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

Friday, 30 August 2019

A Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, August 30, 2019

At first glance Mohamed al-Sayaghi’s picture looks like the confused scene from some sort of blast or explosion, but it’s not. You are drawn into the image through the chaos, eyes searching out the focal point of the white flour sacks on the ground. Deeper into the image you make out the side of the truck, laden with dozens of sacks and then you finally see the men at work. They are disposing of sacks of flour that are considered expired or contaminated, in a country that faces areas of malnutrition.

Workers dispose of sacks of wheat, provided by the World Food Program (WFP), which is reportedly expired, on the outskirts of Sanaa, Yemen August 28, 2019.    REUTERS/ Mohamed al-Sayaghi

Mohammed Salem’s picture is divided in two by the classic shape of an AK47 rifle cutting diagonally through the image of the funeral cortege of a Hamas security force member. On the right, comrades stand to attention with calm respect either side of the body and  you can just see the dead man’s face. To the left people reach in to try to take pictures with mobile phones. A picture that reflects the confusion surrounding the death of this soldier in a bomb blast in Gaza, and that carries echoes of the internal division within Gaza. 

Members of Palestinian Hamas security forces carry the body of their comrade Salama Al-Nadeem during his funeral in Gaza City August 28, 2019.  REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Two days earlier Mohammed Salem was illustrating the power cuts that Gaza is facing. With an image that is almost totally black Mohammed teases with just enough detail to let the viewer know this is in a narrow street with people trying to go about their business. There is a hint of sky squeezed between darkened buildings. A distant figure walks through the only pool of light of the ground and a figure stands in a light that illuminates his face and arms as he chats with a friend who reaches out to him.   

Palestinians use their mobile phone torches during a power cut at the Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, August 26, 2019.   REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

What is most striking about Khalid a-Mousily’s image is the uncertain look on the boy’s face on the left of the picture and how the composition of the image leads you back to him. Although initially you are quickly drawn away from his face by the visual noise of the red and white flowers, the grieving man on the right and the centrally placed man with his head in his hands, the flow and shape of the design takes you back to the boy. His face shows a mixture of emotion:  he’s confused, concerned and frightened at the same time.  

Relatives of Kazem Ali Mohssen, a brigade commander of the Popular Mobilisation Force, who was killed by an attack from an unmanned aircraft close to the Syrian border in Anbar, mourn during his funeral in Baghdad, Iraq August 26, 2019.     REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily

Alaa al-Marjani’s picture has a bittersweet feel to it. Every compositional point and edge has been slightly cropped off and I feel cheated as I instinctively want them in frame. The bottom edge and point of the woman’s dress is just out of frame, the decoration at the top of the image is neither in nor out, I even want the lines of the carpet to flow exactly into the corners of the frame, but they don’t. But what a wonderfully complex image this is, bold shapes of flat black tones arranged around the warmth of the rich brown doors; complex and beautiful gold and silver script all divided up in a classic thirds format and squeezed just in.    

An Iraqi woman is seen at the Imam Ali shrine at the holy Shi’ite city of Najaf, Iraq, August 23, 2109.   REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani

A gentle visual smile from Thomas Mukoya as he illustrates the census in Kenya by using a mirror in one of the homes to double the number of people in the image. The illusion is a little harder to detect as the mirror line is not central. 

An enumerator uses a census laptop to record details of a family participating in the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya August 24, 2019.   EUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Underexposed, flare in the lense, no people in the image and very little colour. On paper,  Afolabi Sotunde’s picture should not work but it does. As part of a series of picture stories to mark the 400th anniversary of the start of the slave trade from Africa to North America this intriguing image is from one of the many historic sites associated with the trade. Although it has a faint feeling of hope it is tinged with sadness. As your eye moves from the single, almost derelict hut and away from the line of trees under a cool sky you finally notice the gentle roll of the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Once you notice this you can almost hear the waves in the still air, giving you time to reflect on what happened here 400 years ago. You can see the full story here.   

A shrine is seen on a beach where thousands of African slaves were once loaded onto ship in the historic slave port of Ouidah, Benin, July 17, 2019.   REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

I can’t help feeling a little uncomfortable as it dawns on me that of Fawaz Salmon’s picture from Yemen has similarities with a picture of a big game hunter standing, foot on kill. Death, pride and destruction all captured in one frame. A fighter stands, foot on vehicle, as a fuel tanker with a burned-out cab burns in the background. At his feet a man holds up a two-finger salute of victory.

Southern separatist fighters patrol a road during clashes with government forces in Aden, Yemen, August 29, 2019.   REUTERS/Fawaz Salman

From the mists of time in my head comes the Flanders and Swann 1950’s Hippopotamus song “Mud! Mud! Glorious mud, nothing quite like it for cooling the blood” and I am delighted by Abdullah Rashid’s picture. Cool blues and greys take any heat from the picture as people enjoy the water and therapeutic muds of the Tigris River very much like the imaginary hippo cooling itself in the song. Go on Google it if you don’t know it, it will make you smile. 

People sit in water after being covered with mud, which is reported to help treat skin diseases, on the banks of the Tigris River west of Mosul, Iraq August 20, 2019.   REUTERS/Abdullah Rashid  

Ronen Zvulun’s image of a man playing with a dog has a very edgy feel to me. You can’t quite see what the dog - and that is a big dog - is jumping up to grab in its mouth. The  man looks just a little apprehensive, but still keeps tight hold on his can of beer. It is a party after all. This all set against a graffiti background where the slow shutter speed seems to blur the letters and the shadows so we can’t quite get a firm visual grip on the details. It’s taken Ronen many weeks of shooting to get this story together, hence the January date on this image, but now it is released you can see it all here.    

A man plays with a dog as a party takes place in a nearby basement, known as Strauss, that is occasionally used as a venue for underground parties in Jerusalem January 25, 2019.  REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

The best smile of the week has just got to Baz Ratner for this wonderfully affectionate picture from Mozambique as the country prepares for the Pope’s visit. You just can’t grab enough visual joy from this image fast enough, that friendly toothless smile, the warmth of the tones created by the evening sunlight, the fizz of the cloth texture, colour and patterns and the corridor of the Baobab trees that lead you off to the horizon. All combined it makes you just want to visit.   

A man rides on the back of a cart pulled by a bull though Baobab alley near the city of Morondava, Madagascar, August 30, 2019.    REUTERS/Baz Ratner