Not often you can sleep when it’s your chosen role to guard the burning barricades. Make sense? 

A man sleeps in a car nxt to burning tyres barricading the highway during ongoing anti-government protests at Nahr El Kalb, Lebanon, November 13, 2019.   REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

I am more than a little uncomfortable highlighting Ibraheem Abu Mustafa’s air strike image, especially after I read that people suffocated in the sands under the building. But I am drawn to the shapes created by the destroyed building. With the exception of the holes in the plastics on the left of the image, there is no sign of damage beyond the circle of the wrecked building. The high position from which Ibraheem has taken his image demonstrates in no uncertain terms that one building was targeted.
Palestinians gather around the remains of a house destroyed in an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza strip November 13, 2019.   REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

A birds-eye view by Sumaya Hisham makes for a very graphic shape in her picture. At first glance it looks like an ancient representation of the bone structure of a mythical creature, or, if your mind works another way, rows of freshly dug graves. It is in fact artisanal mining for diamonds. The story, that was released this week can be seen here

Batho Pele Artisanal mining Cooperative miners are seen form the air as they mine for diamonds in Kimberley, South Africa, October 22, 219.   REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

Full of joy is the best way to describe Mike Hutchings’ picture. Warm sunshine, blue skies, smiling faces that fill the space from the horizon to the foreground, a cheeky hint of a tilt and bright colours all combine for a feel-good factor. Take one of these many elements out and it would not be selected. Take the time to look at all the faces and enjoy.   
  
South Africa fans waves flags as they watch the South Africa Rugby World Cup trophy tour in Pretoria, South Africa November 7, 2019.   REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

A bold and simple illustration picture by Philimon Bulawayo might appear a strange pick this week. One would expect, when a new currency is launched, to see crisp new notes being printed or thumbed through in shiny banks. But Philimon’s thoughtful idea to isolate a single two-dollar coin held in a hand is probably the best way to try to illustrate the complexities of Zimbabwe’s struggling economy.

A man poses for a picture with Zimbabwe’s new two-dollar coin as customers queue outside a bank in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 12, 2019.   REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo   

Sunday, 29 September 2019

A Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, September 27, 2019

It’s rare that a set piece, pool position picture makes an image that will catch my eye.  Normally these staged and heavily controlled events make for cold and functional images that are “for the record”. Not so Toby Melville’s image from South Africa. What attracts me most is the obvious warmth in this picture and as I try to figure out why I get this feeling, my conclusion is the eye contact. Both figures are leaning into each other, intent on listening. Baby Archie is focused on Tutu’s eyes too. The curve of the shoulder line, Meghan’s arms and Tutu’s pocket handkerchief complete a compositional oval that keeps our attention in the centre of the image, with that warm eye contact. You can see more from the tour here.  

Britain’s Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, holding her son Archie, meets Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation in Cape Town, in South Africa, September 25, 2019.   REUTERS/Toby Melville

Mohamed Torokman’s picture is black, almost completely abstract and full of menace. Your eyes skip around looking to make sense of what is going on and, after being drawn into the far distance by the light, you are brought sharply back to the hard, curved line of the tyre. It’s then you see the masked face of the protester, your initial sense of tension confirmed. But as you begin to work out what the protester is doing, moving tyres to be burned, you also get a growing feeling of determined calm from him.  

A demonstrator carries tyres to be set on fire during a protest to show solidarity with Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, near the Jewish settlement of Beit El in the Israeli occupied West bank September 23, 2019.   REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

Tonally and visually, Mohammed Salem’s picture is very similar to the image above, but the main difference is that your eyes jump immediately to the focal point, the face. And the moment you look at the face, you can’t look elsewhere. The lines of the shadows are intriguing as they cross the man’s face, you focus into the tiny juncture of the corner of his eye as he looks out of the frame and the line of shadow. It looks all very mysterious until you read the caption: he’s doing his laundry!

A Palestinian man sits in his home as laundry hangs to dry in Dier al-balah refugee camp in central Gaza strip September 22, 2019.   RUTERS/Mohammed Salem

A news feature picture by Khaled Abdullah improved, I think, by the little crop to remove the figure on the right who is wearing a high visibility jacket. I hope you agree the crop improves this image by letting your eye be drawn to the dancers’ faces and away from the yellow jacket. Have a look at both the cropped and uncropped versions and see what you think. 

Houthi supporters perform the traditional Baraa dance during a ceremony held to collect supplies for Houthi fighters in Sanaa, Yemen, September 22, 2019.    REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Houthi supporters perform the traditional Baraa dance during a ceremony held to collect supplies for Houthi fighters in Sanaa, Yemen, September 22, 2019.    REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Philimon Bulawayo’s picture is powerful with its simple circular composition shot from above. The ring of the white bucket top echoes the circle of the black well. I like it too that the circle of the grass has been cropped off at the bottom of the picture, the rings giving feeling of ripples on a pond reaching the edge of the water. The woman looks exhausted as she struggles to collect water. 
  
A woman fetches water from a well in Warren Park suburb, Harare, Zimbabwe, September 24, 2019.   REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Mohamed Nureldin’s image is busy and deep, it’s full of action and colour and you are kept busy picking up all the details. The cool of the glass and metal buildings contrasts with the warmth of the colours of the crowd. The harsh light ensures you can never quite make out what is going on, who is holding what flag, which hand belongs to whom and what the people in the background are standing on, but you come away with an overall feeling of peaceful protest.

Protesters attend a rally calling for a stop to killing in Darfur and stability for peace, next to a building in front of the ministry of Justice in Khartoum, Sudan, September 23, 2019.   REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin  

Giant hands envelop a tiny creature, but this image really works for one reason only, the mouth of the turtle is open. If you didn’t get the visual clue of an animal’s head it would be hard to see what is going on, and it would not make any sense. Amir Cohen’s sophisticated use of a very small depth of field ensures that we don’t miss that all important detail. If the mouth was shut and everything was in focus it would look like a grey/black blob being held. You can read on here.

A child holds a newly-hatched baby sea turtle born at a protective nesting site set-up as part of the Israeli Seat Turtle Rescue Centre conservation programme, at a beach near Mikhmoret north of Tel Aviv, Israel September 9, 2019.   REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Eissa Alragehi’s picture is a pleasant, well composed and well-lit portrait of a fresh-faced boy sitting in temporary camp for the displaced. How long does it take you to notice that the boy is missing a leg? When you do notice it comes as shock, and what was a moment ago pleasant is now distressing. Read on here.

Ismail Abdullah, 12, who lost his leg in an air strike two years ago, poses for a picture in his hut in a camp for the internally displaced people in Khamis of Hodeidah province, Yemen August 31, 2019.   REUTERS/Eissa Alragehi


Sunday, 22 September 2019

A Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, September 20, 2019


Afolabi Sotunde’s image of a traditional healer is far removed from preconceived notions of what such a scene would look like, but the light and colour in the frame are quite astounding. Once you read the caption you quickly look past the beauty of the light and colour and descend into the story. Read on here
Agbetuyi Samuel, a traditional header with his friend, also a healer, prepare a traditional medicine that contains the head of a pangolin in his house in Akure, Nigeria, August 28, 2019.   REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

A sliver of catchlight highlights the profile of lips and nose of a riot police officer in this well-observed picture by Philimon Bulawayo. The face, although quite stern, still warms and softens the cool hard edges of the blue helmets and the grey uniforms. Cover the highlight with your finger and look again at the image: the feeling of menace trebles.  
Riot police stand before striking healthcare workers protesting over the disappearance of Peter Magombeyi, the leader of their union outside a hospital in Harare, Zimbabwe, September 18, 2019.   REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

