Friday, 23 February 2018

A Week in Pictures Middle East & Africa February 23, 2018

In the confusion of claims that Boko Haram had kidnapped over 100 teenage school girls and counter claims that the military had rescued them Photographer Afolabi Sotunde was assigned to find out what had actually happened. The scene he was met with was scared people coming back in from the bush who has escaped the attack, empty class rooms, weeping relatives and for me most poignantly a single lost pair of slippers (flip flops) left in the sand. Catch up with the ongoing story here.

Abandoned slippers in left in the sand of the school compound in Dapchi in the northeastern state of Yobe, Nigeria, February 23, 2018 where dozens of girls went missing after an attack on the village suspected to have been carried out by Boko Haram.  REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde 

After spending weeks shooting the looming drought in Cape Town, Mike Hutching’s in-depth story has finally been published. It was hard to choose a single image, but for me a lone figure, carrying a water container and squeezed between the shadows seems to sum up the situation, or maybe a lucky escape. Day Zero, when the taps in Cape Town will be turned off, has been put back from mid April to mid July. Maybe if the rains come and the reservoirs are replenished,   the city will have a lucky escape too. I fear that in the long term there is no escape from water shortage. His whole picture story, with some amazing drone footage, can be seen here.  

A man carries a bucket used to collect water from a small roadside spring in Cape Town, South Africa, February 4, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings 

Helping hands reach up as the body of dead Palestinian teenager Abdullah Abu Shekhah is lowered into his grave in Ibraheem Abu Mustafa’s frantic and distressing picture. It looks like Death himself is taking another soul as mourners gather to take a last look at their relative or friend. The gentle touch of a hand on the young man’s face is a calm moment in the eye of a storm in this powerful picture.  

Mourners bury the body of Palestinian teenager Abdullah Abu Shekhah during his funeral in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

With uncomfortable similarities to Ibraheem’s image above, there is no mistaking the desperation in a storm of violence in Bassam Khabieh’s picture from Ghouta. But this time, instead of the helping hands lowering a dead man into his last resting place, a living but unconscious woman is lifted up from a shelter that looks like a concrete grave to what we hope is relative safety. More pictures here

Civil defence help an unconscious woman from a shelter in the besieged town of Douma in eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria, February 22, 2018. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh 

Recent changes in Zimbabwe’s politics have been, to say the least, rapid. Photographer Philimon Bulawayo’s carefully positioned and composed picture of Nelson Chamisa seems to have the full political weight of Morgan Tsvangirai bearing down at him, even at his funeral. The small sliver of black background by the side of Chamisa’s face is so important to make this image work. 

Nelson Chamisa, the new leader for Movement For Democratic Change (MDC), looks on during the funeral parade of Morgan Tsvangirai in Harare, Zimbabwe February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

James Akena’s picture has a somewhat clumsy composition. The boy on the left is walking out of the frame, the bush on the right should either be completely in the frame or cropped out, and the child in yellow is a little distracting. But I really like this picture for two reasons: the children being held so tightly by the adults to ensure they are not lost, and the objects being carried by the equally spaced figures. Bucket for water, child and, probably, all the worldly goods the family could flee the conflict with. 

Congolese family, who migrated from Democratic Republic of Congo by fleeing on a boat across Lake Albert, arrives in Ntoroko, Uganda February 17, 2018. REUTERS/James Akena 

I can’t help thinking about two things when I look at Khalil Ashawi’s picture of resting troops. First, just how well the camouflage actually works. It takes a while to see all five exhausted soldiers. And then, bizarrely, I am put mind of the trolls turned to stone in JRR Tolkien’s book The Hobbit. Maybe it’s the grey rock behind the resting figures and the light coming in from the back of the picture through the trees. 

Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army fighters rest near the city of Afrin, Syria February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

Taking full advantage of the warm evening light, long shadows and classic thirds with his ‘environmental portrait’ of two spacemen, Ronen Zvulun manages to make us believe, if only momentarily, that we are on the surface of an alien  planet. I can’t quite my head around the notion that dressing up in a space suit and walking around in the desert constitute simulating a mission to Mars, but who am I judge. Judge for yourself here

Israeli scientists participate in an experiment simulating a mission to Mars, at the D-MARS Desert Mars Analog Ramon Station project of Israel's Space Agency, Ministry of Science, near Mitzpe Ramon, Israel, February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

There was no way that James Akena would fail to shoot great pictures at a hydroelectric construction project in Uganda and he didn’t disappoint. A lone figure in a cavernous underground tunnel is dwarfed by waves of light that shift from darkest blacks to golden yellow in shapes that emulate the water that will rush through this shaft. It makes for an irresistible image. 

A contractor walks in a tunnel at the construction site at Karuma 600 megawatts hydroelectric power project under construction on River Nile, Uganda February 20, 2018.   REUTERS/James Akena

It’s not often you get to see an elephant suspended upside down by its feet, but Thomas Mukoya’s picture delights us with just that. Ears flopping like Disney’s Dumbo, and a ranger holding the elephant’s tail, are watched by a small crowd that has gathered. The clouds in the sky complete the scene as if they had been drawn to order by a Disney animator. The whole story here.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers load a tranquillised elephant onto a truck during a translocation exercise to Ithumba Camp in Tsavo East National Park, in Solio Ranch in Nyeri County, Kenya, February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

The worn climbing holds in Zohra Bensemra's picture take a little time to see. The eye is first drawn to the strong blacks of the window and the doorway, then to the child dangling from the window. What is going on? Only the caption can explain. This is a great example of how a mysterious picture draws us into a sequence of images because we just have to know more. All is revealed here

Ahlem, four, climbs up a wall to reach her rabbit's hideaway at her troglodyte house on the outskirts of Matmata, Tunisia, February 5, 2018. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra


Friday, 16 February 2018

A Week in Pictures - Middle East & Africa, February 16, 2018

A last minute update to the week's selection from Middle East and Africa of Luc Gnago's wonderfully composed picture using classic thirds and complementary colours of orange and blue. The picture of the tree against the blue sky on the orange earth would have been nice enough but three girls walking from left to right, all equally spaced in line, one, two, three or A, B C to fill the space perfectly make this image just a little bit special.

Girls carry water on their bicycles at a dispensary in Nedago village near Ouagadougou, Burkina faso, February 16, 2018.   REUTERS/Luc Gnago

A series of air raids by the Israeli Air force and anti-aircraft counter attacks by Syrian forces prompted a quick response by Ammar Awad, who headed to the Golan Heights. The main questions at this time were: ‘Whose move and what happens next?’Ammar’s picture of the signpost, the waiting woman and the cut-out figure of a gunman sum up the moment of watching and waiting. 

A woman sits near a sign at Mount Bental, an observation post in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights that overlooks the Syrian side of the Quneitra crossing, Israel February 10, 2018. REUTERS/ Ammar Awad

If the cut-out of the gunman in Ammar's picture above is classic in its shape, I think Baz Ratner's running boy is another classic. The boy's legs are almost at full stretch, his arms are clearly defined, and water is splashing up behind. It is an irresistible pick for the week.  

A boy runs across the Turkwel River running through Lodwar, in Turkana County, Kenya February 6, 2018.  REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Satish Kumar’s picture is a wonderful combination of busy line and shape through shadow and structure. There are too many triangles to count as your eye races to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, in the middle distance to the tiny shape formed between the hands of the woman taking a picture of her friend.

A visitor takes photos at the 71st floor of the Gevora Hotel, the world's tallest hotel, in Dubai, UAE February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Satish Kumar

The eerie cold blue light from a mobile device highlights the face of the fighter in a room bathed in the warm glow of firelight, creating an almost theatrical scene in Khalil Ashawi’s terrific picture. Shadows flickering in the light on the wall soften the unmistakable shape of his weapon in the background. At the same time the fighter’s covered features are frozen like ice in the harsh blue light.  

Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army fighter holds a cell phone in the town of Tadef in Aleppo Governorate, Syria February 12, 2018. Picture taken February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

Faded glory has got to be the understatement of the week to describe Amr Abdullah Dalsh’s picture. The colours are muted, every poster is torn or faded and the piles of rubbish look as if they have been there for years and will be there for years to come. I can’t imagine for a minute what these men are talking about, but I sense they are in no hurry to finish their conversation. I think this is a wonderful and timeless picture.

An Egyptian man waits in front of Pepsi products shop for customers at the shanty area Zabaleen or "Garbage City", the poorest part of Cairo, where thousands of Copts make a living by recycling everything from plastic bottles, food remains, carton and metal on the Mokattam Hills in eastern Cairo, Egypt February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

On the day police recommended that Netanyahu should be indicted for bribery, Nir Elias had a lucky break with the light as the prime minister walked into the spotlight. An inch lower and his eyes would be in shadow and the essence of the picture would have been lost. What also makes this picture for me is the fact that the sliver of light ends in black shadow on both sides of the frame, suggesting a momentary glimpse of something going on. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) arrives ahead of a planned address at the Muni World 2018 conference in Tel Aviv, Israel February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Nir Elias

In Bassam Khabieh’s picture, the boy’s arm and his cheek echo the shape of the Red Crescent logo. The circles of the emblem are also echoed in the wheels of the bike and the truck, all combining to make a very complicated composition. There is there is no telling if this boy is holding his head in relief because supplies have reached Douma, or in concern that it’s not enough. But either way, I think the tension in his locked fingers tells a story of concern. 

A boy gestures near a Syrian Arab Red Crescent truck in the besieged town of Douma, eastern Ghouta, in Damascus, Syria February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh 

A sea of faces stretching to the furthest horizon, with people’s arms crossed in unison, makes Tiksa Negri’s picture quite striking. The only break in the flow to the rear of the picture is a single flag being waved. I can almost taste the dust being thrown up by these thousands of people.

Supporters of Bekele Gerba, secretary general of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), chant slogans to celebrate Gerba's release from prison, in Adama, Oromia Region, Ethiopia February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

A surprise press conference late in the evening by South African President Zuma gave Siphiwe Sibeko access to a historical moment. On the face of it, a simple assignment -- man speaks at podium to announce his resignation – but it’s much harder to make it something special. Throw in strong light and a long shadow and you have a special moment well captured by Siphiwe. I have added a second picture that was well used and which demonstrates that ‘bread and butter’ pictures are as important as thoughtful, creative images. Think too about the caption as we edit this live. Zuma arrives as president, all smiles, and we don’t know what he is going to say. At the end of his address he announces his resignation and leaves press conference as a former president

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma arrives to speak at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa, February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma looks down as he speaks at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa, February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko 

Friday, 9 February 2018

A Week in Pictures Middle East and Africa February 9, 2018

I can’t stop looking at Khaled Abdullah’s stark and very sad picture. The children’s tiny, frightened faces peer out from a busy, colourful image. To me, the sadness in their eyes fills the frame, so all you can do is feel for their suffering. How much worse can it get? You live in war zone, you are only a child, and you and your sibling both have cancer. 

A boy and his sister who both suffer from cancer lie on a bed at a cancer treatment centre in Sanaa, Yemen, February 4, 2018.    REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

How could I resist highlighting the bizarre scene of a masked gunman scrolling through his phone, sitting on a red sofa in a grey, rubble-strewn street in al-Bab, Syria? I think Khalid Ashawi’s centrally composed picture is as striking as it is bizarre, so no resistance from me, it’s here.

A Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army fighter is seen in the eastern suburbs of al-Bab, Syria, February 4, 2018.   REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

To me, the strength of Ismail Zitouny’s almost abstract combination of texture, tone, wood, metal and cloth is that it takes quite a while to understand that you are looking at the wrapped figure of a woman. Her invisibility mirrors the plight of the displaced people who cannot return to their homes in the ghost town of Tawergha. More pictures here.

A Libyan woman displaced from the town of Tawergha stands at a camp in Tripoli, Libya, February 5, 2018.   REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

The ghost-like figures that appear from the smoke and dust of the aftermath of an air strike in Bassam Khablieh’s picture haunt me far more than his other images of blood-stained pavements taken at the same time. Why? The people seem to be drowning in the streets as they run from the devastation, putting me in mind of the first line of Stevie Smith’s poem ‘Not Waving but Drowning’: ‘Nobody heard him, the dead man.’

Civil defence members and civilians are seen running after an air raid in the besieged town of Douma in eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria, February 6, 2018.   REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

It’s not clear what everyone is looking at, but what is clear is the desperation in the faces of those gathered behind the wide-eyed, open-mouthed security officers in red berets in Ibraheem Abu Mustafa’s picture. I feel as if every pair of eyes has a sad story to tell. The man in the rear of the image pushes his passport forwards, giving us a clue as to what this picture is about. Story here.

Members of Palestinian Hamas security forces stand guard as people ask for travel permits to cross into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing after it was opened by Egyptian authorities for humanitarian cases, in the southern Gaza strip, February 7, 2018.   REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Wild swings in the stock market provide great opportunities for making and losing lots of money but they also provide photographers with an opportunity to shoot thoughtful and clever pictures. Not easy when you consider the only ‘action’ is people sitting at screens. I love the circular composition of Faisal Al Nasser’s picture, where the top line of the screens curves round to visually link with the curve of the balcony in the rear of the picture. This shape is echoed by the trader’s agal holding his keffiyeh in place. And in Satish Kumar’s wonderfully graphic image below that, I love it that investor has momentarily taken his eyes of the screen to look directly into the lens. At this moment, did he lose money or make it?

A Saudi trader observes the stock market on monitors at Falcom stock exchange in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia February 7, 2018.   REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

An investor looks up from the screen at the Dubai International Financial market in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, February 7, 2018.  REUTERS/Satish Kumar

In what initially looks like a curious mixture of street theatre and a Zombie run, Amir Cohen has captured a picture that draws you in as your interest is piqued. What is actually going on? Some faces painted white in a reverse Al Jolson style, others half painted white. Once you move beyond the right to left gaze of the focal point of the image you are zigzagged uncomfortably to the rear of the picture to see dark eyes and pale death-like faces. Two words stand out: Israel and deport. Story here.

African migrants protest against the Israeli government’s plan to deport part of their community, in front of the Rwandan embassy in Herzliya, Israel, February 7, 2018.   REUTERS/Amir Cohen

It’s not often I feel I can share a sports picture from the Middle East and Africa region, but Mike Hutchings’ eye-watering picture of an awkward delivery during the one-day international between South Africa and India seemed to select itself today.

South Africa’s Aiden Markham gets hit by a delivery from Hardik Pandya during the Third One-Day International against India in Newlands Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa, February 8, 2018.   REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Omar Sanadiki’s pictures from rare trip to Aleppo reveals slow signs of the city coming back to life. Once you look beyond the massive hole in the foreground and the destruction of the city to the horizon, you begin to pick out tiny details: cars moving, people walking about and sitting at a table. A small hardware store has opened for business and what looks like a food stall on the left has three customers. You do have to look hard, but it’s there. So I think there is a little hope here.    

People and cars are seen in the streets of old town Aleppo, Syria, February 8, 2018.   REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

Khalil’s Ashawi’s picture is full of tension and action. What really makes this picture work for me is that in addition to the strong light coming through the pillars as the gunman runs for cover, the barrel and aiming sight of the rifle are silhouetted against the light on the wall. If you use your thumb to take away the end of the rifle, the image is much harder to define and you lose the immediate sense of ‘gunman’.  Read the latest from this conflict here.  

A Turkey-backed Free Syrian fighter is seen in the eastern suburbs of al-Bab, Syria February 8, 2018.   REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi