Friday 27 October 2017

A week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, October 27, 2017

I had to update this post today with Tiksa Negeri's pictures of VWs in Ethiopia as a demonstration how it can be fun to illustrate business stories with eye catching visual ideas. In short VW announced their earnings on Friday, here's the headline, Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) lifted its profit target for the year on Friday after cost cuts at its core autos division helped it outstrip third-quarter earnings forecast. Great financial information but a little dry to illustrate. And here one of several great pictures about VW's in Ethiopia. Reuters also illustrated this story in the tradition manner so there was choice. 

A model of a Volkswagen Beetle toy is seen inside a Volkswagen Beetle car at a garage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, September 8, 2017.  

It’s not often that a press conference by an oil minister will result in a great picture but Khalid al-Mousily has achieved just that. A lucky break for Khalid makes for a riot of colour: the sea of coloured microphones, the reds of the background and the red, green, white and black of the Iraqi flag on the right. Amid all this colour there is no doubt in my mind that the world is listening to what Saudi Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih has to say.

Saudi Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih speaks at the opening of the Baghdad International Exhibition, Baghdad, Iraq October 21, 2017.   REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily

Flares, flags and fans all combine to make a great picture by Amr Abdullah Dalsh that puts me in mind of Visions of Hell by Hieronymus Bosch. The small human figures on the left seem to be competing for the ball of flame, while the giant mythical image of the bird brings the mind’s eye back to the fact that these are soccer fans cheering on their team with a passion,  and not Hell.  

Fans light flares during the CAF Champions League semi-final between Al Ahly and Etoile du Sahel at the Borg El Arab stadium.    REUTERS/Amr Dalsh

 I just have to keep coming back to try to understand why I like Baz Ratner’s picture of protestor wearing a mask so much. Is it the bizarre tilt of the head in the expressionless mask, or the riot of clashing purples, blues and reds? Maybe it’s the strong graphic shapes made by the circle of the handbag, the string of pearls or the V of the purple jacket or even the eye to camera contact of the mask with no eyes. Not sure – what do you think?  

A supporter of Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta wears a mask of his face before a Jubilee Party campaign caravan rally in Nairobi, Kenya, October 23, 2017.    REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Against a background like stars in the night sky, a fighter walks past a shop front riddled with bullet holes in this perfectly framed picture by Khalil Ashawi. The bright white light bleeding in around the armed figure in a darkened room removes just about all colour to create a monochrome, stage-like feel to this quiet but menacing picture.

A Free Syrian Army fighter walks as he holds his weapon in a damaged shop in the town of Tadef,  Aleppo Province, Syria October 23, 2017.    REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

It’s great to get some good news from Yemen and this rather haunting picture of 19-year-old Saidi by Abduljabber Zeyad is the third time we have photographed her in a year. Her story over the last year is as dark as the background in this picture, when Abduljabber photographed her earlier, looking skeletal and close to death. We have followed up on her story as she has slowly recovered, which you can see here.

Saida Ahmad Baghili, 19, who is recovering from severe malnutrition, stands in the door of her family’s hut in al-Tuhaitad district of the Red Sea province of Hodeidah, Yemen October 20, 2017.    REUTERS/Abduljabber Zeyad

Also from Yemen and by Abduljabber is this striking image of girls attending school that has been damaged by shelling. I feel a little as if am watching life going on in a nature program, where a remote camera has been set up to give the viewer a closer look at the daily life of a shy and reclusive creature. As with nature programs ,the subjects, in this case girls, seem oblivious to the fact that we can see them and that a shell has torn a hole in their school. 

Girls attend a class at their school, damaged by a recent Saudi-led air strike in the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen October 24, 2017.   REUTERS/Abduljabber Zeyad

A stark and brutal image of little Hala al-Nufi, aged 2-1/2, photographed by Bassam Khabieh, is something you cannot take your eyes off.  Her face wrinkled as if she is 70 years old, her dry tears and contorted expression share her physical pain with the viewer. Should this picture be seen? In my opinion yes , but with sensitivity and balance. The whole story can be seen here

Two-and-a-half year old Hala al-Nufi, who suffers from a metabolic disorder which is worsening due t the siege and food shortages in eastern Ghouta, reacts as she sits on a bed in the Saqba area, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria, October 25, 2017.

On October 26, the Kenyan election was re-run amid fears that there would be a repetition of the blood-letting seen after the election in 2007. This still might happen as the process continues (let’s hope not). I could have chosen a number of pictures from the clashes: tear gas fired by police, those killed by gunfire, or stone hurling protesters. Instead I have chosen this quiet image by Thomas Mukoya. One of the places where voting could not take place was Kibera and for the process to be complete voting as to take place here. The soldier squeezing his large frame through the small gates of a primary school that was supposed to be used as a polling station seems to sum up the constitutional struggle that is taking place. You can see the whole file, from the voting to the fighting, here.

A policeman walks through the gate at the Kibera primary school during presidential election re-run in Nairobi Kenya, October 26, 2017.

Okay and change of heart here is a picture by Thomas Mukoya that has come in just now. The water caught and frozen in mid air as flames tear through the slum properties.

People try to put a fire in properties set ablaze by rioters in Kawangware slum in Nairobi, Kenya October 27, 2017.    REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya 

I had to update this post today with Tiksa Negeri's pictures of VWs in Ethiopia as a demonstration how it can be fun to illustrate business stories with eye catching visual ideas. In short VW announced their earnings on Friday, here's the headline, Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) lifted its profit target for the year on Friday after cost cuts at its core autos division helped it outstrip third-quarter earnings forecast. Great financial information but a little dry to illustrate. And here one of several great pictures about VW's in Ethiopia. Reuters also illustrated this story in the tradition manner so there was choice. 

A model of a Volkswagen Beetle toy is seen inside a Volkswagen Beetle car at a garage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, September 8, 2017. 

Friday 20 October 2017

A Week in Pictures Middle East and Africa October 20, 2017

The strong graphic image by Erik de Castro of an Islamic State jail cell is as dark as it is haunting. The light from the door is choked by the oppressive black of the walls, leaving me with a sense of no escape. The simplicity of the image, with the light thrown on the grey wall and floor picking out some unrecognisable objects, leaves me in no doubt about the almost unimaginable horrors that went on there.

A view of a jail cell of the Islamic State is seen under the stadium, one of their last holdouts, in Raqqa, Syria, October 18, 2017.   REUTERS/Erik de Castro

In complete contrast to his previous image, Erik de Castro captures the elation and joy of victorious SDF forces driving through Raqqa, cheering, flashing victory signs and waving flags in the full light of day. It takes a while before the eye wanders to the background where you see the devastated buildings of the city. A bitter-sweet picture as you think about those buried in the ruinsthe toll paid to secure the city from Islamic State.

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters ride on top of military vehicles as they celebrate victory against Islamic State in Raqqa, Syria October 17, 2017.   REUTERS/Erik de Castro

Without great shape, line and colour it’s hard for a picture to catch the eye. Alaa Al-Marjani’s picture of the contested oil fields in Kirkuk grabs your attention like snake grabbing its prey with its strong composition. The black and grey pipe that draws you into the distant fields looks like an arrow piercing the picture. The colours of the orange flames against the blue sky leading you to the single flare stack with its flame and smoke on the horizon. It is a picture I just could not ignore because of its simplicity its strength.

Flames emerge from flare stacks at the oil fields in Kirkuk, Iraq, October 18, 2017.   REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

A line of migrants, some barefoot, stand in the sun after being rescued off the coast of Libya. Ismail Zitouny photographed their shadows to give us the feeling that these people are anonymous. Cropped below the chest and waist, they are faceless in both design and sense. But the sliver of light between each shadow reminds us that these are not a forgettable group but actually individuals – leaving me with a inexplicable hint of hope for their future.

Migrants stand at a naval base after they were rescued by the Libyan coastguard in Tripoli, Libya October 18, 2017.    REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny 

Baz Ratner’s image from Heroes’ Day celebrations in Kenya is a busy picture that takes a little time to make sense. You are finally guided to the centre of the frame by the men at the bottom left looking up. Time spent sorting out the visual noise is rewarded with a smile once your eyes settle on the two painted men taking selfies.

Two men take a selfie during the country’s Mashujaa day ( Heroes’ day) celebrations at the Uhuru park in Nairobi, Kenya, October 20, 2017.    REUTERS/Baz Ratner  

Monday 16 October 2017

A week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, October 15, 2017

It appears to the rest of the world that Kenya is struggling as the two main political parties wrestle for power in the lead-up to a second election after the first was declared void. Baz Ratner’s pictures of a plus size fashion show was a visual antidote to the daily diet of bloody street clashes. There is sheer joy on the faces of the women as they walk the catwalk in the latest Kenya fashions. I love how the light of the show changes from a cool blue on the right to hot reds on the left and you can almost hear the booming music.

Models pose on the catwalk during a plus size fashion show in Nairobi, Kenya October 7, 2017.   REUTERS/Baz Ratner

If ever a picture needed the health and safety warning “don’t try this at home”, it must surely be Mohamed Abd El Ghany’s picture of Egyptian fans celebrating their team qualifying for the 2018 Word Cup Finals. You can image the conversation moments before ‘I’ve got an idea, let’s all spray flammable gases into the air in a crowd and set fire to it’. A bad idea resulting in a great picture. 

Egyptians celebrate their soccer team’s victory against Congo that qualifies Egypt for the 2018 World Cup, in Cairo, Egypt October 7, 2017.    REUTERS/ Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Libya-based photographer Hani Amara’s picture of migrants sent a chill down my spine. At first, all we see is dozens of people sitting in perfect rows in a fenced-off area. Then we notice that more people are joining their ranks on the right, peeling off in strict order. What we can’t see is how many more will join, but I get the sense that this line of human tragedy is endless.  

Migrants sit at a detention centre in Gharyan, Libya, October 12, 2017.

Even though Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen’s picture was taken last August it was only published this week and so it qualifies to be included in pictures of the week (I set the rules anyway and they are there to be bent.) Abdullah worked on this in-depth story for weeks, and from the whole series I like this image the most. To me the calm and beauty of the scene seems as timeless as the turban is long. The delicate material held by the men draws you slowly into the picture towards the graceful arches, the eye pausing to take in the complexity of the floor’s design. The whole picture story, published on the Wider Image that can be seen here

A Shi’ite cleric holds a turban at al-sayed al-Yazdo school run by al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in Najaf, Iraq August 12, 2017. For more than 1000 years the al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in southern Baghdad has been giving religious instructions to thousands of Shi’ite Muslims to help them become clerics.   REUTERS/ Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen

Most of the time I believe that a picture has a natural crop, which might be captured by the camera in the purist Cartier Bresson sense or might need to be cropped by an editor with an eye to bringing out the best. On rare occasions some pictures just need to be seen in two different ways. Baz Ratner’s image is one of these. You immediately ask yourself ‘what is going on here?’ Cropped wide you see a man in a car consumed by white gas, the colour of which matches the paintwork. The car, the man’s face and arms and the eerie shadow on the side all add to the bizarre nature of the image. But then you want to see the man’s face, with his eyes seeming to pop out of his head as he tries to escape the smoke, his hands flailing about. You choose which you prefer.  You can read the back story to Baz’s picture here.

An opposition politician of the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition, reacts after a gas canister fired by police hits his car during a protest along a street in Nairobi, Kenya October 13, 2017.  REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Often the strongest pictures are made when objects are seen out of their usual context; a boat balanced on a building after a storm, a Rolls Royce in a swimming pool (it’s only Rock and Roll) and in this case Ange Aboa’s picture of a plane in the sea. What makes this picture even stronger is that the rescue is still going on. The man on the right of the picture desperately seems to call the viewer into the image to help with the rescue. The waves batter the stricken plane and crash in left to right, hampering the rescue. The wind so strong you can almost taste the salt water mixed with the spilled fuel of the plane.

People pull the wreckage of a propeller-engine cargo plane after it crashed into the sea near the international airport in Abidjan, Ivory Coast October 14, 2017.    REUTERS/Ange Aboa

Photographing a deadly bomb attack in Mogadishu is never easy. The constant danger of a secondary device targeting rescue workers and the fear that there may be a follow-up gunman attack means that you always have to be super careful. You also have to be mindful that you don’t produce pictures of such horror and gore that they are just un-publishable. Feisal Omar not only portrays the devastation of the scene -- fire, smoke, burning vehicles, wreckage and men carrying weapons -- but he also captures the human element of rescue and survival as the armed men carry the injured to safety. A very powerful news image.

Somali Armed Forces evacuate their injured colleague from the scene of an explosion in KM4 Street in the Hodan district of Mogadishu, Somalia, October 14, 2017.   REUTERS/Feisal Omar

The simple oval composition to Thierry Gouegnon’s picture, aided by a pointing hand, draws you into the writing in the sand.  Immediately you are intrigued; what is going on and what is causing such intense scrutiny? A game of chance? A plan for some event? Nope, the Liberia election results as they are announced on the radio. A fantastic picture that to me sums up the struggles and hopes of one of the world’s poorest nations as they go to the polls. 

Supporters of George Weah, former soccer player and presidential candidate of Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), note on the ground presidential election results announced on the radio, in Monrovia, Liberia October 15, 2017.    REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

Monday 9 October 2017

Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, October 8, 2017

Balanced on a pile of cushions, a gunman aims his rifle through a hole in a wall. Half shut your eyes and Erik de Castro’s image looks like a landscape, a watery sun setting to the left of a mountain, the moon just beginning to appear on the right. Open them again and you see the gunman precariously balanced as he prepares to kill. 

A fighter of Syrian Democratic Forces takes up a position inside a house in Raqqa, Syria, October 1, 2017.    REUTERS/Erik de Castro

We often read reports of troops massing prior to a battle but rarely do we get to see a great picture to match them. Armoured vehicles with brightly coloured flags fluttering in bright sunshine give the initial feel of a vintage car rally, a feeling that quickly dissipates as the compositional line between the smoke and the sky, mirrored by the line of telegraph poles on the left, race us to the vanishing point on the horizon where smoke rises from the battle.     

Shi’ite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and Iraqi army members gather on the outskirts of Hawija Iraq, October 4, 2017.

The clash of El Nabout canes, traditional clothing, strong shadows and an inconvenient lamp post combine to make a picture that intrigues. Mohamed Abd El Gheny’s affectionate picture of men taking part in an ancient martial art that is now a dance form provided one of the visual surprises of the week. The slight tilt to the image and the shadows leading to the lamp post enables its warm brown colour and harsh line to contribute to the shape of the picture instead of destroying it.

Abdu El Kholy and Hamdey El Hamed dance with their El Nabout canes as they perform Tahteeb, an ancient form of martial arts and dance, in the evening light in Sohag, Egypt, September 19, 2017.   REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

A picture’s beauty can be doubled when someone is smiling. When that person is Archbishop Desmond Tutu, I think the effect is fourfold. Mike Hutchings captures Tutu celebrating his birthday in one of the warmest and most affectionate pictures I have seen in weeks. The laugher is infectious, as the figure behind Tutu seems to have a wide grin too.   

Archbishop Demond Tutu laughs as crowds gather to celebrate his birthday by unveiling  an arch built in his honour outside St Georges's Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa, October 7, 2017.   REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

A slightly bizarre image by Erik de Castro who is covering the fighting in Raqqa, Syria, caught my eye. Why anyone would carefully lay out the uniform of an ISIS fighter on a stairwell is slightly beyond me, especially when a single boot is added to the bottom step? It’s almost as if a political comment is being made, the body and air has been squeezed out of ISIS as the SDF advance on their last strong holds in Raqqa. More pictures here.

A uniform of a member of Islamic State militants is pictures as it was displayed by the Syrian Democratic Forces at their positions inside a building at the frontline in Raqqa, Syria, October 6, 2017.   REUTERS/Erik de Castro

When it ‘rains on your parade’ the day is often spoiled, but quite the opposite happened here for Thierry Gouegnon, who turned a downpour at a campaign rally to his advantage. First, keeping dry, Thierry has used his shelter and those people close to him to frame his picture of women dancing in the torrential rain. What I also like is that I am unsure if it’s taken at night with strong stage lights illuminating the scene, or the light has been created by the sun bursting through the storm clouds. 

Supporters of Joseph Nyuma Boakai, Liberia Vice President and the candidate of Unity Party’s (UP), attend their party’s presidential campaign rally in Monrovia, Liberia, October 7, 2017.    REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

How could I resist highlighting this sweeping landscape, where the zigzag of hundreds of marching people seem to morph into the distant mountain ranges and then beyond to the  clouds. Photographer Ronen Zvulun makes an epic action picture that I am sure Western film director John Ford would have admired.

Palestinian and Israeli women march, as part of an event organised by ‘Women Wage Peace’ group calling for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, near the Jordan River, in the occupied West Bank October 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun 

Sunday 1 October 2017

Week in Pictures Middle East and Africa October 1, 2017

After a short break (I have been travelling in the region) here is my weekly selection of images from the region that have caught my eye. 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 quiet and timeless moment from Erbil in Iraq as Kurds vote in a referendum on independence. The muted colours of the men’s traditional dress give the feeling of a bygone age, the soft, long shadows leading you into the picture. Ahmed Jadallah caught the moment perfectly as the shadow of the man’s profile is cast exactly to where the other man is looking, trying to find a name on the voters’ list.  More pictures of the referendum here.

People look at their names on a list at a polling station during the Kurdish independence referendum in Erbil, Iraq September 25, 2017.   REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

I found it hard to choose which picture from Dubai I like the most so I have decided to leave that to you. I am very drawn to the abstract feel of Satish Kumar’s first picture. The dark bands in the foreground seem to float up like blurry space saucers, bringing with them a ghostly train of white that leads the eye to the strange flying object. We are not given any sense of scale. Confused, we finally ask: “Is this a space-age toy?”

Men look up into the sky at the flying taxi in Dubai, United Arab Emirates September 25, 2017.   REUTERS/Satish Kumar.

The second of Satish’s images is less abstract, but has a wonderful futuristic sense to it. The cool tones and white and blue colours feel clinical, warmed only by the light on the face of the man on the left. The viewer tries to look past the men to understand the strong graphic shape of the object behind them that spins you around and around, a space-age mixture of drone and helicopter.

Dubai Crown prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (2nd R) stands infront of the flying taxi in Dubai, United Arab Emirates September 25, 2017. Satish Kumar

Bullet holes and shattered glass create a mosaic over Ammar Awad’s aftermath picture of an attack that left four dead. A slight tilt to the image ensures we know we are looking through a window. Its strong black vertical lines, for me, hint at death as the soldiers walk slowly past.

Israeli soldiers are seen through the window of a security booth damaged during a shooting attack in which a Palestinian gunman killed three Israeli guards and wounded a fourth in a Jewish settlement in the occupied West bank before he was shot dead police said, September 26, 2017.         REUTERS/Ammar Awad

I am never really a fan of military training exercises as we get so much actual conflict in the Middle East and Africa. But Suhaib’s picture of Hamas police caught my eye. A great action-packed picture, well composed in shape, tone and colour. The sheer determination on the man’s face perfectly captured as he lugs a concrete block while crawling, which I imagine is not easy. As the fires and black smoke in the background blot out the final glimmers of blue sky, the anonymous group of figures give additional menace to the picture and ultimately, to me, a film poster feel. This brings me back to my initial point and maybe this is why I personally don’t really like training pictures. Of course many others do and this is a very strong image.

Palestinian Hamas policeman takes part in a military training exercise at Hamas-run police academy in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza strip September 27, 2017.   REUTERS/Suhaib Salem   

What catches my eye more often than not is a picture that confuses me visually.  I just have to look again and again to sort it out in my mind. Ronen Zvulun does this successfully with his ‘headless’ man holding a chicken. My experience in the news business tells me that surely it should be a headless chicken, in the same vein as ‘man bites dog’. The picture looks like the man has entered a fairground hall of mirrors that distorts reflections. The feet and legs look normal, the hand seems overly large, leading the viewpoint to the chicken that is trying, in vain, to escape his clutches. As you look further into the picture you get a shock, where is the man’s head? The reds, yellows and greens in the background throw in splashes of colour to give the picture a festival warm and affectionate feel-good factor.

An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish man holds a chicken as he performs the Kaparot ritual, where white chickens are slaughtered as a symbolic gesture of atonement, ahead of Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of Atonement, in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighbourhood September 27, 2017.   REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

The Ugandan parliament is debating a motion to end a constitutional limit on the President’s age.  James Akena had an overview as the debate turned into a brawl between security staff and lawmakers. A great compositional oval of green surrounds the reds and whites, drawing you in towards the face of the woman in the struggle as others join the fray. Five people were hospitalised and one quote from the hospital nearly as good as the picture: “These guys grabbed me from behind and one twisted my arm. I started to scream and another squeezed my balls.”  To see the full sequence of the punch-up click here.

Ugandan opposition lawmakers fight with plain-clothed security personnel in the parliament while protesting a proposed age limit amendment bill debate to change the constitution for the extension of the President's rule, in Kampala, Uganda, September 27, 2017.  REUTERS/James Akena

Eye contact with the photographer can often destroy the moment in a picture. In Thomas Mukoya’s picture of a student being arrested it only adds to it. The policeman has grabbed student, who is shielding himself as the baton appears to swing towards him. I think this captured moment of ‘eye to lens’ contact gives the reader a glimpse into the policeman’s mind.  What is his intent? 

Riot policemen arrest a University of Nairobi student after protests against the detention of an opposition legislator in Nairobi, Kenya September 28, 2017.   REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya  

A symmetrical composition of leading lines of the red lights and the fanned shape of the instruments held by the pilgrims in addition to the strong complimentary colours (the red and the green) build to this striking picture by Abdullah Dhiaa Al-Deen. The boy doesn't so much as look at the camera but over and through it to a distant point on the horizon. Beauty and order before the blood letting of Ashura begins. 

Shi'ite pilgrims gather ahead of Ashura, the holiest day of the Shi'ite Muslim calendar, in Kerbala, Iraq September 30, 2017.   REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-Deen