A complex combination of the symmetrical shapes of the doors and windows, with people moving in and out, gives the viewer a slightly uncomfortable feeling in Alphonso Toweh’s picture. You struggle to see what is going on in the distance as you peer through the entrances at the bright light and colours of the clothing. Only once out are drawn back into the blackened building do you notice the man looking at the scene where so many children died.       
A man looks into the burned building after a fire swept through a school killing children in Monrovia, Liberia September 18, 2019.    REUTERS/Alphonso Toweh


The pressure is on when you know you are on the top global story, the attack on the Aramco oil field. Hamad Mohammed keep his cool told the story visually when on the face of it all you have to photograph is shapeless lumps of metal, the story was rocket fragments being displayed to the media by the Saudi military. A clever use of a silhouette of a camera being held in profile leads you to the unmistakable shape of fins of a rocket in the background. Of course, you need to the see the objects too and you can do so here. 
Remains of the missiles which the Saudi government says were used to attack an Aramco oil facility are displayed during a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, September 18, 2019.   REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammad.


After Xenophobic attacks in both Nigeria and South Africa, people have fled home. Temilade Adelaja has captured exhausted children flopping all over mum and dad as they are carried through the airport. You can almost feel of the weight of these sleeping children. But what I love most about this picture is the tiny detail of the passport being held bottom left.   
Nigerians, who were evacuated from South Africa after xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals, arrive at the airport in Lagos, Nigeria, September 18, 2019.    REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja


No doubt Corinna Kern could not believe her luck as Benny Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White party, lifted his had to gesture into blue and white light. The contrast between the warm tones on his face and the cold light on his hand is set against a perfectly black background. Maybe it was not luck, and Corinna spotted the light and just had to wait for the perfect shape to capture the right moment. 
Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz speaks at the party’s headquarters following the announcement of the exit polls during Israel’s parliamentary election in Tel Aviv, Israel September 18, 2019.   REUTERS/Corinna Kern

A perfect moment of light and shape captured by Zoubeir Souissi is wonderfully pleasing to the eye, but why? I think it’s the tip of the finger’s shadow just a fraction away from the face. A moment before or after and the visual tension between the shapes would be lost. The temptation would be to crop to just the shadows and the hand, but then you would lose the right and downward pressure of the figure on the left that counters the upwards and left flow of the shadows.
Election workers count votes as the country awaits the official results of the presidential election in Tunis, Tunisia September 17, 2019.   REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

A wonderful daily life picture by Mohammed Salem draws you in layer by layer using focus, compositional structure and a little tilt to offset and break up the vertical and horizontal lines of the walls and buildings. Each time you look you find more and more. The boy in the green shorts on the left, not so distracting as he is not in focus; the girl in the foreground looks through the gap in the fence to lead us to the perfectly timed skipping girl in midair. Finally, you notice the boy in the background on the left looking across at the play. And this is all set in the warm tones of rusting metal.
A Palestinian girl plays with a skipping rope outside her family house at Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City September 16, 2019.   REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Thousands have marched globally in support of action on climate change, but it’s the simplicity of Afolabi Sotunde’s picture that caught my eye. The baking sun with an optical ring and a protest banner being lifted up towards it, the image grey and bleached of all colour, giving it a sense of foreboding. You can see the rest of the pictures here.  

A protester raises a placard during a demonstration for climate protection in Abuja, Nigeria, September 20, 2019.   REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde



Friday, 6 September 2019

A Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, September 6, 2019.


A lucky accident for Siphiwe Sibeko, as I can’t imagine for a minute that this hand creeping into the frame was planned. The playful game with scale and perspective grabs you, giving the impression that a giant hand is reaching out to grab unsuspecting locals on their way home from a hard day at work.

A hand of a local is seen as people returning from work walk along the beach, with the city skyline in the background ahead of pope Francis’ visit to Maputo, Mozambique, September 2, 2019.    REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko


Leading you from the foreground to the destroyed building in the rear of Mohamed al-Sayaghi’s picture is a medic, walking with his head bowed along a line of covered bodies. The shape of the clouds seems to burst back over the building like an echo of the blast that destroyed it. Mohamed has many other far more brutal images of dead bodies half covered and crushed in the rubble but none as poignant as this one.

