Friday 26 January 2018

A Week in Pictures Middle East & Africa January 26, 2018

A chaotic mess of a picture by Kenny Katombe that keeps on rewarding you the more you look, not unlike a Pieter Bruegel painting from the 16th century.  The policeman walking behind the calm but submissive priest looks like he’s holding his breath. People in the middle distance fall to the ground to take cover, except for the single protester who appears to be glaring defiantly at where the tear gas came from. People behind the tear gas cloud run in panic, while the police to the left of the picture seem unconcerned as they watch the scene unfold. 

Riot police fire tear gas to disperse Catholic Priests and demonstrators during a protest against President Kabila, organised by the Catholic Church in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo January 21, 2018.   REUTERS/Kenny Katombe

Uniformed men, aggressively chanting and shouting, always slightly disturb me, especially when they are all holding weapons. Rodi Said’s picture gives me an even stronger feeling of unease. In its composition, the picture is very busy and at the same time strangely ordered, with a regular pattern of hands, faces and rifles slowly drawing you to the face of the man shouting, the line of his mouth echoed by his cap. Maybe I feel uneasy because his face is so young and I wonder if he really understands what he could be facing in the coming days on the Syrian-Turkish border once all the chanting is done with.

Fighters from the self-defence forces of the Kurdish-led north hold their weapons during a rally in Hasaka, northeastern Syria January 23, 2018.   REUTERS/Rodi Said 

Cold, damp, miserable and muddy, the mood is set in Khalil Ashawi’s rather ugly-shaped picture as FSA soldiers on the Turkish-Syrian border slowly emerge from a foggy landscape. All colour is drained from this picture, the composition and the focus are on the soldiers in the background, and this accentuates the sense of confusion and uncertainty.

Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army fighters walk together near Mount Barsaya, north of Afrin, Syria January 23, 2018.    REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

Mohammed Salem’s portrait of a Palestinian protester is one of a series that you can see here on the Wider Image. The reason I have selected this image is rather complex. Even though he is masked, using a sling and standing in a smoke-filled landscape at the scene of clashes, there is no anger coming from the picture. It has a very different mood from the angry images we see from the weekly clashes, and that is probably because it is posed. In this portrait, as in all good portraits, we have time to study and learn about the subject. But its real strength comes when we look at it in the context of the other portraits in the series and read people’s individual reasons for protesting.  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I feel that I get a better understanding of their motivation and a very strong sense of the frustration and anger. 

A Palestinian protester holds a sling as he poses for a photograph at the scene of clashes with Israeli troops near the border with Israel, west of Gaza City, January 19, 2018. “What I can do to stop Trump’s decision on Jerusalem is to use this sling to hurl stones at Israeli soldiers with heavy weapons,” he said. “My dream is to see all Arabs and Muslims united in one battle t restore out holy land.” REUTERS/Mohammed Salem 

Ammar Awad’s picture selects itself this week. Who can resist the simple silhouetted shape of a man wearing a hat, carrying a stick and a bag, set in the monochromatic frame of an old city street, especially when the only colour in the picture is a line of yellow lights that guide you straight to the figure.  

A man walks past closed shops as Palestinian political parties call for a general strike protesting the visit of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in Jerusalem and the U.S recognition as Israel’s capital, in Jerusalem’s old city January 23, 2018.   REUTERS/Ammar Awad

What I like about Amr Abdullah Dalsh’s picture after a news conference is that there are so many expressions of emotion on the various faces. We see sadness, disappointment, anger, frustration, a wry smile and a look of support. Even the posters on the walls get in on the act, along with the consoling hands holding Khaled Ali’s arm.    

Supporters of Egypt’s Presidential candidate Khaled Ali react after a news conference where he announced that he is withdrawing from the presidential race in Cairo, Egypt.   REUTERS/Amr Abdullah Dalsh

The school run is very different in many places but its still a school run. I really like Alaa al-Faqir’s affectionate picture as to me it offers a glimmer of hope. Even through the children are walking past war damage rubble they still getting pleasure from jumping into and over puddles on the way to school. I think a universal pleasure when you are young. I really like the zigzag shapes that draws you into the picture from the child hiding behind their bag to the gaggle of people in the background.

Students run past rubble of damaged buildings in a rebel-held area in the city of Deraa, Syria January 25, 2018.   REUTERS/Alaa al-Faqir

And just for my love of the use of complimentary colours in pictures, captured moments in strong shapes I could not resist adding Satish Kumar’s picture of marathon runners in Dubai pre-dawn. What attracts me most is the strong triangular composition, the light directly behind the leader’s head and the kick of the heels in unison. I think an image that rewarded Satish for their early start.

Athletes compete during the Dubai Marathon in Dubai, UAE, January 26, 2018.   REUTERS/Satish Kumar


Friday 19 January 2018

A Week in Pictures Middle East & Africa January 19, 2018

Love heart illustrations, hands and guns are always going to be an eye catcher. In a perfect world I would have liked Khaled Abdullah to have cropped out the highlight on the left but then we’d lose the centrally positioned reds of the hearts or change the shape of the picture to a square. But this is all compositional nit-picking about a strong picture that I like a lot.

Armed women attend a rally to show support for the Houthi movement in Sanaa, Yemen, January 13, 2018.   REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

I have selected one of many rooftop pictures shot by Corinna Kern in Tel Aviv as I feel it’s stuffed full to bursting with shape, light and things. The tower blocks in the background ‘lean’ into the picture from the top looking down, while the shadows of the foreground press up, squeezing us to the middle of the image. Once we finally settle on to the roof top we are rewarded with a host of Objets d’Art to keep us busy looking and looking some more. The full series can be seen here on the Wider Image. 

Ana Ashury, a mixed media artist, stores away her artwork on her rooftop in Ramat gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv, November 19, 2017. While she works as a video artist most of the time, Ana has recently started to use her rooftop space as a workshop for collage creation.   REUTERS/Corinna Kern

A delightful set of pictures first thing on a Monday morning from Mohammad Salem that all have a common compositional theme. You have to visually push through the image to reach the key focal point. All three pictures are worth this effort so I thought I’d share all of them with you.

Palestinian children play at their family’s house in Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, January 15, 2018.    REUTERS/Mohammed Salem 

Palestinian refugees wait to receive aid at a United Nations food distribution centre in Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, January 15, 2018.    REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Palestinian children outside their houses in Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, January 15, 2018.    REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Hani Amara’s picture, to me, is one of the desperate isolation that can only really be found on a dinghy crowded with refugees in the Mediterranean. We can just make out enough detail to see many are risking their lives to flee to Europe, but we are not given enough to count them, which adds to the sense that there are just too many of them. I fear for these people but am glad the sea is calm and the Libyan Coast Guard picked them up. 

Migrants are seen on a rubber dinghy as they are rescued by Libyan Coast Guard in the Mediterranean off the coast of Libya, January 15, 2018.   REUTERS/Hani Amara

This premature baby photographed by Khaled Abdullah in Sanaa seems so helpless that I am fearful that even the nurse’s touch may not save its young life. The white bandages holding the yellow-tipped tube seem enormous compared to the tiny, wrinkled features of the infant. The face already looks old enough to have lived a lifetime and seems close to death. I fear the struggle for life here may not end well.    

A nurse holds a premature baby in an incubator at the child care unit of a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen January 16, 2018.   REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

A bit of luck is always needed when you try to shoot news pictures with a slow shutter speed. Too much movement and you lose the image as it has no focal point, too little and the blur doesn’t work and the picture just looks soft. Amr Abdallah Dalsh had more luck than most. The only sharp part of his picture, the most important part, is the face of the man celebrating and clapping.

Egyptian Sufi Muslims practice ritualized Zikr (invocation) as they celebrate Moulid Al-Hussein, the birthday of Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Hussein, outside the Al-Hussein mosque in old Cairo, Egypt, January 16, 2018.   REUTERS/Amr  Abdullah Dalsh

Life imitating Art? Amir Cohen’s picture has captured a moment when a murmuration of migrating starlings seems to have taken on the shape of a bird in flight.  I should imagine photographing this phenomenon is like watching shapes develop in moving clouds, but 1,000 times faster. Adding this one to my bucket list.

A murmuration of migrating starlings is seen across the sky near the village of Beit Kama in southern Israel, January 16, 2018.  REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Abduljabber Zeyad’s picture inside a tent is quite deceptive. At first glance, the bright colours, the soft furnishings and the relaxed figures give an impression of a comfortable place to live. A look at the next image in the story reveals that home is a tent on a garbage dump in Hodeidah, in war-torn Yemen, where this family scratches a living from stuff that's dumped by other people. The pictures that set out the full story can be seen here

Mohammed Ruzaiq and his son Ayoub sit in their tent next to a garbage dump where they collect recyclables and food near the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, Yemen January 9, 2018. "All we want is for them to stop this war and this calamity and Gold Almighty will provide for us" Mohammed Ruzaiq said.   REUTERS/Abduljabber Zeyad 

Members of the Ruzaiq family sit for breakfast outside their tent next to a garbage dump where they collect recyclables and food near the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, Yemen January 9, 2018.   REUTERS/Abduljabber Zeyad  

Friday 12 January 2018

A Week in Pictures Middle East & Africa January 13, 2018

There is no ignoring the powerful pictures from Ghouta, Syria, by Bassam Khabeih. I have included two images; one of a man who at first appears to be helping to move rubble, before you realise that it’s actually him who is being helped because he is trapped waist-deep in debris. Bassam followed up on his story that you can see here. The second image is just so sad it hardly needs any explanation. Set against a backdrop of impersonal blue-and-brown metal, the light falls on the weeping woman, your eyes drawn to her mouth pressed against the blue cloth that covers her dead child. See the whole story here

A man is trapped under debris at a site after an airstrike in the Saqba area, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta Syria, January 9, 2018.   REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

Heba Amouri, mourns as she holds the body of her two-year-old son, Emir al-Bash at a medical centre in the besieged town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria January 8, 2018.    REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

Tiksa Negeri’s picture is wonderfully composed and lit. The pilgrims, who appear to be buried in their own thoughts of prayer, move around the central figure drawing you deeper into the image to finally settle on the lines on the face. There is no mistaking the strong feeling of piety on the face of the pilgrim caught in the candle light. I get a real sense of peace and calm looking at this, so thank you Tiksa for a moment’s peace.

Ethiopian Orthodox pilgrims attend Christmas Eve celebration in Bete Mariam (House of Mary) monolithic Orthodox Church in Laibela, Ethiopia, January 6, 2018. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

Amir Cohen’s picture of children having fun reminded me of the picture by photojournalist Eugene Smith of his children running through the woods. I love the compositional balance and shapes, and think you can almost hear the echoes of the children’s feet from the tunnel. You can see Eugene Smith’s picture here if you want to compare. 

Children run inside a public bomb shelter in the southern city of Sderot, close to the Israeli border with the Gaza strip, January 8, 2018.   REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Some pictures attract my attention because they are a little bizarre and raise more questions than they answer. Ammar Awad’s gentle image of a boy standing on a horse, shot as part of a Wider Image story on the relationship between people and their horses,  is one such picture. Why would you stand on the saddle? There seems to be no other answer except that it might be a fun thing to do just because you can. You can see the rest of Ammar’s Wider Image story here

Palestinian teenager Mohammad Gharabli stands on his horse in East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit Hanina, November 10, 2017.  REUTERS/Ammar Awad

The expectation at military parades and ceremonies is that all things will be in order. Thaier Al-Sudani has shot a very busy and messy picture that breaks with this preconceived idea as the men relax, hug and kiss each other in shows of affection and respect at the end of the ceremony. The tangle of blue uniforms, arms, white gloves and red stripes highlighted against a clean blue background, gives me a feeling of a semi abstract painting. You have to visually pick your way through the swirling chaos to find a semblance of order, a face, a hand and a rifle.   

Iraqi officers react at their graduation ceremony during Iraqi Army Day anniversary celebrations in Baghdad, Iraq January 6, 2018.   REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

A first glance Reem Baeshen’s picture may appear rather stiff and formal, but to me it has an air of something slightly out of the ordinary or even a sense of pensive expectation. Of course I could be reading too much into this because I know that this is the first motor show solely dedicated for women in Saudi Arabia, after King Salman ordered an end to the ban on women drivers. Knowing this makes it a rather exciting image to illustrate a ground-breaking change in policy. Read on here 

Saudi women are seen at the first automotive showroom solely dedicated for women in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, January 11, 2018.  REUTERS/Reem Baeshen

This is a simple picture of a brutal looking truck, dented, dirty, its headlamps and windscreen missing. So why pick it?  Afolabi Sotunde has captured the grim faces of dozens of people crowded on top as it goes in a convoy along a dusty road. Its load? Some of the bodies of 73 people killed by Fulani herdsmen in clashes over land. Read on here

People are seen on a truck carrying the coffins of people killed by Fulani herdsmen, in Makurdi, Nigeria January 11, 2018.   REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Friday 5 January 2018

A Week in Pictures, Middle East & Africa, January 5, 2018

A happy New Year to you. I will continue to share my thoughts in 2018 on some pictures from the Middle East and Africa that have caught my eye. They may not be from the top news stories in the region but they would have caught my eye for some reason or another. You may agree or disagree with what I see in these images and the reasons I chose to highlight them but these thoughts are my personal view. At the very least I hope you enjoy the pictures that may have been missed in tsunami of images from a very busy news region.

I could not let the week go by without highlighting Maheder Haileselassie’s beautifully composed and balanced picture taken on the 5th January but moved now. I just love the zigzag of the tops of the building against the blue skies and the way shadows cast on the warm toned walls of the building take your eye to the robed monk striding from the church. And, although it’s a bit late, I’ve added two additional images from Lalibela taken by Tiksa Negeri for you to enjoy too.

A monk walks out of Bete Giyorgis Church ( St. George’s Church) that is considered to be one of the eleven rock-hewn churches in Lalibela, Ethiopia January 5, 2018.  REUTERS/Maheder Haileselassie 

Ethiopian Orthodox pilgrims walk within a monolithic Orthodox church ahead of Ethiopian Christmas in Lalibela, Ethiopia January 5, 2018.  REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

Ethiopian Orthodox pilgrims attend a prayer session at the monolithic Orthodox church ahead of Ethiopian Christmas in Lalibela, Ethiopia January 6, 2018.  REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

A simple backdrop for a portrait series by Afolabi Sotunde makes for a gentle and affectionate visual journey. It is beautiful in its rough and ready feel, and I get a real sense of the personalities of the people we meet, who barter goods in their refugee camp. I don’t think we’d get this feeling of closeness if the backdrop and lighting were uniform. Maybe you disagree, but look here on the Wider Image for the whole story and make up your own mind.

Aisha Umaru Gaye holds up a pumpkin at the Bakasi IDP, Maiduguri, Nigeria November 22, 2017.   REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

All the compositional lines in this image direct you towards the face of dead protester Mosab al-Tamimi in Mohamad Torokman’s funeral picture. The bird’s-eye view creates a feeling of falling into the image, your eyes crash into the youthful face and the yellow flower placed by his cheek. The mourners fan out from the body as it is carried from the arched building. Slowly your eyes come back to the portrait that rests on a Palestinian flag, a face circled by a pink and orange wreath. I cannot escape a feeling of sadness at this loss of a young life.

Mourners carry the body of Palestinian Mosab al-Tamimi during his funeral near the West bank city of Ramallah, January 4, 2018.   REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

A clean black background, a bright red, white and blue flag, great human shapes and a strong back light all come together in a special moment for Thierry Gouegnon during election celebrations in Liberia. The curve of the flag, frozen before it envelopes the figure reaching up in celebration, brings the viewer’s eye from the rear of the picture forward to the sweat-covered man celebrating in the heat of the night. 

Supporters of George Weah, former soccer player and presidential candidate for the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), celebrate after the announcement of the presidential election results in Monrovia, Liberia, December 28, 2017.  REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

In very much the same vein as Thierry’s image above, I love the bright colours against a black night sky in Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah’s Independence Day celebration picture. The focal point of the picture, the blue robes of President Al Bashir, is squeezed into the frame by the reds in the foreground, demanding that you look at him. If you give yourself time while you look at the back of the picture, you will be rewarded by the playful sight of dancers and musicians entertaining the guests. Such a busy and bright picture.

Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir arrives to address the nation during the 62nd anniversary Independence Day at the Palace in Khartoum, Sudan December 31, 2017.    REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdullah

 A fleeting moment of strong light and action is captured in perfect combination by Ammar Awad as children play in the evening light. The only horizontals in a composition of strong diagonals are the outstretched arms of the boys, who seem to be in a race against the visual left-to-right sweep of the sunlit wall and the clouds in the sky. The dark foreground echoes the lines of the track and the wall, adding emphasis to the diagonals. 

Children roll tyres as they run alongside the Israeli barrier in East Jerusalem refugee camp of Shuafat, January 3, 2018.   REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Drained of virtually all colour, Bassam Khabieh’s picture of destruction in Misraba stands out in monochromatic starkness. Your eye goes quickly to the small figure walking on the rubble, the only real recognisable shape until you are slowly drawn out to see the remains of a crushed vehicle.  

A boy walks on rubble of damaged buildings after an airstrike on the Eastern Ghouta town of Misraba, Syria, January 4, 2018.   REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh