Friday, 14 June 2019

A Week in Pictures Middle East and Africa, June 14, 2019

Light streaming through holes into a smoke-filled workshop is going to work as a picture every time. What Mohammed Salem has done is to show a worker walking through the rays of light, the timing perfect so the beams of light don’t cut across his face. Enjoy this peaceful, calm image of daily toil.    

A Palestinian worker carries clay pots as sun rays penetrate through the ceiling of a pottery workshop in Gaza City June 11, 2019.   REUTERS/Mohammed Salem 

In complete contrast of mood, but taken on the same day as Mohamed’s picture above, the grief in Ibraheem Abu Mustafa’s picture crashes into your consciousness and leaves you with a feeling of desperation and sadness. The boy’s hand tenderly touches his dead father’s face as he looks down weeping and distraught, his other hand gripped tight in tension as he is lifted above the chaos of the funeral. We can only guess at the feelings going through the boy’s mind, but this sad and powerful moment is captured forever.  

The son of Palestinian paramedic Mohamed Al-Judaily, who died of wounds he sustained during a protest at the Israeli-Gaza border fence, reacts as he looks at his father’s body during his funeral in the central Gaza strip, June 11, 2019.   REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

I won’t attempt to lift the spirits after Ibraheem’s picture but will bombard you with more distressing news and raise an ethical issue with an image from the same day as those above. A village in Mali was attacked, with the death toll ranging from 35 to nearly 100 depending on who was citing the numbers. What was agreed is that more than 20 children were killed. We have images of the dismembered and charred bodies but they are considered too distressing to publish. To give a sense of the death and destruction we published this poignant image below, the dead body of a thin farm animal, ashes all that is left of building. You get a sense of what happened without being exposed to the grisly images of dead people. It’s always hard to decide what should be seen in such instances – after all, who wants to see dead children? Or is this a case that calls for “seeing is believing” and for the publication of the images? I think not. Read on here 

A dead animal is seen amidst the damage at the site of an attack on the Dogon village of Sobane Da, Mali June 11, 2019.    REUTERS/Malick Konate

A very nicely seen image by Baz Ratner at a mock funeral by environmental activists. You eye is drawn quickly to the clever black and white logo pasted on a fake black coffin. The only real colour of the image, the red of the protester’s nail varnish, holds g our attention. Your eye then moves right in the frame to see her masked face, her eyes serious as she carries her message.  

Greenpeace environmental activist carries a fake coffin during a protest against the construction of a coal fired electricity plant in Lamu on Kenya’s coast, during a protest in Nairobi, June 12, 2019.    REUTERS/Baz Ratner  

I am a big fan of simple shapes and strong lines in composition. Add a strong red colour with a hint of complementary green and the sound of a military band, as Afolabi Sotunde has done, and he hits all the right buttons. If I was after perfection I would have liked a little more space on the top right, so the arm of the leading soldier pointed into the corner of the frame and we would not crop off the small figure, also in green on the right.

Police officers are seen on parade during the new Democracy Day, a national holiday in honour of late M.K.O Abiola, in Abuja, Nigeria, June 12, 2019.  REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Samuel Mambo’s picture structure is all about sharp edges and it has an eerie feel to it. The clean corner of the wall, the strong wide V-shape line of the path, the white highlights of the workers’ clothing against the background shadows and, if you look carefully, the fold lines in the newly opened aprons of the medical staff. Staff are getting ready to fight Ebola. The uneasy feeling is created by compositionally awkward position of the figures in the chopped-up space and the man’s gloved hands that are clasped together, giving the image a pensive feel. Read on here 

Ugandan medical staff are seen as they inspect the Ebola preparedness facilities at the Bwera General Hospital near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in Bwera, Uganda, June 12, 2019.   REUTERS/Samuel Mambo 

Friday, 7 June 2019

A Week in Pictures Middle East and Africa, June 7, 2019

The devastation of a mud slide is graphically illustrated in Newton Nambwaya’s striking picture. As far as the eye can see a brown gash of mud cuts down from the horizon, through the green trees, destroying and smothering all in its path. The woman in the foreground struggles through the mud, seemingly with little or no hope of achieving anything. This all seems slightly unreal. It was torrential rains that caused this mud slide, but the scene is now bathed in warm sunshine. 

A resident struggles through the destruction caused after a landslide rolled down the slopes of Mt Elgon through the Shisakali village in Bududa district, Uganda June 6, 2019.    REUTERS/Newton Nambwaya

Strong warm highlights and dark cold shadows in Khalil Ashawi’s bomb aftermath picture give us a real feel of the chaos of what is going on. It’s hard to work it out. Your eye is drawn immediately to the bright yellow and you spot the spray of water, or is it smoke? It’s then that you see the man with the jeans and white t-shirt, behind him another with the fire hose dousing the damaged vehicle. The ground, wet with water, reflects the light and the action. Slowly, the bystanders can be seen in the shadows on the right. They seem calm and used to all this. 

People try to extinguish a fire at the site of a car blast in Azaz, Syria, June 2, 2019.   REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

The overall shape of the police arriving at the scene is like a wave crashing on the beach, with a strong right-to-left diagonal formed by the line of their helmets. Then you get a sense of a strong undercurrent pulling back. I think it’s the position of their arms that give us this sense of back and forth motion. Take special notice of the man’s hand in the centre of the picture. He looks like a surfer in a powerful current trying to control the flow of the wave.

Israeli policemen gather as they aim their weapons during clashes with Palestinians on ‘Jerusalem Day’ on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City June 2, 2019.   REUTERS/Ammar Awad

A cacophony of colour and line makes your eyes swirl around Afolabi Sotunde’s picture from Eid prayers. Finally, you are allowed to rest on the brand name Hello Kitty, to make this a terrific business news picture. Then, and only then, you see the fingers reaching to the edge of the frame. Imagine just how disappointing it would be if these were cropped off! To see more picture from Eid click here

Muslim sisters pray next to a Hello Kitty hand bag during the Eid al-fitr celebration in Abuja, Nigeria June 4, 2019.    REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

An affectionate and simple set of pictures by Abdullah Dhiaa Al-Deen looks at the tradition of buying new clothes to celebrate Eid. The black background and the relaxed poses draw attention to the varieties of clothing purchased. Abdullah is taking a break from news photography to bring us a visual surprise to enjoy. I have pulled them together as a combination so you can see a small selection.  

Ghufran Ali Kazim, 21, Zuhair Ramzy Khalil, 23 and Mariam Farouq Naji, 23, pose for pictures wearing clothes brought for the celebration of Eid al-Fitr in Kerbala, Iraq June 5, 2019.    REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-Deen 

All colour has been choked out of Thaier Al-Sudani’s cityscape by the smoke from the chimneys. The image looks like it’s from a bygone era. A tiny figure is dwarfed by the chimney stacks and the extent of the pollution. It’s the vehicle on the right that snaps us out of this illusion that this is from the past. It’s happening right now. Read on here 

A general view of brick factories as smoke rises from the chimney stacks in Nahrawan in Baghdad, Iraq, June 3, 2019.    REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

All compositional lines in Azad Lashari’s picture lead to the fiery open mouth, from the torch itself, the line of the eyebrow, to the clothing of those watching. The yellow glow of the flame will be snuffed out in an instant as the worshipper closes his mouth, shutting off the oxygen to the flame. But the moment before that happens has been captured forever.  

A member of the Iraqi Muslims dervishes of Sufis, puts a torch of fire into his mouth as he takes part in a ritual during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, in Erbil, Iraq May 19, 2019.    REUTERS/Azad Lashari 

Like a Mondrian painting, this picture is made up of rectangular blocks, with the strong vertical lines of the telegraph poles intersecting the horizonal lines of the cables and breaking the image up into sections. A slab of solid back-lit black is counterweighted by the bright colours of the translucent flag held aloft. The picture structure feels like a loud drum beat. 

A Sudanese protester holds a national flag as he stands on a road barricade demanding that the country’s Transitional Military Council hand over power to civilians, in Khartoum, Sudan June 5, 2019.    REUTERS

Friday, 31 May 2019

A Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, May 31, 2019

The light in Alaa Al-Marjani’s picture is a little tough: top artificial light creating downward shadows, flat highlights and a colour cast. But this does not distract from an image that intrigues. What is best about this image is the timing, even though the light is poor and the women are covering their heads, you can just about see all the faces, with downcast eyes, and through this you get a powerful sense of devotion. Take the time to look at all their faces.

Iraq Shi’ite Muslim women place copies of the Koran on their heads during the holy month of Ramadan at the Imam Ali Shrine, in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq May 28, 2019.   REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

Each week Reuters photographers are commissioned with a theme of the week. This week is ‘beauty’ next week is ‘tobacco’. They are free to shoot what they want on this theme. Hayam Adel has chosen beauty treatments and used full-on eye contact and a bold crop mixed with warm colours to shoot this striking portrait of a young woman getting her hair braided and her hand hennaed. Cropping off the top of the head and leaving the open space top-right draws you into the eye and then to the carefully braided hair. 

A Sudanese girl with braided hair poses for a picture in Cairo May 29, 2019.   REUTERS/Hayam Adel 

Sometimes a picture works well cropped in two different ways, as is the case with Ronen Zvulun’s picture of Netanyahu. The full vertical image, a classic ‘top of head’ in frame with the hand and fingers leading you through the image to the eyes, works and the quality is good. A strong single-column image, in newspaper terminology. 

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits at the plenum at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem May 30, 2019.   REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

But a bold horizontal crop brings Ronen’s picture into the classic, easy to use and easy to consume digital platform format. It also brings your attention to the eyes in deep contemplation. Look carefully where each eye appears to be looking. The hand is creating wrinkles that bring you back into the image and those eyes as you are led from bottom left to top right by the fingers.   

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits at the plenum at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem May 30, 2019.   REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Ammar Awad’s picture plays a visual game of hide and seek. Your eye chases around the cool blues and greens and between the highlights and shadows looking for something to focus on. And then suddenly you see Netanyahu’s face, half obscured, peering at you from a protester’s banner. What a clever and creative way to photograph a demonstration, through a passing bus. 

A bus passes next to the residence of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest against him in Jerusalem May 30, 2019.   REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Waleed Ali’s picture has immediate impact with its strong graphic composition. A solid black space is bisected by a gold panel occupying just about half the image, eye-catching even when viewed small. You then notice the sea of people moving through a bold L shape from top left to bottom right. It’s then that the single figure, wearing a white shirt, jumps out at you as he stretches to touch the holy Kaaba. And once you have spotted him you just can’t look away as he tries to resist the movement of the tsunami of people to prolong his touch. More pictures on Ramadan here.

Muslims perform Umrah around the holy Kaaba at the Great Mosque during the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, May 26, 2019.  REUTERS/Waleed Ali

Some pictures just lift the heart, and Siphiwe Sibeko’s image does just that. Surrounded by colour, sound and movement is the biggest, warmest smile of the week. Siphiwe’s picture is perfectly timed so the waving flags don’t obscure the face. But the real secret to the success of this image is the eye contact. She’s looking right at you, even from across a crowded stadium. 

Guests sing and dance as they arrive for the inauguration of Cyril Ramaphosa as President, at Loftus Versveld stadium in Pretoria, South Africa, May 25, 2019.   REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Just enjoy the wonderful gentle horizontal zigzag composition of Mohamad Torokman’s picture. People are spaced out against the tooth-like concrete barrier as they make their way under the solid black tones of the canopy, all set against the highlight of the blue sky. Take the time to notice how Mohamed plays with the viewer, the figures right and left are in fact shadows of people – a nice touch.    

Palestinians make their way to attend last Friday prayer of Ramadan in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, at Qalandia checkpoint, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank May 31. 2019.   REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

A very simple picture by Aboud Haman that is quite thought-provoking. At first sight, it’s just a couple, dwarfed by the rubble of a destroyed building, not uncommon in Raqqa. But look deep into the shadows. These people are not walking past it, they are walking through it. A potentially dangerous journey, but in the context of recent history, not as dangerous as it was before. What occurred to me is how things that are not normal in many places seem completely commonplace elsewhere.   

People walk through the rubble of damaged buildings in Raqqa Syria May 29, 2019.   REUTERS/Aboud Hamam

The name Idlib conjures up images of a city gripped with tension and destroyed by conflict. Khalid Ashawi’s picture of bread being made in a bakery is counterintuitive and gives us a certain amount of respite from what is imagined. The whole image is almost completely monochromatic, the colour bleached out and the figure silhouetted by a single light bulb on the wall. A hint of a kiss of pink on the wall and the glow of the oven warm the whole image to the extent that you can almost smell that bread. Read on about Idlib here 

A worker bakes bread inside a bakery before Iftar, or fast breaking, during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in the city of Idlib, Syria May 28, 2019.   REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

I really don’t do cute, but hard to resist is Amir Cohen’s lucky and affectionate image of a fruit-bat suckling. The strength of this image is that it is pin sharp with a shallow depth of field, drawing your focus to the stretched teat, the bony wing and the touch of highlight in the eye of the pup. Soft-focused and in the background, is that a slightly indignant look on the mother’s face? 

An Egyptian fruit-bat pup suckles from its mother at a laboratory in the Steinhardt Museum of natural History in Tel Aviv, Israel May 27, 2019.   REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Friday, 24 May 2019

A Week in Pictures Middle East and Africa May 24, 2019

Two weeks to go before the Women’s World Cup France 2019 kicks off. Zohra Bensemra’s picture smacks you right in the face as the ball thunders at you, making you want to duck. Once you realise you are not going to be hit you notice that the ball looks like a giant head, the player’s body perfectly positioned so the illusion appears real. Once your mind’s eye has finished playing jokes with you, you can enjoy the warm tones of the image, the bright colours, and the fact that football is being enjoyed even though the pitch quality is not as good as it might be. But that just doesn’t matter. You can enjoy the rest of Zohra’s picture story here on the Wider Image.

Gaelle Dule Asheri, 17, a soccer player, who is amongst the first wave of girls being trained by professional coaches at the rails Foot Academy, plays football with her friends outside her house in Yaounde, Cameroon, May 3, 2019.   REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Ibraheem Abu Mustafa’s picture caught my eye and I’ve thought mmm that’s nice and then moved on. I’ve then been drawn back to it again, but can’t quite put my finger on why. Maybe it’s the harsh warm light that gives the colours their richness, or the strong shadows that define the features of the man who looks you in the eye. Or maybe it’s just the strong zigzag composition that draws you through the fruit market, in and out of the shadows and highlights.

Palestinian shoppers walk in a market in Khan Younis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip may 21, 2019.  REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

At first glance, Khalil Ashawi’s picture is one of gentle tranquility; a child with a beautiful shock of blond hair highlighted by the rich blue in the foreground sleeps peacefully. This peace is then disturbed as you notice dozens of flies and mosquitoes around the child’s nose and mouth. The blue that initially added a cool calm colour turns out to be a ragged tent in a temporary refugee camp. Read on here. 

A displaced Syrian child sleeps on a mat laid out on the floor in an olive grove in the town of Atmeh, Idlib Province, Syria May 19, 2019.   REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

Viewers of Mohamed Abd El Ghany’s wonderful picture would go completely unnoticed as people busily get on with the well-deserved business of breaking their fast. All hands, eyes and mouths are focused on eating and drinking. I can’t imagine much talking going on even though the whole community of friends, family and neighbours have all come together. That no doubt will come later when stomachs are full and thirsts quenched.   

Residents of Ezbet Hamada in Cairo’s Mataria district gather to eat Iftar, the meal to end their fast at sunset, during the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Cairo Egypt, May 20, 2019.   REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

I can’t help thinking of the painter Lowry when looking at Anne Mimault’s well- balanced and nicely timed picture. The figures occupy their own individual space against the backdrop of the flat walls of the church, which lead you into the picture, a visual movement aided by the angle of the bent arms on the left of the frame. Take the time to enjoy the shapes and space in the picture and then read on here about the horrors these people have faced. Read on here.

Protestants, some of whom fled Dablo and its surroundings leave a church after a service in the city of Kaya, Burkina Faso, May 16, 2019.    REUTERS/Anne Mimault

Bleached of nearly all colour, Sumaya Hisham’s strong political portrait looks like a still from a film noir. The empty space either side of the cameo profile is just begging for text to be laid out on the page. If I were to seek perfection, I’d like the lips not to be slightly clipped by a dark shape in the foreground. But the perfect often eludes us, so I am more than happy with this.   

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks to the media after parliament formally elected him as State President in Cape Town South Africa, May 22, 2019.    REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

Zohra Bensemra’s picture is a collection of well-composed triangles in a landscape that is hard to understand. Where and what is this place? Why are the colours so strange? What is this person doing? No pun intended, but the icing on the cake is the perfect position of the foot, poised in the classic step position. Read on here, all questions answered.

An employee who works for Marie Diouf, aka salt Queen, harvests salt at a production site in Ndiemou on the outskirts of Fatick, Senegal, May 15, 2019.   REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra 

And a couple more pictures because I like them  

A firefighting aircraft flies over a forest as firefighters put out a fire near Kibbutz Harel, which was damaged by wildfires during a record heat wave in Israel May 24, 2019.   REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun 

A family prepares bread at their house in Egypt’s Nile Delta village of El Shakhluba, in the province of Kaft el-Sheikh, Egypt may 5, 2019.   REUTERS/Hayam Adel

Friday, 10 May 2019

A Week in Pictures Middle East and Africa May 10, 2019

Saturday saw a missile and rocket exchange across Israel and the Palestinian territories, with hundreds of missiles fired day and night. Our teams on both sides of the conflict produced a powerful file. Two images from Mohammed Salem: the first captures a missile a fraction of a second from its target, making you hold your breath as you wait for the imminent strike and blast. Read the rest of the story here.