A Red Crescent medic walks next to bags containing the bodies of victims of Saudi-led airstrikes on a Houthi detention centre in Dhamar, Yemen, September 1, 2019.    REUTERS/Mohamed as-Sayaghi

Two things strike me as I look at Ali Owidha’s picture of the funeral in Yemen. The first is the symmetrical shape to it, the coffin bearers centered between the two lines of soldiers forming the guard of honour, only the lack of synchronization of the marching soldiers breaking the momentary mirror illusion. And the second, the position Ali must be in to take this picture. Take a moment to think what it takes to get yourself at this low angle, to take the picture and then leave without getting in the way (remember this is a military funeral) or being trampled on.     

Honour guards carry the coffin of a Yemeni army officer killed in the southern province of Abyan in clashes with UAE-backed southern separatist forces, in Marib, Yemen, August 31, 2019.   REUTERS/Ali Owidha

Visually the World Economic Forum in Africa would not be on the top of your list for potential good news photography but Sumaya Hisham has worked hard to get herself into a position to shoot an intriguing image of a politician sitting in a chair. No matter how hard I look at it I can’t quite work out what is going on in the chaos of the right side of the image, or how the refection works. Normally too, showing eyes closed would kill an image as it gives the unfair impression that the politician is asleep, which they are not. In this case the closed eyes create a sense of considered calm around a swirl of visual chaos. 

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa speaks during a session of the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, South Africa, September 4, 2019.   REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham


At first glance Aziz Taher’s picture looks two dimensional, almost abstract and quite painterly. Then the vehicle in the foreground snaps into focus and wow! you get the sense of scale.    

A view of burnt areas from Israeli shelling is seen in Maroun Al-Raz village, near the border with Israel, in southern Lebanon, September 2, 2019.    REUTERS/Aziz Taher

A stark line cuts through the landscape in Baz Ratner’s drone picture of deforestation in Madagascar. The curve of the road seems to sweep around to envelop the living trees, as though it’s leading the slow and unstoppable march of dead and burned tress to consume all that is living. Very sad. You can see the full story here.

Burnt trees are seen in Menabe Antimena protected area near the city of Morondava, Madagascar, September 1, 2019.   REUTERS/Baz Ratner 


The xenophobic attacks in both South Africa and Nigeria are quite disturbing but I am really drawn to Siphiwe Sibeko’s well observed image of people making the most of a bad situation. The burned-out vehicle is being taken for scrap, like hunters taking home their kill. Bad for the vehicle owner but good for the surprise windfall of scrap metal for these dealers. A detail I really like is the backward glance of the man pulling the truck, his blue cap matching the colour of the roof and sign in the background.  

Scrap metal collectors transport a shell of a burnt-out car after Xenophobic attacks that took place earlier this week in Johannesburg, South Africa, September 5, 2019.   REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Mike Hutchings picture may have been taken in 2008 but it’s a fitting obit picture to mark the death of former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe. Love him or hate him, Mugabe was a powerful leader with global impact and Mike’s picture exudes that strength through the use of deep shadows and exposing for the highlights. It never ceases to amaze me what image defines a person’s life be they world famous or just known to family and friends. Everyone has an image of a person who has died in their mind’s eye. You can see the full obituary package here.   

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe watches a video presentation during the summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in Johannesburg, August 2017, 2008.   REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

One does not associate Mozambique with cold damp weather but travelling photographer Yara Nadi has captured Pope Francis hunched up against the inclement conditions. What she has also captured is the warmth and energy of the people crowded in the background trying to get a glimpse of the pontiff. Look at each face - although they are bundled up against the weather - there is no mistaking that everyone is smiling. I would so love the blue W on the bottom right of the image to not be there - a distraction that you need to wrestle with – but the world is not perfect so I will have to live with it.  You can see more from the Pope’s visit to Mozambique here

Pope Francis arrives for holy Mass on a rainy day at Zimpeto stadium in Maputo, Mozambique, September 6, 2019.   REUTERS/Yara Nardi