Friday 30 March 2018

A Week in Pictures - Middle East & Africa March 30, 2018

Mohamed Abd El Ghany’s picture of a finger being dipped in ink to prevent double voting in the Egyptian election is well composed and you get a sense of the place by the woman with the head scarf in the background. But I prefer the recropped version as it is graphic in its bold design and highlights the marking on the finger and the red ink about to drip off can be better seen. 

A voter’s finger is marked with ink at a polling station during the second day of polling for the presidential election, Alexandria, Egypt March 27, 2018. Mohamed Abd El Ghany

 I like the explosive moment of celebration captured by Khalil Ashawi as victorious fighters enter the centre of Afrin, Syria. It is the collection of small, well-defined details that makes this picture. You can almost hear the gunfire crack into the air, a rifle silhouetted against a bright sky, and the muzzle flash of a heavy calibre gun highlighted against the mid tones of the downtown buildings. The curve of the road and direction of the vehicles finally lead to you to notice the small central figure,  arms raised, his tiny V-shaped shadow cast on the ground. Maybe a crop better serves this image, what do you think?

Turkish backed Free Syrian Army members celebrate in Afrin, Syria, March 18, 2018.   REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

In 1889 Oscar Wilde wrote ‘Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life’ and it seems that Amr Abdallah Dalsh’s picture brings this idea back into focus as he captures this wonderful moment. The man taking the selfies will have a picture of himself in front of Mousa walking near a poster of himself.  If you look carefully, this same portrait of Mousa can be seen on the ID badge that is worn by the man with the orange lanyard.

A man takes selfies pictures with Presidential candidate Mousa Mostafa Mousa afer he cast his vote during the presidential election in Cairo, Egypt, March 26, 2018.  REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Dark graphic shapes against a bright background could be seen as visually low-hanging fruit that Ronen Zvulun has taken full advantage of. Positive and negative shapes are created between the regular spacing of the headdresses of the nuns, their faces appearing in the dark shapes of their habits. The strong shapes and monochromatic feel to this image are only broken by the colours of the Russian flag in the background.

Russian nuns prepare to cast their ballots for Russia’s presidential election in a polling station in Jerusalem March 18, 2018.   EUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

There is no avoiding the overwhelming feeling of sadness in Khaled Abdullah’s picture of a small child in an IDP camp. The simple, strong shape of the tyre and the bright red of his shirt isolate the boy against the litter-filled, grey background. He seems to be surrounded by emptiness. The detail of his bare feet hint at the abject poverty he must endure as the conflict in Yemen enters its fourth year. Read on here. 

A boy leans on a tyre at a camp for internally displaced people (IDP) near Sanaa, Yemen March 18, 2018.    REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

I cannot begin to imagine the emotional rollercoaster that the kidnapped schoolgirls and their families have gone through in the last couple of weeks. Reports of the kidnapping of 105 girls were countered by claims by the government that they had been rescued. This proved to be untrue, but a few days later most of the girls were released.  The pictures below by Afolabi Sotunde and Ola Lanre seem to sum up both ends of the emotional scale. More from Nigeria here.

Tears run down the faces of newly released Dapchi schoolgirls in Jumbam village, Yobe State, Nigeria, March 21, 2018. Ola Lanre

Alhaji Audu Danga, the father of Falmat Audu, one of the newly released Dapchi schoolgirls, smiles in Dapchi, in the north eastern state of Yobe, Nigeria, March 22, 2018.   REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

When I first saw Baz Ratner’s picture I could not shake off the feeling of hope I got from his image, which seemed counter intuitive in an IDP camp for those affected by the drought in Somalia. The long shadows and soft light, with livestock being herded into what looks like a bright horizon, all give this image an feeling of calm. What I learned from the story is that although the present drought is harsher than the drought and subsequent famine that killed 260,000 in 2011, the death toll is much lower, at about 1,000, according to the United Nations. Although 1,000 dead is bad, this is still progress and here’s why.

A woman walks goats down a street at the new Kabasa camp for the internally displaced in the northern Somali town of Dollow, Somalia, February 25, 2018.   REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Cricket is not a sport I’d normally associate with mayhem and chaos as players arrive or leave at airports. But take a ball-tampering scandal followed by the uncovering of a web of lies told by the captain of Australia and his subsequent sacking, and then you have all the ingredients for a bun fight as the disgraced players leave the country. Throw in photographer Siphiwe Sibeko as you have a great picture that tells the story of shame, passion and chaos. This is just not cricket so you can find out more here!

Axed Australian cricket captain Steve Smith is escorted by police as he leaves the O.R Tambo international Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa march 28, 2018.   Siphiwe Sibeko

 The look in the eye of this small child seems to say it all. I’m home and happy. Khalid Al-Mousily’s picture captures the warmth that emanates from the child’s face, a contrast to the cold blues of the carpet and grays of the concrete wall of her surroundings. The lighter tones of the cracked wall seem to create a halo effect of growing warmth that I hope will slowly fill the image as the family settle back home. You can see the full story here.   

A child of Mohammed Saleh Ahmad and Iman Abdullah Saleh sits on the floor at home in Mosul, Iraq march 21, 2018.  Mohammed, his wife, parents and five children fled their home in March 2017 when US-led coalition forces began their advance on western Mosul, the final stretch to rout out Islamic State militants who had overrun the city in 2014. The family lived in al-Alil refugee camp before returning home.   REUTERS/Khalid Al-Mousily

 I am not a cat person. In fact I am not a pet person at all. I can’t help being drawn to Essam Al-Sudani’s picture, although in a bad way and not a good way, a bit like the way people slow down to look at a traffic accident. Do these animals look smug to you? Maybe it’s just the way they seem to be looking away with complete lack of interest, perched on cushioned beds in a ‘pet’ hotel. Maybe I feel this way because I still see Khalid’s story above, from the same country and from the same week. 

Cats are seen in a cat hotel in Basra, Iraq March 13, 2018.    REUTERS/Essam Al-Sudani

If you ever wondered what the Ethiopian/Kenyan border looks like, Baz Ratner has answered the question with a wonderful landscape picture. From the simple concrete block in the foreground your eye travels, hundreds of miles to the far horizon without a single interruption from a single man-made structure. It also makes me wonder what these two people are doing and where they are going.

Women walk past a stone marking the Ethiopian-Kenyan border near the town of Moyale, Kenya March 27, 2018.    REUTERS/Baz Ratner

When it comes to wondering what people are doing and why, I am more than worried for these two workers in Thomas Mukoya’s striking picture from the Rift Valley in Kenya. Are they really just carrying on as normal, farming land that has just opened to expose an enormous, gaping hole? Every compositional element of the picture - the line of the crack, the clouds and the curve of the hills in the background - runs to the woman in red,  who is bending over a plant at full stretch. Read on here.

Women work on their farm near a chasm suspected to have been caused by a heavy downpour along an underground fault-line near the Rift valley town of Mai Mahia, Kenya, March 28, 2018.    REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya



Friday 16 March 2018

A Week in Pictures Middle East & Africa March 16, 2018

I have included two pictures from Omar Sanadiki as they have thrown up a conflict in my mind. Is the picture of the sleeping baby in the suitcase too ‘cute’ to portray what is going on in Syria? Or does it humanise a situation that many have become visually numb to, to the extent that you can just gloss over pictures like the one of people fleeing seen below. The latest pictures from Ghouta here.

A child sleeps in a bag in the village of Beit Sawa, eastern Ghouta, Syria March 15, 2018.   REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki 

People walk with their belongings as they flee the rebel-held town of Hammouriyeh, in the village of Beit Sawa, eastern Ghouta, Syria March 15, 2018.   REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

Khalil Ashawi’s picture of fighters walking up a road gives me the real sense of the growing advance of the army. I think this is achieved by the gradual growing in scale of the troops spaced along the road, from small figures in the distance to larger ones in the foreground. The curve of the road on the horizon leads the eye to trees that are planted in such a way that it also gives me a sense of more military reserves. See more from the battle for Afrin here

Turkish backed Free Syrian Army fighters walk together in the north east of Afrin, Syria March 16, 2018.   REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

Mohamed Torokman’s picture is perfectly timed; the swing of the sling at full stretch, the swirl of tear gas surrounds the protestor leaving just enough of a clear view for us to see his profiled face, his eyes firmly fixed on the target. This all captured in a good example of classic thirds composition.

A Palestinian demonstrator returns a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops during clashes at a protest against Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, near Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank March 16, 2018.  REUTERS/Mohamed Torokman

The cold, quiet expression on the faces of the children in Bassam Khabieh’s picture really haunts me. Maybe it’s the mixture of the reflections in the dirty glass which slightly distort their features, the distant look in the eyes of the children, left and right, or my attention being held by the stare by the girl in the middle.

Children look through a bus window during evacuation from the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, in Damascus, Syria march 13, 2018.   REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

A slightly surreal vision of a man driving sheep through destroyed streets,  photographed by Bassam Khabieh, caught my eye this week. It’s a quiet image, but a scene that I’d expect to see in the countryside and not in the rubble of a war-torn town.  

A man walks with a herd of sheep in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, in Damascus, Syria March 11, 2018.   REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh 

Okay, another secret is out. I do like cricket and like good pictures of cricket even more. Mike Hutchings’ image of batsman AB de Villiers attacking the ball is full of tension. Everything is just about to happen, the whole image is moving from left to right. De Villiers’ foot is just an inch off the ground, his arms and legs are in classic action forming strong triangles, and all eyes on the ball as the bat is swung to drive it away. Mike has chosen his place to sit carefully as the background is clean, highlighting the action. 

South Africa’s AB de Villiers in action during the Second test again against Australia in St George’s park, Port Elizabeth, South Africa march 12, 2018.   REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Like an Aladdin’s cave of treasure I am drawn into Mohamed Abd El Ghany’s wonderfully busy, noisy, hot, glittering picture of a market in Cairo. You can smell the spices and feel the heat of the night and crush of people. Your eye darts about, looking for a place to settle, without finding a single focal point. Just like in busy markets anywhere is the world, you don’t know where to look next. 

People shop at Al Ataba, a popular market in central Cairo, Egypt, march 13, 2018.   REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

These boys are using tablets to learn, although perhaps not what Steve Jobs would have liked them to use. I hope that you enjoy Ayman al-Sahili’s warm and affectionate picture as much as I do. Not only is it a well-composed picture, I just love all those triangle shapes, it conveys a warm sense of boys having fun and learning.  

Boys use large wooden plants as they memorize Islam’s holy Koran in Misrata, Libya March 13, 2018.  REUTERS/Ayman al-Sahili

I think the pelican is a strange-looking bird. So take a pelican from its natural habitat at the water’s edge to a poor housing area. Add to the scene a boy playing with it and another playing a flute-like instrument only just encroaching into the left hand side of the frame. Throw in splashes of primary colour, red yellow and blue. And, as a final element add photographer Zohra Bensemra and her magical ability to capture moments and you end up with a beautiful and intriguing picture.

A boy plays with pelican in Yoff commune in Dakar, Senegal, March 14, 2018. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Sheer joy sums up what I feel about Olivia Acland’s picture. What creates this joy? To me it’s the man’s face is alight with expression and highlighted detail; perfect white teeth and catch light in his eyes, cheeks and chin line with a background of a sea of hands going up in celebration. 

People gesture as they show their support for the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) Party outside the party’s headquarters in Freetown, Sierra Leone, March 13, 2018.  REUTERS/Olivia Acland

Saturday 10 March 2018

A Week in Pictures Middle East & Africa March 9, 2018

By the look on the faces of the people on the edges of in Olivia Acland’s picture, they are
all thinking about the conversation between the two central figures must have had before
attending the election rally. “I’ve got a good idea. Let’s get naked except for our
underwear and long coloured socks, paint our bodies white and red and go to the rally.” It
seems that no-one else got the mail with the dress code in it. A wonderful bizarre moment
and all respect from me for the individuality on display.

Supporters of the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) party arrive to attend a rally ahead of the March 7 presidential election in Makeni, Sierra Leone March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Olivia Acland

Mohamed Abd El Ghany captures a protesting soccer fan in mid-stride, holding a flare aloft and looking like an Olympic torch bearer. What I really like about this picture is the clean design. Yes, it could be said that he got lucky: there are no other people to complicate the scene, the background figures seem to run along with him, and the curl of smoke is perfect. What is important is that the figure is at full stretch with his arms raised. You need to be both lucky and good to capture this.

An Egypt's Al Ahly fan shouts slogans against the Interior Ministry whilst running with a flare during the Al Ahly v Gabon's CF Mounana CAF African Champions League match in Cairo, Egypt, March 6, 2018.  REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany 

Photographer Bassam Khabieh is trapped in Douma, eastern Ghouta, and when he considers it safe enough he files pictures of the latest news. Today, a Syrian Arab Red Crescent aid relief convoy arrived with much-needed emergency supplies.  What to me is so striking about this picture is the sombre mood. All colour is drained from the image, even the reds of the crescent logos. There are no crowds, no children, just trucks being watched moving slowly through destroyed buildings. 

Civil defence members sit amid the rubble as they watch an aid convoy of Syrian Arab Red Crescent driving through the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, Damascus, Syria March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

I can’t help feeling a little sad at the size of the task facing the soldier clearing mines in Aziz El Yaakoubi’s picture. The flat, featureless landscape seems to stretch to infinity. This space, and the danger of the task, have been cleverly accentuated by the heavy crop of the second soldier, who wisely seems to be keeping well away 

A member of the UAE armed forces secures an area while searching for landmines in Al-Mokha, Yemen March 6, 2018. Picture taken March 6, 2018. Reuters/ Aziz El Yaakoubi

What makes Anne Mimault’s picture a pick for the week is the powerful graphic shape of the man digging a grave in a fog of yellow dust that seems to be reaching up to choke the onlookers. The man on the left is casually looking back at the hard work being carried out, while at the same time the shape of his body frames the image.

People take part in a burial ceremony of the armed forces members who were killed during Friday's attack by Islamist militants in the capital Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Anne Mimault

The strong shadows in Hayam Adel’s dark portrait cut across the picture in a complex abstract composition and almost hide Esraa from view. The sombre mood echoes Egypt’s struggle to end FGM. The full, powerful story published on International Women’s Day can be seen here

Esraa Salah, 15, poses for a photograph outside her home in Alwasata village of Assiut Governorate, south of Cairo, Egypt, February 8, 2018. Picture taken February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Hayam Adel

An affectionate picture by Faisal al-Nasser, taken early on International Women’s Day in Saudi Arabia. I can’t help but wonder what is going through the man’s mind as a group of women jog past his shop. The back story here is that Faisal took over this assignment from our Saudi Arabian woman photographer, Reem Baeshen, who was sick and whom we wish well. I have added a second picture by Faisal as I love its simplicity.  The light catches three key elements: the lower left quarter of the woman’s smiling face, the determined hand gripping the steering wheel, and the rear-view mirror. A full selection of picture from IWD from around the world can be seen here

Women run during an event marking International Women's Day in Old Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

A Saudi woman sits in a car during a driving training at a university in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

It takes a while to make visual sense of Mohamed al-Sayaghi’s picture. Your eye darts about, looking at the splashes of colour, the blue sky and then the yellow, red and orange in the foreground. Your eye then settles on the destroyed building and finally on the three women struggling across the rubble with their water containers.

People carry water tanks as they walk at the site of damage after a Saudi-led air strike, north of Yemen's capital Sanaa, March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi