Friday 28 September 2018

A Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, September 28, 2018

It's not often I get to add a fighting picture that is from a sports event to my weekly roundup from the region so adding this terrific boxing picture by Andrew Couldridge. A great action picture as both boxers seem to have the upper hand at the same moment, it's full of power, strength and determination. You can see both boxers faces, the landed punches and the spray of sweat from the blows to the heads all perfectly framed in an X composition. 

George Groves and Callum Smith exchange punches during their World Boxing Super Series Super-Middleweight Title fight at the King Abdullah Sports City, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia September 28, 2018.   Action Images via REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge

On the face of it there is nothing to see on the Israeli-Egyptian border: it’s a militarized zone in the desert, after all. Amir Cohen thought differently and produced not one but two terrific images. In the first, the border fence winds its way to the horizon like a giant snake moving dangerously in the sand. Your eye is led from the bottom right corner, through the barren valleys and hills up to the top and centre of the picture, and freedom from the menace.      

A general view shows the border fence between Israel and Egypt in southern Israel September 26, 2018.    REUTERS/Amir Cohen

In Amir’s second picture, a hint of humour created by the smiles on the faces of the soldiers eases the tension in his series of images from the border. I can’t help smiling too when I imagine the look on the soldiers’ faces when the day’s duties are assigned. Not too much to distract you from this empty position in the desert. And are those hand grenades on the concrete block or water bottles? You can see the whole series of pictures here  

Israeli soldiers stand guard in an area at the Israeli side of the Israel-Egypt border in southern Israel September 26, 2018.     REUTERS/Amir Cohen

I am a sucker for bold shapes, colours and strong lines that are broken with a focal point that draws the eye, and Omar Sanadiki’s picture delivers on all these fronts. I like the irregular pattern of the windows, pushing back against compositional instinct that might demand that you centre it, leaving equal shapes left and right. I like too, the red of the flag that matches exactly the colour of the train and the fact that it leads you to the smiling faces in the window. Would I straighten up the red line that tilts slightly? Well yes, I would, but now I am nit-picking. You can see the whole story here.

Boys wave as they look out of a train window at a railway station in Damascus, Syria September 7, 2018.   REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

Alaa al-Marjani has produced a picture that makes you want to count off, one, two, three, next! as the boys line up to dive into the water. The soft warm light on the rusting platform and the boys’ bodies counter the oily appearance of the water. It’s only as you read on that you discover that you are right to think there is something not quite right about that water, and it is indeed badly polluted. Read on here.

Iraqi boys take turned to dive in the Shatt al-Arab river in Basra, Iraq September 9, 2018. Some Basra residents claim that salt water seeping into the water supply has made it undrinkable and made hundreds sick.   REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani

A simple but well-observed picture by Ammar Awad is very pleasing to the eye. We are gently led into the picture by the shapes in the foreground toward the figure by the Western Wall. The cool, crisp lines and texture of the shawls contrast with the warmth of the stones, adding to the calm feel of this image.  

A Jewish worshipper holds up his mobile phone as others, covered in prayer shawls, take part in a priestly blessing during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot at the western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City September 26, 2018.    REUTERS/Ammar Awad

It’s the determined look in the eye of the cadet that gives Mohammed Salem’s image its strength. The picture captures the frantic flurry of arms, elbows and feet kicking up sand, but all you can look at is that fixed and focused eye. So much so that it takes a while before you get around to noticing the open mouth and silent scream of the cadet on the left.

Palestinian cadets crawl as they demonstrate their skills at a police college run by the Hamas-led interior ministry, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza strip, September 26, 2018.   REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

I can’t help thinking of the sophisticated composition techniques used in spaghetti western films by Sergio Leone when looking at this picture by Jackson Niehia. The use of  a very bold tightly cropped figure or shape in the foreground and the action, small in the background, has allowed Jackson to hint at the number of deaths without actually showing bodies. You can see the full and tragic story here.

Tanzanian police and rescuers transport bodies of passengers retrieved after a ferry MV Nyerere overturned off the shores of Ukara Island in Lake Victoria, Tanzania September 22, 2018.   REUTERS/Jackson Niehia

Mohammed Salem’s demonstration picture is a classic news picture, full of powerful action. A single figure gesturing and holding the flag of her cause, surrounded by smoke and flames. In pure commercial terms, it can be used as a horizontal or cropped to a vertical. It looks easy to take but it is not. 

A woman waves a Palestinian flag during a protest calling for lifting the Israeli blockade on Gaza and demanding the right to return to their homeland, at the Israel-Gaza border fence east of Gaza City September 28, 2018.   REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Beautiful light and the X-shaped composition in Thaier al-Sudani’s landscape picture make this a town I want to pack my bags and travel to immediately. Who can resist the warmth of the evening light, the sounds of the call to prayer from the mosque, the clear air and blue skies of Akra. To shoot a landscape picture that arouses this need for travel is truly an art.  

A general view of the Kurdish town of Akra, Iraq September 26, 2018.   REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani 

Friday 21 September 2018

A Week in Pictures Middle East & Africa September 21, 2018

Stark and bleached of almost all colour, Siphiwe Sibeko’s picture of a decomposing elephant is a depressing image. It takes a while to work out what you are looking at, but once you see the dead beast there is no splash or colour or visual distraction to enable you to look away. Maybe not being able to look away is what makes this picture so powerful. Read on here.

An aerial photograph shows the carcass of a dead elephant, one of 87 that have been discovered by conservationists, in the Mababe area in Botswana, September 19, 2018.   REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

In this week’s edit I include a picture by Newton Nambwaya that makes me fear for the safety of the demonstrator. I suppose it takes courage, or maybe naivety, to make a pretend gun and take it to a protest against a government whose police and soldiers are only too well armed. The more I think about it the more I worry about it: at a glance, or even a longer look, it still looks like a real gun. 

Supporters of Ugandan musician turned politician Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, chant slogans outside his home after he arrived from the U.S in Kampala, Uganda September 20, 2018. REUTERS/Newton Namwaya

Ashura can allow photographers to shoot gratuitous pictures of blood-letting. Ali Hashisho has managed in his picture to strike a balance between showing what happens during the religious ceremony - people observing it cut and beat themselves - while not falling into the trap of looking for the most blood or the biggest knife. What interests me is that you first notice the highlight of the man’s eye within the red of the picture before you see the fine spray of blood against a dark background as he beats his forehead.    

A Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim man beats his head after he was cut on his forehead with a razor during a religious procession to mark Ashura in Nabatiyeh town, southern Lebanon September 20, 2018.   REUTERS/Ali Hashisho

A very clever composition by Ronen Zvulun (and a lucky reflection) turns what could be a very dull picture of a leader sitting in a train into a striking portrait. Ronen uses the red reverse L-shaped space to crush all the action of the picture into a busy third of the image. In that third we are rewarded with the glare of white lights, a reversed clock and deep shadows that allow us to settle on Netanyahu’s face. Does it matter that we really can’t see Katz’s face? I don’t think so. What we get is a strong sense of speed.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits next to Israel’s Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz during a test-run of the new high-speed train between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, at the Yitzhak Navon Railway Station in Jerusalem September 20, 2018.   REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Okay I give in. I tried to resist Ammar Awad’s silhouette picture, but it’s so beautiful in its sweeping curved composition with the almost touching shapes of the hats that I have to include it. It needs no extra explanation, so just enjoy.

Jewish worshippers take part in the Tashlich ritual on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, ahead of Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of Atonement in Herzliya, Israel, September 17, 2018.   REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Luc Gnago’s picture is a quiet picture. Admittedly, looking at the colour and beauty of the woman’s dress in the foreground you might disagree. But take some time and look at the number of people with brooms and think about the position of their legs and feet. They are all positioned in the classic V and so well placed around the picture that you will find yourself quite deep in the image, led around it by the angle of their brooms and the position of their legs.       

Volunteers clean a street of Treichville during the world clean-up day in Abidjan, Ivory Coast September 15, 2018.   REUTERS/Luc Gnago