Friday 25 May 2018

A Week in Pictures Middle East & Africa, May 25, 2018

There is no escaping the beauty of simple and strong composition of Amr Abdullah Dalsh’s picture. The tiny, silhouetted figures are dwarfed in front of the symmetrical structure, the strong light seems to dazzle, and makes me want to blink. It grabs you like a scene from an epic Spielberg film.

Egyptian Muslims perform evening prayers called ‘Tarawih’ inside Al Sultan Hassan mosque during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan in the old Islamic area of Cairo, Egypt May 20, 2018. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh 

I admit it is a slightly bizarre choice to include Siphiwe Sibeko’s picture of cabbages being farmed. But take a minute to really look. Although the cabbages are bagged up it at first appears that the man sitting on top of the cabbages is perilously high on his unstable seat, what could possible go wrong? Next, I love the complementary reds and greens that vie for attention as they drive your eye around this picture. You quickly end up looking at the sign. The designer started off boldly only to discover, probably around the letter ‘T’, that if they carried on as they’d started they would not be able to fit the word ‘property’ into the sign. Lastly, is that a G or an upside down 5? This picture is being used to illustrate the complex story of a legal test of the constitution on land expropriation which you can read here

Farm workers harvest cabbages at a farm in Eikenhof, near Johannesburg, South Africa, May 21, 2018.   REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Omar Sanadiki’s beautifully lit picture seems to deliver mixed messages. You feel the pleasant warmth of the sun on the man’s face as he poses for a picture showing the V for victory sign with his hand. But his face is expressionless, cold, his mouth and eyes say nothing, and his hand is dirty with ash and grime, as are all his clothes. He sits in an environment of total destruction. Although we can never be certain what he is thinking I can guess that it is not thoughts of triumph.  

A man gestures as he sits on the rubble of damaged buildings in al-Hajar al-Aswad, Syria May 21, 2018.   REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

Omar Sanadiki’s picture of people moving through the rubble of destroyed buildings is not so different from Amr’s picture of the faithful at the mosque, at least in its visual structure. People are dwarfed in a landscape, and even though one image is taken at night and the other by day, the colours are similar. If you rotate one of the images through 180 degrees you will find the same the strong compositional U shape. All that aside, Omar’s image is one of relentless destruction, the figures leading you from the foreground to as far away as the eye can see. More pictures here .

Soldiers walk past damaged buildings in Yarmouk Palestinian camp in Damascus, Syria May 22, 2018.   REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

I am amazed at the order of Khaled Abdullah’s zigzag picture, not only in terms of its visual composition, but by the order of the people waiting in line for food handouts. They must be hungry, hot, a little frightened and no doubt tired. I have also chosen a second image from the same scene, as I was struck how this large line of people made such an impact on the landscape, and that so many are in need of help. The order, in both senses in Khaled’s powerful pictures, highlights to me the scale of the problem these people are facing. 

Women and girls queue outside a charity food distribution centre to get the iftar meal during the holy month of Ramadan in Sanaa, Yemen, May 22, 2018.   REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Women and girls queue outside a charity food distribution centre to get the iftar meal during the holy month of Ramadan in Sanaa, Yemen, May 22, 2018.   REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

The question that pops into my mind when looking at Essam al-Sudani’s picture is how can anything actually live in these conditions and why, as an investor, would you bet money on its survival? On the face of it nothing could grow. A yellow sandstorm as far as the eye can see is only punctuated by wind battered saplings as if in a scene plucked from a post-apocalyptic science fiction film. Maybe this is why I am not a successful investor?

Palm trees belonging to Kuwaiti investor Abdul-Aziz al-Babtain are seen near the port city of Basra, Iraq May 11, 2018.   REUTERS/Essam al-Sudani

Amr Abdullah Dalsh’s picture is, it must be said, a bit of a cliché, but one I kept coming back to. It’s fun, and it has caaptured a good moment. I do wish there was no water across the boy’s face, but I do like his scrunched up features and the ‘crown’ of water. So here it is, I hope you enjoy a quiet smile, like me.

An Egyptian boy jumps into the water to cool off in hot and humid weather during the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Cairo, Egypt May 23, 2018.   REUTERS/Amr Abdullah Dalsh

Friday 18 May 2018

A Week in Pictures Middle East & Africa May 18, 2018

It was not easy to pick a single image from the clashes on the Israel-Gaza border but Ibraheem Abu Mustafa’s image is breathtakingly powerful. Figures running from the black smoke, flames, live fire and incoming tear gas canisters combine all the elements of the day. The only real colour in a black and dark picture is that of the Palestinian flag. You can see Ibraheem’s personal account of how he took his picture here

Palestinian demonstrators run for cover from Israeli fire and tear gas during a protest against U.S embassy move to Jerusalem and ahead of the 70th anniversary of Nakba, at the Israel-Gaza border in the southern Gaza strip May 14, 2018.   REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa 

Surrounded in black shadows, the face of a dead child is gently touched by a relative at her funeral. The light seems to be borrowed from a high renaissance painting. Mohammed Salem’s image is as powerful as it is sad. To me the silence around the scene is deafening. A complete contrast from the smoke, fire, noise, anger and bloodshed that filled images from the previous day. I am saddened by this but the debate surrounding this death will rage on. 

A relative mourns as she carries the body of eight-month-old Palestinian infant Laila al-Ghandour, who his family claim died after inhaling tear gas during a protest against U.S embassy move to Jerusalem at the Israel-Gaza border during her funeral in Gaza May 15, 2018.   REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Thaier Al-Sudani’s colourful picture of a woman displaying her ink-stained finger after voting is a wonderful mix of bold colour, shape and line. What is most attractive about this image is that even though it has all the colours of the rainbow, your eye is drawn straight to the woman’s face and hand, framed in the solid blacks. Once you have looked at her face and inky finger, your eye can move on to enjoy the colours.

An Iraqi woman shows her ink stained finger after casting her vote at a polling station during the parliamentary election in the Sadr city district of Baghdad, Iraq May 12, 2018.   REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani 

I can’t help smiling at the reaction of the fans in this picture by Zoubeir Souissi as the riot police officer charges at them. The man on left seems to be saying, “not me, honest,”  the man in the middle is running away -  “I’m out of here” - while the man on the right is just sitting there – “innocent me”. Let’s hope none of them got whacked by the policeman’s baton. 

Riot Police chase Club African fans during clashes at the Tunisian Cup final against Etoile Sportive du Sahel in Tunis, Tunisia, May 13, 2018.   REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

What is most appealing in Ammar Awad’s picture is the optical illusion that the man being photographed appears to be floating in the air. This illusion is created by the shadow cast on the ground in the lower part of the image. At first glance, you might think it is being cast by the man being photographed, but it is not. If you look carefully you can see that his shadow is cast behind him and the shadow in the foreground is that of the boy taking pictures.   

People take pictures of the U.S and Israeli national flags that are projected on part of the wall surrounding Jerusalem’s Old City May 14, 2018.   REUTERS/Ammar Awad

It’s hard to ignore this bold and colourful picture by Zoubeir Souissi as it jumps out at you from the page. This is a classic case of an image that can read as easily in tiny form published on a mobile device as it can if it were printed the size of a billboard.  The big red triangle directs the eye to the lone demonstrating figure.    

The shadow of a protester holding a Palestinian flag is seen during protests against the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem, in Tunis, Tunisia, May 15, 2018.   REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

Portraits are some of the hardest pictures to shoot well, especially when you only have a short time to capture your subject in the street. Akintunde Akinleye’s affectionate portrait of a rat poison seller is a well-composed image of understated and muted tones and colours. A wry smile creeps across my face when I see ‘doctor’ written on his hat and the words rat, rat, and kill come into focus from the eye line of the man who’s just creeping into the edge of the frame. A lucky break too for Akintunde as the man on the edge has a most wonderful outfit of striped blue and white. Any more into the frame, he’d be a distraction from the ‘doctor’ and any less he would not be there.

A man selling rat poison sits on a stool as he waits for customers at Oiodu district in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos, May 3, 2018.  REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

Although a Week in Pictures is not so much about the top news stories but more about the pictures that have caught my eye, this week it is dominated by the clashes on the Gaza-Israeli border. This story has thrown up so many great images it’s hard not to include them. You almost choke on the fumes in Ibraheem Abu Mustafa’s picture, as tiny figures dwarfed and engulfed by the raging flames and black smoke, run in different directions in the chaos.  

Palestinian demonstrators run during a protest marking the 70th anniversary of Nekba, at the Israel-Gaza border in the southern Gaza strip, May 15, 2018.    REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

The curved compositional shape created by the coffins and the people standing on the edge of the mass grave make me think of a giant mouth that is going to consume the bodies of those killed in the flood. The different-sized coffins in the dark hole add to this impression, as they look like broken teeth in blackened gums. The sadness is quite overwhelming when you notice that the many are the coffins are small, holding the bodies of drowned children who will soon be swallowed by the earth.  

Coffins are seen arranged inside a mass grave during the burial of people killed when a dam burst it walls, the water flooding onto nearby homes, in Solai town near Nakuru, Kenya May 16, 2018.   REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

To illustrate the start of Ramadan in the region, Amr Abdullah Dalsh shot this calm picture of reflection and prayer. This mood is created by wide space around the lone figure, his white robes highlighted against the black symmetrical background of the arched doorways and graceful sweep of the drapes. The high contrast of black against white is held in by the pastel colours of the brickwork and marble flooring

A member of the Bohra community prays inside the Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah Mosque on the first day of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan in Cairo, Egypt, May 17, 2018.    REUTERS/Amr Abdullah Dalsh

Sunday 13 May 2018

A Week in Pictures Middle East & Africa May 11, 2018

Finding a new picture at an event that is visually strong but also repetitive is never easy. In Ibraheem Abu Mustafa’s powerful image, the notion of combating tear gas with sports rackets raises the bar even higher. What is also a little strange is that although this is a striking image taken in a very dangerous situation I feel uncomfortable, since it may verge on gallows humour. Do you get this sense too? See more images from the clashes here.

A Demonstrator uses a racket to return a tear gas canister fired by Israel troops during a protest where Palestinians demand the right to return to their homeland, at the Israel-Gaza border in the southern Gaza strip, May 11, 2018.   REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

What seemed impossible six months ago now appears to be happening - an election in July in Zimbabwe. Maybe I am reading too much into this wonderfully graphically composed image by Philimon Bulawayo, but it looks like a picture of hope. I am attracted to the shape created by the profile of the silhouetted delegate perfectly placed between the smiling face of President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the text. It looks like advice is being whispered into the president’s ear.

A delegate arrives for a meeting between Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and liberation war veterans in Harare, Zimbabwe, may 11, 2018.  REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

There is only one way to describe Ari Jala’s picture from Mosul: chilling. The eye is immediately drawn into the simple zigzag triangular design of the image, punctuated by the repeated image of an execution painted on the wall, again, and again, and again. It’s only then that you notice the neatly turned-out schoolgirl heading to her lessons. Read the story here

An Iraqi student walks past a school wall covered with drawings showing how Islamic State executed prisoners in Mosul, Iraq April 30, 2018.   REUTERS/Ari Jalal

When a detail picture is well shot it can often explain so much in a story. This is true of Thomas Mukoya’s picture of footprints in deep mud. The rippled surface of the ground is broken by footsteps that lead you from the rear of the image out into the foreground. For me, this raises a question. Is this people fleeing a natural disaster or people coming to the rescue? I have to read on to find out, and you can do so here.

Footprints are seen on wet ground as volunteers arrive for a recovery mission after a dam burst, unleashing water through nearby homes in Solio town, near Nakuru, Kenya May 10, 2018.    REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Often in the Middle East and Africa region there is little to celebrate in terms of good news and I resist the temptation to try to find ‘good news’ images to soften the harsh realities of the week’s file. But, I am actually an optimist and when a good news picture is filed it jumps out at me. Two such images are from Mohamad Torokman, who is more often in the thick of violent clashes. How could I resist the sheer joy in the picture of a groom being held aloft, upturned faces laughing and smiling, and the line of lights seeming to echo the bounce of the groom on the sea of hands? And likewise, how could I resist the smiling sales assistant holding up a wedding dress as if she is part of the choreography for a Swan Lake ballet? I could not, so here they are.

Palestinian groom Hejres Torokman is thrown in the air during his wedding party in Jenin in the occupied West Bank May 7, 2018.   REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

A Palestinian saleswoman displays a wedding dress in a store in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank May 9, 2018.   REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman  

An election in Lebanon is not easy to cover. Security is a concern and trying to get away from the standard fare of press conferences, politicians arriving or leaving buildings, (often in cars) or being mobbed by supporters in secure areas, is almost impossible. Almost impossible too is to find a generic image that can be used to explain the complexities of the story. Jamal Saidi has done well to find this simple semicircle shape of election posters supporting Hariri plastered on a Ferris wheel.

Campaign posters of Lebanese Prime Minister and candidate for parliamentary election Saad al-Hariri and his father, assassinated Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, hang off a Ferris Wheel in Beirut, Lebanon, may 3, 2018.   REUTERS/Jamal Saidi

For me, Raneen Sawafta’s picture of a boy drinking water from a pot is a beautiful,  simple image of daily life. I love the single direction of light on his face and the pot that leaves strong shadows across his body and in the background of the image. The flash of light on the water draws your eye right to the centre of the image. I get a sense of timeless joy seeing this boy drinking from his father’s traditionally made pot, maybe a skill that has been handed down from generation to generation.  

The son of Palestinian clay pot maker Jamal Fakhori drinks water at his father’s workshop in Jaba town near Jenin, in the occupied West bank may 1, 2018.   REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta