Friday 29 June 2018

A Week in Pictures Middle East & Africa, June 29, 2018

When I got my first full-time job as a photographer with a small news agency, I was told by my boss: “If you shoot a ‘thumbs-up’ picture or a ‘points at something picture’ I will fire you on the spot. We are better than that.” Sound advice but rules are for breaking, so with these words of wisdom ringing in my ears I select Hamad I Mohammed’s wonderfully happy picture of a beaming woman giving a thumbs-up as she drives her car off the forecourt just after midnight on the first day that women were allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. You can see more picture here

A Saudi woman celebrates as she drives her car in her neighborhood in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, June 24, 2018.    REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed 

A simple gesture from the woman who sits behind a sleeping child has an overwhelming sense of futility. The child sleeps on, resting on what we assume is all that remains of her possessions. Khaled Abdullah created this sense of hopelessness by leaving an over-exposed and empty space that fills over half the frame. It says: “What future for these people? Who knows?” The answer is in the picture itself. Follow the story here

A woman displaced by the fighting in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah reacts as she waits to be registered at an IDP registration centre in Sanaa, Yemen June 27, 2018.  REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

A simple gesture from the woman who sits behind a sleeping child has an overwhelming sense of futility. The child sleeps on, resting on what we assume is all that remains of her possessions. Khaled Abdullah created this sense of hopelessness by leaving an over-exposed and empty space that fills over half the frame. It says: “What future for these people? Who knows?” The answer is in the picture itself.  

Cranes are seen at the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen June 24, 2018. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad

Again creeping off my turf and onto Russian soil, I could not help but include Jason Caimduff’s emotional picture of dejected soccer star Mohamed Saleh. It never ceases to amaze me how much passion and energy these sportsmen display right up until the final whistle, believing until that moment they can still win no matter what the score. When the whistle blows the losers are are crushed. To judge from Mohamed’s disappointed face, highlighted against the clean green background, he just can’t believe it, he doesn’t know what to do. So he grabs his shorts and pulls them up as far as they will go. Now, like all great athletes, he will no doubt get back to training, get his head (and his shorts) straight, focusing on the next match, ready to enrich millions of  (Egyptian) fans’ lives with his skills. See the highlight pictures from the game here.

Egypt’s Mohamed Saleh looks dejected after their Group A World Cup match against Saudi Arabia in the Volgograd stadium, Volgograd, Russia June 25, 2018.  REUTERS/Jason Caimduff

There is something gentle and calm in the visual frenzy of Zohra Bensemra’s picture of the Old Town of Jeddah. Maybe it’s the way your eye is slowly drawn from the chaos of the red bunting, the yellow road barriers, the ramshackle balconies and the whirring aircon units to the beautifully crisp white robes of the man on the phone. Whatever it is that gives this image its calm, I love this eye-of-the-storm composition.

A Saudi man walks through the old town of Jeddah Saudi Arabia June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

National leaders dancing and smiling during peace talks provide a warm image shot by Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah. I suspect that Mohamed was happy to capture all three main parties in one image, especially managing to keep the pointing fingers and hands in the top of the frame What I also like about this are the dashes of red and purple in the leaders ties and the flag set against white with a bright yellow background. All very cheerful. 

Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir joins South Sudan’s President Salva kiir and South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar in a dance during a peace meeting as part of talks to negotiate an end to a civil war that broke out in 2013, in Khartoum, Sudan June 25, 2018.   REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

Virtually all colour is drained from Thomas Mukoya’s back-lit picture that looks like a scene from the apocalypse, the four horsemen dismounted. We are sucked into the centre of the breathless picture by a clever series of compositional U’s that lead us from the top of the frame into the centre just above the police helmets. The centre is marked with a small red part of the policeman’s weapon to finally catch the eye.