A missile approaches its target as smoke rises during Israeli air strikes in Gaza City May 5, 2019.  REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

The second image by Mohammed Salem, which also keeps you on edge, is of a man walking across a “bridge” of crushed concrete and metal, heavily weighed down as he salvages belongings from the destroyed building. Mohammed has timed his picture so the man is frozen at the weakest point of the traverse, the dark abyss of a drop seeming to reach up to pull him down. The broken metal bars and collapsed concrete stairs look like the jaws of a mechanical Venus fly trap.

A Palestinian salvages his belongings from the rubble of his house that was destroyed by an Israeli air strike, Gaza City, May 7, 2019.   REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Trails of smoke from anti-missile systems fill the blue sky and soft clouds to make an almost abstract picture, captured by Ronen Zvulun. I wondered, would it be better without the lamp post? Use your finger to hide the dark shape, the picture immediately loses the scale and context. Remove your finger so you can see the whole image again. The lines of the missile smoke now seem even more angry – don’t they?  

Smoke trails are seen in the sky as Iron Dome anti-missile projectiles intercepts a rocket that was fired from Gaza, above the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon May 5, 2019.   REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun 

At first glance all you really see in Amir Cohen’s picture is a small green bush against a brown stone wall. You then notice the highlight of the man’s arms, crouched and covering his head, sheltering in much as the corner of the stone work as possible. The compositional line and diagonals of the wall then lead to you the figures peering out from their “corner”. The dark shape in the background presses you back into the image. You then understand these people are sheltering, frightened. The caption reveals air raid sirens are sounding and these people have been caught out in the open. They are hiding, Amir is taking pictures.   

Israelis take cover as a siren sounds warning of incoming rockets from Gaza, during cross border hostilities, in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon may 5, 2019.   REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Despite the vivid colours in the foreground and the matching T-shirts and posters there is a gentle calm surrounding Rogan Ward’s election picture in the soft morning light. Party activists are busy as they wait for voters in an empty landscape that stretches out to the far horizon. The question is, will anyone come? Read the story here

Inkatha Freedom Party agents are seen near a polling station ahead of South Africa’s parliamentary elections in the farm lands near Eshowe, South Africa May 8, 2019.   REUTERS/Rogan Ward

If you have read a few of my weekly posts you will know that I am a sucker for strong compositional patterns with obvious line and shape, but also not keen on silhouettes.  There is no getting away from the terrific fan shape created by the single central light casting shadows of the people waiting to vote.  Mike Hutchings has shot it wide enough for us to be zoomed into the picture at breakneck speed. It’s quite fun.

Voters queue to cast their ballots before polls close outside a polling station in Alexandria township in Johannesburg, South Africa, May 8, 2019.   REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

A slight tilt to Umit Bektas’ picture has created a wonderfully designed image that has a lyrical feel. You can almost hear the song and chanting as sticks are waved to the beat in the open space of the sky. If you don’t see and feel all that, then just enjoy the smiles.

Sudanese protesters shout slogans during a demonstration infront of the Defence Ministry compound in Khartoum, Sudan May 4, 2019.   REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Siphiwe Sibeko’s portrait picture is as warm in its tones as it is affectionate towards his subjects. The orange of Nobutho’s clothing is echoed in the bowl in the foreground and the cushion to the left. Both these blocks of colour are cropped off perfectly so they don’t distract you as they lead you around the image to the seated figure in the shadows, her husband, Mandla. This visual draw is accentuated by the line of shadow from the cushion to Mandla. Once there, you read the slogan on the wall. Read the rest of the story here.

Nobutho Thethani, 59, a full-time farmer, looks on next to her husband, Mandla, 61, a pensioner, at their home in Lawley township in the south of Johannesburg, South Africa, April 17, 2019.    REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

It’s now the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and in Yemen women are queuing up for charity iftar meals. Khaled Abdullah has chosen to shoot the long queue of women very wide to give the viewer to sense of scale of all those needing food as charity. What is really striking to me is the orderly nature of the queue as these people wait patiently. It has quite a sombre tone.

Yemeni women and girls queue outside a charity food distribution centre to get iftar meal during the holy month of Ramadan in Sanna, Yemen, May 8, 2019.   REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah