Sunday 27 August 2017

Week in Pictures Middle East and Africa August 27, 2017

A personal selection of what has caught my eye and why from the file this week

A new front opened up in Iraq as government troops supported by Shi’ite Popular Mobilization forces started to try to retake Tal Afar from Islamic State. I really like the strong composition of this picture. The eye is led from the flags in the foreground through the picture by a strong reversed S shape as armoured vehicles make their way through the dust to the distant battle front.

 Shi’ite Popular Mobilization forces (PMF) gather with the Iraqi army on the outskirts of Tal Afar, Iraq, August 22, 2017.  REUTERS

Very much on the theme of strong composition driving an image, I am drawn to this stark, grey picture from an oil refinery in Bahrain. It works well for me because the lines of the picture lead you to people who are so small in the frame that without this visual aid they’d be almost invisible. The notion of people going for an evening stroll among the refinery pipelines lifts this picture from something that would be quite inanimate to something much more intriguing.

Residents are seen taking an evening walk near the petroleum pipelines of fuel storage tanks of State-owned Bahrain Petroleum Co (Bapco) refinery in Ma’ameer village south of Manama, Bahrain, August 22, 2017.   REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

 Dust consumes the whole of Omar Sanadiki’s picture, flattening it to a monochromatic relief after a Hezbollah tank fires, giving the landscape a space-like appearance. I can’t help thinking about the storm scene in the film The Martian, the figures battling against the dust cloud. What adds to this impression for me is the almost clumsy slow motion steps of the soldiers and the lumbering alien look and feel of the armoured vehicle; we can’t quite make out the classic ‘tank’ shape through the dust and backlight, but we know it’s there.

Hezbollah fighters walks near a military tank in the western Qalamoun, Syria, August 23, 2017.      REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

I think detail pictures are often some of the most revealing images from a sequenced picture story. A close-up of an item can explain so much when we can see every detail. Akintunde Akinleye’s well-observed picture of a money changer’s tools of the trade is one such case. To me this picture speaks of poverty but a determination to create wealth through trade. Old and well thumbed notes are displayed on a very grubby plastic table top. The coins that look like they may have been cast in a previous millennium are  scattered about or piled neatly, no doubt according to their value. Lastly, the digital calculator, which is probably used to haggle and squeeze the exchange rates, is left on a pot of items that make no sense to me at all. The padlock is unlocked and  the money box open and ready for business. Just from these small details I feel I can almost see the face of the money trader – can you?

Old Nigerian currency is seen on a ‘carpet’ in a local exchange shop in the old district of Nigeria’s northern city of Kano, August 24, 2017.   REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

It would be wrong to avoid including images from Yemen of victims being dug out of a housing complex after an air raid. Again we have to struggle with the topic of showing the effects of war on civilians, especially children. The pictures shot by Khaled Abdullah are as powerful as they are distressing and as a professional news photographer working in a conflict zone he is careful to photograph all he sees to tell the story fairly and honestly. He presents the most brutal images of dead children, their faces crushed, their broken bodies covered in dust, being carried away by rescue workers, alongside pictures of a general view of mechanical earth movers operating around the destroyed building. Editors must be given all this content so they can choose what to publish, telling the news but treating their readers with understanding. My view is that these images of death in conflict should be published, but in an honest, factual and non-sensationalist way, and with no hiding from what is going on. At the same time they should never be gratuitous and should always display humanity. I believe that it’s the first glimpsed moment of a picture that is burned into the mind forever. Publishers, and anyone who uses social media -- Twitter, Instagram or Facebook -- is now a publisher and should shoulder this responsibility. For myself, I added a notice of graphic content to this post giving the reader the choice to see or not to see, to know or not to know. I have also left on the graphic content warning on the caption that our clients see too. You may disagree, believing that all should be seen, thrown into the reader’s face, those images burned into the mind forever, and I have failed to show the real brutality what is happening. In the picture I have chosen the child is alive but injured, the rescuers’ body language offering hope. Others may feel that what I have posted is itself gratuitous, after all who wants to see pictures of injured children? Khaled followed up on this girl's story and it can been seen here - GRAPHIC CONTENT.

A man carries an injured girl, rescued from the site of a Saudi-led air strike in Sanaa, Yemen August 25, 2017.     REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

People search under rubble of a house destroyed by an air strike in Sanaa, Yemen August 25, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 

Often it's timing that makes a simple picture a little bit special. Luc Gnago's picture of of a sick man waiting to attend church is one of these. The three figures are joined by a moment in time. You look up from the sick man's head along the covered leg of the man in the rear, his hand reaching forward to connect to the woman in the foreground, his orange scarf only just touching the blue of the woman's robe . Your eye is led back down the picture  through her hand and back ti the sick mans head, the cycle complete. And all this in a picture that on the surface looks like two people just walking past someone who is lying sick on the ground.  

Members of the Celestial Church of Christ walk next to a sick man before worship at the church in Abidjan, Ivory Coats, August 25, 2017.    REUTERS/Luc Gnago

Monday 21 August 2017

Middle East and Africa A Week in Pictures 20 August 2017

A quiet moment in a city under siege in Bassam Khabieh’s picture from Douma in Syria. The body language of the boy is as sad and somber as the grays of the wall behind him, the bricks on the ground left and right of the image keeping the rhythm of the composition that is built up by the position of the figures and the pillars in the wall. The only warm colour in the picture is the headdress of the man looking down at his grandson, the affection and warmth on his face slowly coming to the fore of the image.

A child sits next to his grandfather in Douma, near Damascus, Syria, August 14, 2017.    REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

The Egyptian Cup Final between Al Masry and Al Ahly in Alexandria, was a quiet affair, not that the sport was not competitive, the winner scored in extra time, but because no fans were allowed to attended due to violence at previous fixtures. You can almost hear the ref’s whistle pierce the near silence in Amr Dalsh’s eerie picture of the floodlit pitch surrounded by empty seats.   

A general view of match action during the Egyptian Cup Final between Al Masry and Al Ahly in Alexandria, Egypt August 15, 2017.    REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

I am not a great fan of sunset pictures or silhouettes but Zohra Bensemra's perfectly timed picture of a boy diving into a canal caught my eye this week. The body of the boy appearing to make a horizontal bridge across the canal, his fingers seem to reach out to disturb the calm of the waters before the splash we all know is going to happen. What is most intriguing for me is that this peaceful captured moment is close to the city of Raqqa where a battle rages on.  

A boy cools off in an irrigation canal on the outskirts of Raqqa, Syria, August 16, 2017.    REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

With reports of hundreds being buried in a landslide in Sierra Leone Nigeria based photographer Afolabi Sotunde was at the scene within 24 hours. Rescue workers looking for survivors and recovering bodies. Afolabi's picture of fresh graves being dig for the victims stretch from the foreground of the picture to the horizon giving the viewer a real sense of the large numbers involved in this tragedy. The longer you look at the picture the more graves you see with grim faced workers going about their solemn business, a sad and poignant picture. 

Workers are seen digging graves at Paloko cemetery in Waterloo, Sierra Leone August 17, 2017.   REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

From a very large series of pictures based on recycling this week I could not resist picking out Thierry Gouegnon’s image of a woman carrying utensils made from recycled metal. The brutal vertical line of the corner of the building, almost cutting the picture in half, gives it a mirror image feeling. I love it that the woman’s foot almost touches this imaginary line; and if it did it would break the mirror-like spell. Looking at the position of the people in the frame, especially the person on the right, what also springs to mind, is a still taken on 360 VR where you can see front and back at the same time. 

A woman walks with kitchen tools made of recycled sheet metal in a recycling area in Anoumambo, Abidjan, Ivory Coast August 17, 2017.    REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

A simple detail picture by Afolabi Sotunde demonstrates the force with which flood waters and mud swept through homes in Pentagon, near Freetown, Sierra Leone.  As you take in the sharp contrast between the white exterior wall and debris crammed against the bars of the window, it dawns on you what little chance of survival the occupants had.

Debris is seen inside the window of a house along the valley after a flash flood at Pentagon, Regent Town, Sierra Leone August 18, 2017.   REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

A captured expression, no matter how old the subject, can reveal innermost thinking, which is the essence of great portrait photography.  There is little doubt in my mind what this baby is thinking in Amr Abdullah Dalsh’s picture during baby swimming lessons. This involves dunking the babe’s under the water, counter intuitive to me, but apparently it teaches them to hold their breath, enables them to sleep better and improves their flexibility.  Intrigued? If so read on here.

An Egyptian baby boy his held by his father before taking part in swimming lessons, the first of its kind, in Cairo, Egypt August 15, 2017.   REUTERS/Amr Abdulalh Dalsh

Monday 14 August 2017

Middle East and Africa Pictures of the Week August 13, 2017

This is a collection of pictures that caught my eye from the Middle East and Africa this week. I chose them for a variety of reasons -- a captured moment, something that made me pause for thought, great design , great light or even something that simply made me smile.  These are not necessarily the top news pictures of the week but may have slipped by largely unnoticed in the tsunami of news from the region.

Rival demonstrations took place as the decision was made on whether a vote of confidence in President Zuma should be a secret ballot. Hundreds took to the streets and Mike Hutchings darted between opposing rallies. Using a long lens,  Mike filed this picture to show the number of people present, a good picture in its own right. But a crop bought the cut-out caricature image of Zuma from the background, where it was ‘hidden’ by the signs saying ‘the truth will set you free’ and ‘Woodstock’, to the foreground.

Anti-Zuma protesters, civil society groups and faith communities march against President Zuma, in Cape Town, South Africa August 7, 2017.   REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Queues of Kenyan voters snake from left to right as they wait to cast their votes in the early morning.  I love the order of the lines, where people stand with almost equal personal space between them. But what I like most is that the order breaks down and the line meanders about. A picture of ordered calm where chaos and violence is feared.

People queue outside a polling station in Nairobi Kenya waiting to cast their vote during the national election August 8, 2017.  REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

 Showing the horror of a death during a riot is never easy. You need to show enough of the body to ensure the news is covered but not so much of the horror that it either offends viewers or removes all dignity from the victim. Thomas Mukoya’s picture of a woman reacting to a death during clashes after the Kenyan election does just that. You can almost hear the screams from her contorted face, your eye led immediately from her mouth and up from the corner of the picture along the line of the edge of the building to the slumped body on the ground. There is enough depth of field so you can see the shape of the body but not so much that the focus is on death. This picture is the reaction of the living to the sight of death.

A woman screams and gestures as she mourns the death of a protester in Mathare, In Nairobi, Kenya, August 9, 2017.   REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Often it’s the unexpected that catches the eye. Images from the battle for Raqqa would could be expected to show monochrome destruction and violence and we have plenty of them on the wire. Zohra Bensemra’s affectionate portrait of a YPG fighter taking a selfie in a relaxed moment is an antidote to the violence. A bright yellow hat band is almost perfectly matched in colour and tone with graffiti on the wall. The reds, greens and blues, and black and white lines of graffiti dancing like an abstract painting, but that could be because I cannot read the Arabic text. What is nicest for me in this array of colour is that the young soldier is as relaxed as if she is doing a picture of her new hat at the Royal Ascot races and not in the battle torn streets of Raqqa.

A People Protection Unit (YPG) fighter takes a selfie in the old city of Raqqa, Syria August 9, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

It would be easy to think this is a still from a movie. It’s not. Mohamed Torokman’s picture is perfect in its screen-like composition, red flames and black smoke highlighting the soldier, sunlight catching his face and hands as he aims his rifle. If the solder was a little to the right or left or the flames a little lower this picture would not work. All the dark green of the uniform and black smoke would kill the shape. What can’t be seen in this picture are protesters who are hurling rocks at him during clashes at the West Bank. 

An Israeli soldier walks points his weapon toward Palestinian protesters during clashes in the West Bank village of Kofr Qadom near Nablus August 11, 2017.  REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

Sometimes you get so pent up and angry when you are trying to make a point or get yourself understood you just want to scream. I think Afolabi Sotunde’s picture captures that very moment, a simple and direct portrait but full of emotion about to burst.

Supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari rally at the Unity Fountain in support of his Administration in Abuja, Nigeria August 11, 2017.   REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

The strength of this image is that it is almost abstract; it could be easily missed as it takes time to understand what is going on. The fact that Zohra Bensemra has taken the visual risk to transmit a picture that is so unexpected and very different, from a war zone, can only be admired. After the dark shadow on the left the first thing you see is the pink object, a water tap, itself somewhat unexpected. Then you begin to see the running water, its shadow and the stains on the wall. Soon the image that initially looked abstract takes form. 

The shadow of an internally displaced girl who fled Raqqa is cast at a water point at a camp in Ain Issa, north of Raqqa, Syria August 12, 2017.   REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Monday 7 August 2017

Middle East and Africa, Pictures of the Week August 6, 2017

This is a collection of pictures that caught my eye from the Middle East and Africa this week. I chose them for a variety of reasons -- a captured moment, something that made me pause for thought, great design , great light or even something that simply made me smile.  These are not necessarily the top news pictures of the week but may have slipped by largely unnoticed in the tsunami of news from the region.

A police officer opens fire at Muhammad al-Maghrabi, 41, who was convicted or raping and murdering a three-year-old girl, in Sanaa, Yemen July 31, 2017.   REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 

We started the week with a debate about whether to show images from photographer Khaled Abdullah of an execution in Yemen. Was it legal in Yemen? Yes. Could we have intervened? No. Did it take place in a public place? Yes. Was it sensationalist? Not an easy question to answer. It clearly had news value and we believe the careful edit enabled us to show the event without sensationalising it. The moment of execution was photographed wide to show the whole scene, and the package of pictures included images of the child’s father, the gathered crowd of over 2,000 people and the prisoner being brought to his fate. Khaled described how he got access here.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish youth is reflected in a glass panel as female Jewish worshippers pray next to the Western Wall on Tisha B'Av, a day of fasting and lament, in Jerusalem's Old City August 1, 2017. REUTERS/Amir Cohen    

The beautifully observed picture by Amir Cohen of a boy reflected in a glass panel as worshippers pray next to the Western Wall in Jerusalem caught my attention. Initially the viewer is confused – what’s going on? The reflections almost make it appear that men and women are mixing here, which is not allowed, the ghostly figure of the young man walking behind praying women. Amir needed to wait for quite a while before the different elements of the picture to came together to ensure the composition was right. The change from the cold colours on the left to the warm tones on the right adding to the strong composition and yes, maybe even a sense of confusion.

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Ordinga, the presidential candidate of the National Super Alliance (NASA) party, is surrounded by supporters from the Maasai community as he arrives on top of a car to an election rally in Suswa, Kenya, August 2, 2017.  REUTERS/Baz Ratner   

Campaigning for the Kenyan election is in full swing. Baz Ratner’s picture of opposition leader Raila Odinga arriving at a rally of Maasai supporters is full of tension. The raised hands with sticks in the foreground draw the eye to the tiny figure of Odinga being driven through the crowd. The sticks and arms of the cheering crowd take you deeper into the image as they appear to rain down on the white-clad leader. You can almost taste the atmosphere as a helicopter arcs away in the background, throwing up dust. 

Yazidis attend a commemoration to mark three years since Islamic State launched what the United Nations said was a genocidal campaign against them, in Sinjar region, Iraq, August 3, 2017.    REUTERS/Suhaib Salem 

It’s often images that happen on the sidelines of a planned event that make the strongest pictures. Suhaib Salem caught an unguarded moment among Yazidis gathered in Sinjar to mark the third anniversary of what the UN has called a genocidal campaign against them by IS. There is no doubting the sombre feeling; the soft tones and colour of the even light, the visual upward pressure of the women’s hands held to their mouths and the shapes in the door in the background.

A man prepares to cast his vote at a polling station in Kigali, Rwanda, August 4, 2017.   REUTERS/Jean Biziman

Not many will know that Rwanda has just had elections, with Paul Kagame sweeping back into power with a massive majority to secure a third term. Jean Bizimana’s image capturing the determination on this voter’s face, his polling card in hand, fills this picture with “can do, will do” passion. The man’s eyes are fixed on the ballot box, the focal point of the picture, in the centre of an empty room. The coloured cloth draped carefully around a wooden structure in the background reflects the national flag and the nation’s ideology; blue, for happiness and peace, yellow, economic development, and green, hope of prosperity.

A member of Libyan forces allied with the UN-backed government looks through a pair of binoculars during a patrol to prevent Islamic State resurgence on the outskirts of Sirte, Libya, August 4, 2017.   REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

 Clever compositional use of strong verticals and horizontals by Ismail Zitouny tricks us into thinking that the solder is standing on the tight rope of the distant horizon. But of course that makes no sense, so instead we get to experience the soldier’s view, an overwhelming sense of infinity, where desert meets sky. Our sense of isolation is only broken by the weathered sign to the right of the picture, leaving us to wonder what possible information could be written here in the deserts of Libya.

Supporters of Kenyan opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition party cheers during the final campaign rally at the Uhuru park grounds in Nairobi, Kenya August 5, 2017.            REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Sheer energy, a big smile and a slight tilt to the camera makes Thomas Mukoya’s picture one to catch the eye. Hundreds of people are seen cheering at the last opposition rally before polling day, their hands almost embracing the Kenyan national flag. It’s never easy to keep pictures sharp when tinsel and confetti are falling down as the auto focus goes into hyper-drive searching for one thing to focus on. There is no doubt where the focus is here, on that big smile. Read more on the election here.

Esperance Sportive players walk during play against Al Faisaly during the Arab Club Championship final in Cairo Egypt, August 6, 2017.   REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Esperance Sportive players celebrate with the trophy after beating Al Faisaly in the Arab Club Championship final in Cairo Egypt, August 6, 2017.   REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

The final of the Arab Cup Championship in Egypt was a rollercoaster of emotion.  Esperance Sportive, who played Al Faisaly in a tense match that went into extra time, look almost choreographed in the first picture by Amr Abdallah Dalsh. The position of the players’ feet, the almost even spaces between the figures opening for a glimpse of Al Faisaly’s number 7 in the background, give the composition a dance-like feel, but the tension in their faces make the dance a grim affair. The second image is full of joy, celebration and relief as the trophy is lifted.