Riot police stand at the smoldering scene of the fire that gutted a timber dealership in Gikomba market and nearly homes in central Nairobi, Kenya.   REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

One can only begin to imagine what is going through the mind of the girl in Omar Sanadiki’s picture. Her blank stare seems to pass right through the viewer as she maybe thinks of an uncertain and distant future. What I really like about this picture is how Omar has not only exposed for the shadow detail of the girl, leaving the soldiers in the background to bleach out, but used a shallow depth of field, adding to the feeling that maybe this journey is fading into the past in the girls mind. 

A Syrian refugee girl who left Lebanon looks through a window as she arrives in Qalamoun, Syria June 28, 2018.   REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki 

On the other side of the Lebanese Syrian border, Mohamed Azakir photographed the chaos of families try to leave. People crammed into overloaded vehicles with all they own, children and grandparents squeezed onto the truck almost as an afterthought. At first, I thought it was a shame that the top of the mattresses were cropped off but then I decided that this crop, which might have been unintentional, actually adds to the cramped feeling of the picture. Maybe it needs an even tighter crop? You can read the developing story  here 

Syrian refugees prepare to return to Syria from the Lebanese border town of Arsal, Lebanon, June 28, 2018.    REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

I can’t hide my disappointment that Senegal are out of the World Cup and I can’t explain to myself why I really hoped they'd do well. Maybe it was the effort the fans would put into getting a glimpse of the game, a passion highlighted by Mikal McAlister’s picture. All they had to do was draw but sadly, for me, they lost 1-0. See highlight pictures from the match here

People climb into a tree in Dakar Senegal to watch the Senegal v Colombia Group H World Cup match June 28, 2018.   REUTERS/Mikal McAllister

Friday 22 June 2018

A Week in Pictures Middle East & Africa, June 22, 2018

I love the strong diagonal composition of Thaier al-Sudani’s picture, which seems to pivot around the light-coloured headdress of the man in the centre. As your eye moves to the top of the frame you are rewarded with a break in the strong line, al-Hakim leading the prayer. It’s not often I would like to see video from a scene that has been well photographed but I would love to see the left to right movement of the line of worshippers. Maybe it’s the wide-screen 16 x 9 proportions of the crop that puts this in my mind. 

Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Hikma Current, leads prayers for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr at his headquarters, in Baghdad, Iraq, June 16, 2018.    REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani

Muhammad Hamad’s picture almost makes me feel breathless as it’s so busy. I love it that I feel I have to fight my way through a visual crowd of arms, hands, microphones and even the background wallpaper to finally get to the speaking PM al-Razzaz . Once there I feel that I am trapped in a small, almost claustrophobic space, immersed in a sea of wonderful colour and warmth.      

Journalists try to ask Jordan’s Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz questions during his news conference in Amman, Jordan June 19, 2018.   REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

There is a dream-like quality to Amir Cohen’s Eid al-Fitr holiday picture, thanks to a complex combination of elements that would normally send a picture to the spike. But the flare, over-exposure and back focus all work together with Amir’s great composition of figures. 

People enjoy themselves along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr at a beach in Tel Aviv, Israel, June 17, 2018.   REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Ahmed Jadallah was given exclusive access to the Aramco driving school for women in Saudi Arabia, where hundreds of women are preparing for the historic day on June 24, when they will be allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. It’s not an easy story to photograph. Ahmed’s simple picture of pupil and teacher discussing mirror position is essentially a detail picture; hands, eyes and profile of the women’s faces that for me tells the whole story. You can see the rest of the story here

Trainee driver Maria al-Farai (L) adjusts the mirror during a driving lesson with instructor Ahlam al-Somali at the Saudi Aramco Driving Centre in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, June 6, 2018.   REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

The half-open door and the plastic sheeting seems to wrap around the scene of grief like a cold embrace as boys huddle together looking for warm comfort in Mohammed Salem’s powerful and distressing image. Their hands and arms seems to claw through the picture, the open mouths and faces wet with tears leave us in no doubt about the extent of their grief. I hear the cries and screams ringing in my ears. A very sad picture. 

Relatives of a Palestinian, who was killed at the Israel-Gaza border, react at a hospital in Gaza City June 18, 2018.   REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

I am encroaching on another patch but can’t resist including Christian Hartmann’s fun picture of Senegal fans at their game against Poland at the World Cup in Russia . These guys have taken a lot of time to coordinate not only what they look like but where they stand. Their efforts were rewarded with a 2-1 win. 

Senegal fans cheers during their World Cup match against Poland in Spartak Stadium, Moscow, Russia June 19, 2018.   REUTERS/Christian Hartmann  

Friday 15 June 2018

A Week in Pictures Middle East & Africa, June 15, 2018

Eid Mubarak

Prior to the World Cup kick off in Russia I assigned photographers in the MEA region to shoot pictures of street football games. I specifically asked for images only of the goal or the celebration and then I wanted a quote from the goal scorer. We had many great pictures full of aspiration and fun. A tough choice for my favourite was shot by Youssef Boudlal. The sheer joy on the scorer’s face, the dejected defenders and the ball can be seen in the ‘net’. It could be the World Cup winner. See the full set of pictures here

Adnan, 11, celebrates scoring his goal in front of his house in the old streets of Casablanca, Morocco April 28, 2018. ‘Every time I score a goal I feel like I have just realised my dream of playing with my favourite team’ he said.  REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal
Also, hard to ignore Baz Ratner’s eye-catching prison football match pictures from Kenya. The orange is eye-catching, the stripes in the prison uniforms are eye-catching and the way Baz has composed these fighting elements around the chalked-up score board is just wonderful. A lucky break too as he catches the moment of the man on the left looking back into the frame drawing your eye from the dizziness of the oranges and stipes to the faint letters ‘RUSSIA v SAUDI ARABIA’

Kenyan prisoners watch a mock World Cup soccer match between Russia and Saudi Arabia as part of a month-long soccer tournament involving eight prison teams at the Kamiti Maximum prison, Kenya’s largest prison facility, Kenya June 14, 2018.   REUTERS/Baz Ratner

A slightly cheeky visual segue from World Cup football to Africa is Francis Kokoroko’s quirky portrait of a journalist who worked on a story about football-related corruption. Anas is obviously keen to hide his face but not his identity and this has led to a great opportunity to shoot this portrait. It works well as Francis has kept the background both clean but toned so nothing detracts you from the noise of the golden mask.

Undercover journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas poses for a picture during an interview in Accra, Ghana June 11, 2018.  REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko 

It’s not often I will chose an image that actually has no people in it but Ahmed Jadallah’s sublime picture from the Aramco oilfields has such a surreal feeling to it I was drawn back to look at it again and again. I love the warm tones, the sweeping curve of the road and the harsh black lines of the telegraph poles cutting through the landscape. And then it struck me: ‘Paris, Texas’. I could hear Ry Cooder sound track  in my head and then remembered an exhibition of the Wim Wenders polaroids.  Read the exclusive story here

The highway towards the Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) facility is seen at Aramco’s Shaybah oilfield in the Empty Quarter, Saudi Arabia May 22, 2018.  REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

Tiksa Negeri’s perfectly centered cyclist provides the focal point that his confused picture of rubble needs. It draws you into the image and then allows your eye to wander to the decorated house on the left of the tree, then across to the leaning pole and then down to the satellite dish on the far-right hand side. Once you have finished visually rushing around this picture you come back to the stonework of the destroyed building to discover beautiful master craftsmanship. I hope it gets rebuilt.     

A boy rides a bicycle past houses damaged during the Ethiopia-Eritrea war between 1998 and 2000 in Badme, which was the centre of a territorial dispute between the countries and is currently occupied by Ethiopia June 8, 2018.   REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri  

When dealing with nudity on the wire we need to be extra careful. I have no doubt that the editors who moved Siphiwe Sibeko's perfectly timed image of a dancer at the South Africa v England rugby game looked not once, or twice but probably three times with at least two colleagues, making sure we'd get no complaint from our online subscribers before moving the image out.

A dancer preforms before the start of the South Africa v England international rugby Test Match at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa June 9, 2018.   REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko 

Friday 8 June 2018

A Week in Pictures Middle East & Africa, June 8, 2018

Being hit with a tear gas canister is terrifying but being hit with a tear gas canister that embeds itself in your face must be truly awful. Ibraheem’s Abu Mustafa’s picture of a man with tear gas still pouring from the canister in his face is quite disturbing but something I just can’t stop looking at as I have never seen the like before. Ibraheem followed up with him and you can see the story here 

A wounded Palestinian demonstrator is hit in the face with a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops during a protest marking al-Quds day (Jerusalem Day), at the Israeli-Gaza border in the southern Gaza strip June 8, 2018.   REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Next week the world’s attention will be on Russia and the World Cup. As a preview to the football tournament, Wider Image have pulled together a global project on unusual places the game is played. Contributions from Africa were very strong but in choosing one I have to settle on Siphiwe Sibeko’s offering as my favourite. The light is beautiful and I just love those yellow trousers in the low sun at full stretch and the red ball. See the set of pictures from around the world here

A combination picture shows boys playing soccer and details of a football, a pitch and shoes, at a makeshift pitch in Soweto, South Africa, May 14, 2018.   REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

I can’t help but smile when looking at Ammar Awad’s picture of a vendor grabbing a fish from the tank. Do you also think that the two fish slightly on the right are gasping, opened mouthed ‘phew lucky this time, not me!’ What I also love about this picture is the colour and tone. The warm orange/yellow colours of the arm in the water against the cool blue colours of the fish

A vendor holds a fish at a market in Amman, Jordan June 6, 2018.   REUTERS/Ammar Awad

There is no mistaking for even a second what the pull is for Mohamed Torokman’s picture: it’s the perfect shadow, the great lines in the picture and the shape of the man’s body climbing the rickety ladder. The shadow of the barbed wire snaking down from the top of the frame is an added bonus.

A Palestinian uses a ladder to climb over a section of the controversial Israeli barrier as he tries to make his way to attend Friday prayer of the Holy fasting month of Ramadan in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, near Ramallah in the occupied west bank June 8, 2018.  REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

Wissam al-Okili’s picture is one that makes me want to scratch my head and wonder why the people in the picture are doing what they are doing. I just keep on looking and wondering, unable to pull myself away from this image. Eighteen people killed and over 90 injured in the blast and these young men are sitting on this half-buried car as if it’s garden furniture. Maybe it’s the contrast between the landscape of sheer devastation and the nonchalant relaxed manner of the men that gives this image its strength as you wonder ‘Wow! What happened here?’ If you want to know read on here

People gather at the site of an explosion in Baghdad’s Sadr City district, Iraq, June 7, 2018.    REUTERS/Wissam al-Okili

Jordan’s new Prime Minister Razzaz is being squeezed between the demands of the IMF trying to put the Jordan economy back on track with austerity measures and the demands of the people protesting on the streets because they can’t make ends meet. Muhammad Hamed’s picture seems to sum up all his problems in a single frame. 

Jordan’s designated new Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz speaks on the phone after leaving parliament building in Amman, Jordan June 7, 2018.  REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

 The newly repaired road cuts through the hills dotted with destroyed buildings from which a stream of vehicles seem to flow downhill. What catches my eye first in Omar Sanadiki’s picture is that it’s such a great shape. It also took me a while to realise what is a little strange: the traffic is moving in the same direction, towards the viewer on both sides of the road.  

Vehicles travel on the road between Homs and Hama after it was re-opened in Rastan, Syria June 6, 2018.   REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki