Sunday 22 March 2020

A Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, March 20, 2020

As many Muslims around the World have been forced to perform Friday prayers away from the mosques they usually pray in many elderly have decided to stay at home. Ali Hashisho’s picture is gentle and affectionate portrait of an aging couple at home in prayer. Beautifully composed and lit so we focus on this woman’s eyes. Her expression to me seems to be one of gentle contemplation that brings peace and calm. The tilt of her head and shape of her head dress leads us to her husband and the softly side lit room.    

Nouzat Awada, 79, and her husband Ahmad al-Asmar, 84, perform Friday prayers inside their home as mosques are closed over concerns of the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Sidon, Lebanon, March 20, 2020.   REUTERS/Ali Hashisho 

For me Ronen Zvulun’s picture is both touching and a little sad. The couple are dancing seemingly momentarily oblivious of the fact that the room, which should be filled with friends and family to celebrate their marriage, is empty due to the measures implemented to control coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The only other figure in the image is a lone musician who plays a tune they dance to, an image that sums up the impact the virus has had on social behavior.

Israeli couple Roni Ben-Ari and Yonatan Meushar dance as they get married at Ein Hemed Forest Wedding Venue who are offering, free small-scale weddings for young couples whose wedding cannot take pace die to the restrictions imposed by the government to fight coronavirus, in Ein Hemed, Israel, March 18, 2020.   REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun 

I’ve seen dozens of images of workers disinfecting all sorts of places but not many have the beauty of the side light that makes Omar Sanadiki’s picture stand out. What I like too, if you take the time to look carefully is the portrait of Syrian President Assad on the edge of the shadows that places the picture in Damascus.    

A worker sanitises schools as part of preventive measures against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Damascus, Syria, March 18, 220.   REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

The team in the whole MEA region have worked hard to produce a series of ‘before and after’ combination images that illustrate the impact that self isolation, government ruling and fears over the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has had on communities throughout the region. There are many more that you can see here but below are four that I really like, from Amir Cohen, Alaa al-Marjani, Shokry Hussein and Zohra Bensemra.

A combination picture shows children on a swing at the beach of Ashkelon, israel march 16, 2020 and the same swing march 17, 2020, as Israel takes stringent steps to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).   REUTERS/Amir Cohen 

A combination picture shows passengers wearing protective face masks as they wait in Najaf airport following the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Najaf March 15, 2020 and then the same set of seats after all flights were suspended, amid concerns over the disease spreading March 17, 2020.  REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani  

A combination picture shows students attending a lecture at Cairo University in Cairo, Egypt, February 12, 2020 and the same scene following government efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) March 15, 2020.   REUTERS/Shokry Hussein

A combination picture shows Senegalese working out on a beach along route de la Corniche in Dakar, Senegal, March 12, 2020 and the same empty beach after the government tightened up measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Dakar, Senegal March 19, 2020.   REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

As far as the eye can see black and white chairs are spaced out with military precision waiting to be filled with people who will be tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Standing in the middle of Stephanie McGehee’s picture is the slightly scary figure of a masked and suited helper, her gesture saying ‘stop right there’.   

A volunteer directs visitors at a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing centre at the Kuwait international Fairgrounds in Mishref, Kuwait March 18. 2020.   Stephanie McGehee

My intention this week was to choose only coronavirus disease (COVID-19) related pictures but the next three images were all too interesting and powerful to ignore.

Abdullah Rashid shot a clever picture from the perspective of the rescuers eye view as he got himself a lift on a mechanized digger as people search for flood victims. I can’t help feeling through the body language of the driver that he feels he has the best seat, especially when you finally work out that the other rescuers are all squashed into the bucket of the digger. 

Volunteers search for people who need help in a flooded area after heavy rainfall in east Mosul, Iraq 18, 2020.   REUTERS/Abdullah Rashid  

A beautiful and well-timed image by Temilade Adeleja. Remove the figure in your minds’ eye and all you get is a smoggy featureless image. What is so crucial to make this work is that the image is timed to show the figure’s legs at full stretch and his arm outstretched so you get the classic ‘walking’ shape. Not so easy to capture when you think he is walking carefully on logs that are floating on polluted water. Read on here

A man walks on logs of wood placed in the river at the Makoko community in Lagos, Nigeria March 9, 2020.   REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja

I am not a fan of ever taking selfies as I am acutely aware of the need for the ‘selfie face’ and the impact it has on an image – smile or frown, either way will impact on the sensibility of the image. I think Khalil Ashawi’s picture is a wonderful example of how people compose their personal image before composing the ‘selfie’ frame to capture themselves in a historic moment in time.  

A Turkey-backed Syrian rebel fighter take a picture with a mobile phone during a protest against the agreement on joint Russian and Turkish patrols on M4 highway in Idlib province Syrian March 15, 2020.   REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

Almost to the point of abstraction Thaier Al -Sudani blends amazing lush colours and rich tones of flag carrying Shi’te pilgrims defying a curfew to make their way to Kadhimaya. You are seduced into the rich greens for what seems like an eternity until finally you escape to the hint of red in the background so your eye can finally make sense of the covered figures making their way down the road. 
Shi’ite pilgrims make their way to Kadhimiya to mark the death of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim during a curfew imposed to prevent the spread coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Baghdad, Iraq, March 18, 2020.   REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

Zohra Bensemra’s picture is a wonderful study of light, colour and shape that all seem to dance around one another in the frame. I love the way objects on the edges of the frame are cropped to point that we know what they are, a washing line, a gate, a blue tub of water, but they don’t intrude on central character. The girl who is beautifully dressed, carefully washing her hands in a tiny and delicate movement as if preparing for a Hollywood evening of glamour. 

A girl washes her hands at the entrance of her parents’ house in Pikine on the outskirts of Dakar, Senegal March 9, 2020. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra 

Through a sophisticated balance of deep shadows and bright colours Baz Ratner intrigues us with his portrait of a security guard who is protecting himself coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The guard seems to be almost hiding in the shadows of a post behind his head from the glare of the bright light and colors in the background. Baz gives us just enough detail to see the face mask and a hint of highlight in his eye.  

A security guard uses a face mask to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the main railway station in Nairobi, Kenya, match 17, 2020.   REUTERS/Baz Ratner

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