Friday 22 February 2019

A Week in Pictures Middle East and Africa February 22, 2019

It’s good when one of the best pictures of the week matches one of the top global news stories. Rodi Said’s picture shows a fighter handing bread to children during the battle for Baghouz. Compositionally, the picture is made up of strong diagonals, the arm of the fighter reaching up left to right, the reaching out for the food all set against the strong dark shadow of the truck. What really makes this image stand out is that its structure compels the viewer to look at each and every one of the faces, all with different expressions. The almost square format of the image goes unnoticed. You can see more from the story here

A fighter from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gives bread to children near the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria February 20, 2019. REUTERS/Rodi Said

This is a powerful image as part of a story by Zohra Bensemra, the rest of which can be seen here The child looks so vulnerable, alone and isolated. The mood is created by the long shadow and maybe also because this image has been shot on a longish lens and slightly through obstructions, almost as if we are intruding on his loneliness. 

A Koran student, called a talibes, eats as he begs in front of a hotel in Saint-Louis, Senegal, February 9, 2019.    REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Classic thirds, a clean background and the strong contrast of shadows and highlights juxtaposed produce an immediate ‘look at me’ demand from Muhammad Hamed’s picture. When you look closer every figure occupies its own space, not an inch of crossover. What is most wonderful is the position of the feet and legs of the central figure, the moment of visual tension between foot and ground, drawing attention at the very edge of this open space to a small but important detail. 

People walk along the highway near Amman, Jordan, during a march from the city of Aqaba, south of the capital, demanding more employment opportunities, February 20, 2019.   REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

In essence, Amir Cohen’s picture is of a man walking away from a news conference through a small crowd. But what a wonderful moment of light, shapes and colour. There are basically two colours, the warm skin tones on the face and the cool blue of the room behind. The dark shadows of the surrounding figures crowd into Benny Gantz, the shadow from the bottom of the frame creeping up to chest height like dark waters, only to be pushed back down by the spotlight on the ceiling. The sidelight on his face is perfectly captured as there is a highlight in the eye that lifts it from the shadow. 

Benny Gantz, head of Resilience Party is seen after a news conference in Tel Aviv, Israel February 21, 2019.   REUTERS/Amir Cohen  

The story of Eskom’s rolling power shortages is South Africa not an easy one to illustrate, but Siphiwe Sibeko has managed to produce a gentle and well-timed image that does the job well. What is key is that the ball is in open space and not crossed by the cables. Maybe the trees on the bottom left were a little annoying, but if you remove them, the picture falls over to the left out of the frame. So best left alone.

Boys play soccer near electricity pylons in Soweto, South Africa February 20, 2019.   REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

It’s not often you see images that are shot with direct flash, wallop! But Afoabi Sotunde has caught the sense of the moment in the men’s faces when they learn that Nigeria’s election has been postponed hours before polls where due to open. No background details distract from the stark realisation that something is amiss. 

Men listen to the radio following the postponement of the Presidential election in Maiduguri, Nigeria February 16, 2019.   REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

The muted colours, soft light and gentle action of the woman pumping water in Luc Gnago’s picture give it a very strong sense of tranquillity. I am intrigued by the letters, numbers, words and pictures painted on the wall. All in all, a terrific image that stands alone by its sheer beauty.   

A girl draws water from a fountain a day after the postponement of the presidential election in kano, Nigeria February 17, 2019.    REUTERS/Luc Gnago  

Hayam Adel’s picture verges on the surreal, like a scene from an Egyptian Alice in Wonderland or the wedding dress of Dickens’ Miss Havisham. The figures dotted about in the space lead us deep into the image past the visually addictive swirls of the wedding dresses. I would so love the girl in the foreground be a little to the left so we can see the feet of the girl in red but the world is not perfect. This picture was used as part of a story about population restriction measures being introduced by the government, which you can see here

Egyptian girls play outside a shop for brides in the province of Fayoum, southwest of Cairo, Egypt February 19, 2019.   REUTERS/Hayam Adel

Friday 15 February 2019

A Week in Pictures Middle East and Africa February 15, 2019

It’s not easy to illustrate load-shedding, more commonly known as power cuts, especially when it’s still daylight and small generators are used to create power and light. But Mike Hutchings has made good use of the backlight from inside a shop to draw you deep into this image.

A shop assistant stands in the doorway of a party goods store during an electricity load-shedding black out in Johannesburg, South Africa, February 12, 2019.   REUTERS/Mike Hutchings 

I am a great fan of pictures that are confusing and where it takes a little while to sort out in your mind’s eye what is really going on. Luc Gnago’s image is a good example. The green hats spring immediately into focus but only slowly do you get to make shapes of limbs under the white cloth. I still don’t quite know what the dark brown rods are but I don’t think that really matters. It’s a fun pre-election picture only slightly spoiled by the rather annoying yellow shape in the background, that I will choose to ignore.  

Supporters of the people’s democratic party (PDP) perform wearing hats with PDP branding during a campaign rally in Lagos, Nigeria February 12, 2019.  REUTERS/Luc Gnago

As attractive to me as confusion are simple compositional graphic shapes and lines and this well is illustrated in Taibat Ajiboye’s portrait of a young Nigerian voter. The lines of the roofs and the foundations of the houses draw you into the frame, where you are abruptly stopped by the solid back shape of the umbrella, framing the youthful face of the young woman. The brief was simple: Photograph a first-time voter and ask three simple questions about their expectations of the election. Taibat has gone the extra mile. You can see the full set of portraits and Q&A’s here

Noimot Shuaib Ajoke, 18-year-old first time voter, carries her child as she poses for a picture in Malete in Kwara state, Nigeria February 5, 2019.   REUTERS/Taibat Ajiboye 

Mohamed al-Sayaghi’s image frame it without being the central part of it. This framing also gives is a slight sense that we are intruding. We are stopped in our tracks just before we enter the picture. This of course is not the case. We are most welcome, so come on in and enjoy the steamy warmth. The next surprise is that from the caption we learn this is in Sanaa, Yemen. 

People have Turkish bath at a newly-opened traditional Turkish-style steam bath in Sanaa, Yemen February 8, 2019.   REUTERS/ Mohamed al-Sayaghi

Okay, okay, it’s a simple picture about shapes, mainly triangles, big ones, small ones, the pyramids, big and small, the small black shape of the man’s arms and the space created between his legs as he struggles against the wind. He is placed perfectly between in the V of the space between the pyramids. I like it too that the picture stomps its way from left to right, the line and base of the pyramid on the right meeting the edge of the frame at the exact same point.  

A man walks in front of the Great Pyramids in Giza on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, February 15, 2019.   REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Love is in the air, or maybe not. Your eye dances about, confused, not quite sure why you can’t quite read all the words in Dylan Martinez’s picture. It’s how I imagine a dyslectic may see pages of text as the letters rotate in the shop window. Finally, they stop rotating in your mind’s eye and you see LOVE and the boy peering into the shop window set against the deliberately over-exposed background. Happy Valentine’s Day.   

A youngster walks past a shop selling LOVE signs, chocolates and flowers on Valentine’s Day in Gaza City, February 14, 2019.   REUTERS/Dylan Martinez 

It takes a little time to spot anything in Ammar Awad’s picture that you would not see if it had been taken two hundred years ago. Maybe the metal chair in the background? Maybe not. It takes a little time to see the scaffolding, top left. This timeless feel,  brought about by the aged yellow of the brickwork, the tired and ancient paintwork and the warmth it radiates, makes me want to look and look at this picture. What is nice is that this image is part of a story about joint Israeli and Palestinian tour guides for the Old City, which you can see here.

An Ethiopian Orthodox priest sits outside the Ethiopian section of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City February 12, 2019.   REUTERS/Ammar Awad

I feel somewhat claustrophobic when I look at Philimon Bulawayo’s image of a rescue worker at a collapsed gold mine. Surrounded by others watching, the rescuer looks ill-equipped for the task at hand, the mud caked on his tensed arms, hands and face as he lifts himself from the tiny gap of the mine shaft entrance. The picture gives me the feeling there is little hope for those trapped and buried.  Full story here 

A rescuer climbs out of a mine shaft as rescue efforts proceed for trapped illegal gold miners in Kadoma, Zimbabwe, February 15, 2019.   REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Friday 8 February 2019

A Week in Pictures Middle East and Africa February 8, 2019

There is no mistaking the classic beauty of Eissa Alragehi’s picture. It depicts the kind of calm that the pre-Raphaelites strove to achieve in their paintings of imagined rural bliss. But this is Yemen, a far from perfect world, so maybe this is why the top of the tree is cropped off, a slight distraction in this otherwise wonderful picture.  

Students displaced from different cities in Yemen’s northwestern province attend an outdoor class under a tree near Abs, Yemen January 28, 2019.   REUTERS/Eissa Alragehi

Also from Yemen, this brutal image by Fawaz Salman of the execution of two men convicted in court of child rape raises many ethical dilemmas. Should this picture be taken? Should this picture be published? If it’s not taken or published are we self-censoring what is happening in Yemen? If it is taken and published are we normalizing brutality? Is this execution, although legal in Yemen, brutal or just?  These decisions are not taken lightly and keep me awake at night. The men are not dead and this is not the moment of death. My view is that this an important picture to take and publish because this is what is happening in Yemen now. Professional photographers facing this decision will use their own moral compass to decide how to shoot this image. It is also worth noticing the dozens of people using phones to film and photograph the scene. Will they face the same ethical dilemmas when they decide whether to share on social media – thus raising another unanswerable question? 

A police officer prepares for the execution of Wadah Refat, 28 and Mohamed Khaled, 31, who were convicted of raping a twelve-year-old boy, in Aden Yemen February 7, 2018.    REUTERS/Fawaz Salman

And while we are considering ethical dilemmas, Khaled Abdullah had some difficult choices when illustrating the story of conjoined children born in Sanaa Yemen. It is a tragic story that needs to be highlighted, but many would shy away from publishing brutal images of babies suffering in this way. A solution is a clever picture of medical staff looking at x-rays. Even though the reality of the conjoined children can be clearly seen, the image offers hope as the doctors study the x-ray and we allow ourselves the belief there just might be a chance of a normal life. The full story, with other images, can be seen here

Doctors check the x-ray film of newly born conjoined twins at the child intensive care unit of al-Thawra hospital in Sanaa, Yemen February 6, 2019.   REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

It’s nice when shapes and light all come together to lift an ordinary scene into an image that is a little more special, and this is where Philimon Bulawayo’s picture succeeds. The great shapes of the hat and shoulders are set against the colour of the background, enhanced by the flicker of light from the flame on the face. Delightful. It lifts my spirits.

Zimbabwean Bishop Regina Katsande lights a candle during a national prayer meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, February 7, 2019.   REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Mohamed, Torokman’s picture has the same structural feel as Philimon’s image above. A single gesture by Alexander Van de Bellen, who looks across to his Palestinian counterpart, lifts an ordinary scene into a picture that is a little more special. The direction of the look by the two men keeps your eye from speeding beyond the edge of the frame as you follow the line of the flags. I like the 16 X 9 format of this image too. It’s easy on the eye as you race back and forth from side to side and back again. 

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen attend a joint news conference in Ramallah, in the occupied Israeli-occupied West Bank February 5, 2019.   REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman 

The Pope visits United Arab Emirates. There’s a lot of excitement and security is tight. Ahmed Jadallah, as well as producing many classic ‘Pope makes a visit’ pictures, had the  courage to turn 180 degrees from the action to look in the opposite direction to the crowds to produce this very calm security picture. The soldier, although tiny, still jumps out in the frame to grab your eye as the blacks of his uniform stand out against the soft pastels of the blue sky and eggshell white of the minarets.

A member of the security forces guards during the arrival of Pope Francis at the Sheikh Zayad Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates February 4, 2019.   REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

It’s not often that direct eye contact adds to a news picture. In fact it will often destroy it, but Feisal Omar’s image bucks that trend. The reason is that the eye contact takes you directly into the centre of the image, past the red jacket and the cut-off hand that extends annoyingly out of the frame on the right, and the yellow and orange on the rescue worker’s clothing on the left. Once we are through this visual noise, we get to see the injured man on the stretcher and the intense look of the men wheeling him to safety.

Security forces and emergency services evacuate an injured man from the scene where a car bomb exploded at a shopping mall in Mogadishu, Somalia, February 4, 2019.  REUTERS/Feisal Omar

It’s difficult to ignore a sea of red with a beaming smile in the middle. It’s especially difficult when there are two people wearing blue shirts on either side of the picture, maybe they didn’t get the email? I like to think that Siphiwe Sibeko spotted these blue shirts when he shot and cropped the picture. I suspect so, as there were thousands attending the rally. If not, he can add luck to his list of skills. 

Supporters of South Africa’s radical left-wing party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), hold placards during the launch of the party’s election manifesto in Soshanguve, near Pretoria, South Africa February 2, 2019.    REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko 

Friday 1 February 2019

A week in Pictures Middle East and Africa February 1, 2019

After months of deliberation the Lebanese have formed a unity government. Not an easy assignment for Mohamed Azakir other than the standard headshot of a politician at a podium especially when outside the weather is a light drizzle. But unbeknown to Mohamed he’s not only made one but in my mind several nice pictures. On the original crop that moved to the wire I quite like the blue at the top of the frame, expecting it to be a political phrase; but it’s not, it’s the name of the company who created a hoarding, so my view is to crop it out. The orange bag is also a distraction so maybe nice to crop that out too leaving us with the graphic shape of the umbrella between the face and hand. But if you do that you loose the stride of the figure and the position of his feet, which are key to the original image, so maybe a vertical crop. Below are all possible crops, you chose. I think I prefer the third version with no blue banner and no legs.

A man holding an umbrella walks past a banner of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri in Beirut, Lebanon, February 1, 2019. Mohamed Azakir

I actually like chaos and the opportunity it brings to make pictures and for things to happen. Afolabi Sotunde took full advantage of the chaotic scenes of protesters of opposing sides demonstrating in Abuja and an unlucky policeman trying to keep them apart. The hands and feet all jumping about give this image quite a friendly and almost celebratory feeling. But we all know that at any minute things can take a turn for the worse, so there is an underlying feeling of tension.       

A Nigerian police officer tries to disperse protesters, both supporting and opposing the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria Walter Onnoghen, in Abuja, Nigeria, January 28, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Some pictures are a ‘slow burn’ before they begin to grab your attention. Ahmed Jadallah’s image of worshippers in UAE is one such picture. A first glance a well-lit picture of people in shadow with minarets in the background, an easy up and down, left to right composition to draw your eye along the image. It’s then that you spot the Christian statue of the Virgin Mary in a shrine in the Muslim setting, which raises the question ‘what’s going on?’ The answer, it’s a preview to Pope Francis’ visit to the UAE. Photographing an event before it starts is never easy, so this gentle picture is a little special.

Expat worshippers prays in front of St Mary’s shrine at the St. Mary Catholic church in Oud Metha, as Catholics wait for the visit by pope Francis to the United Arab Emirates in Dubai, UAE, January 18, 2019.   REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

There’s always something a little comic and maybe a little yukky about feet sticking out of the end of the bed, especially when they belong to someone who is over 3000 years old. Mohamed Abd El Ghany didn’t waste a minute playing to our preconceived ideas when he took this wonderful picture, you just can’t stop looking. You can see more here.

The mummy of the boy pharaoh King Tutankhamen is on display in his newly renovated tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt January 31, 2019.   REUTERS/ Mohamed Abd El Ghany

There is no mistaking the anguish on the boy’s face in Ibraheem Abu Mustafa’s picture as the child screams, blood streaming from his eye socket. You don’t need to be an optician to know that he is likely to blinded in that eye. If that imagery is not strong enough on its own, the juxtaposition of the man in the shirt that reads ‘Shit happens’ compounds the sense that for sure shit does happen and it’s often sad. Ibraheem followed up on the boy and his recovery, which offers no solace or happy ending and can be seen here

Wounded Palestinian boy Mohammad An-Najjar, 12, is evacuated during a protest at the Israeli-Gaza border fence, in the southern Gaza strip, January 11, 2019.   REUTERS/Ibraheem Abd Musta

I like graphic shapes and lines in a picture, even better if there is vast areas of powerful strong tones or colour that leads your eye to the tiniest detail. Zohra Bensemra’s bridge picture ticks all those visual boxes. Your eye is rushed along the new black road surface by the solid white line, not stopping for a second as you zoom past the past the man to the tiny solitary car on the bridge on the distant horizon. Take a second more and you notice the wonderful detail of the smallest of highlights between road and vehicle. We are left breathless.

A man walks along the newly inaugurated Sene-Gambia bridge that links Gambia’s south and north banks in Farafenni-Soma, Gambia January 25, 2019.   REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

As an antidote to this breathtaking speed I have added the calm ripples of a gentle current that bends the lines of refection in a second image from Zohra from the same bridge. Now breathe out.

A general view of the newly inaugurated Sene-Gambia bridge that links Gambia’s south and north banks in Farafenni-Soma, Gambia January 25, 2019.   REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

I can’t stop my eye from darting all over Afolabi Sotunde’s picture as the more I look the more I see. The warmth and richness of the colour vying for attention, circled and checkered cloth, faces half obscured with strong shadows from the harsh light or modest glances away from the camera; faded and peeling election posters on a metal corrugated hut, the bright reds of clothing in the mid ground on the left and a second queue of women on the right. And then, finally, to the symmetrical brown roofed building in the distance. I don’t think Afolabi could have crammed any more details into this picture if he tried. Read on here

Women queue for relief at the Teachers’ Village IDP camp in Maiduguri, Nigeria, January 16, 2019.  REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde 

An easy link from Afolabi’s picture above to the complex visual composition of Khaled Abdullah’s picture from Yemen as vibrant colours and harsh light fight for your attention. It takes a little while before you notice the small boy, but once you do see him no matter how hard the colours and light fight for your attention you can’t pull yourself away from the look in this child’s eye.

A boy looks as a woman holds bread she has just made outside her hut at a makeshift camp of internally displaced people near Sanaa, Yemen January 28, 2019.   REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 

There is a buzz to be heard on the Israeli political landscape as Benny Gantz throws his hat into the ring before the country’s elections. Faced with the challenge of finding an interesting picture to illustrate a good breaking story that is visually arid Amir Cohen has cleverly combined a billboard poster with a street sign. It’s both visually effective and confusing, so to help you fathom it out I’ve added a second picture (that plays with reds and blues) to explain how the first was shot. I feel a little guilty - as if I’m revealing a magician’s secret to their trick.

A part of a campaign billboard of Benny Gantz, a former Israel armed forces chief and the head of a new political party, Israel Resilience, can be seen in Tel Aviv, Israel January 29, 2019.   REUTERS/Amir Cohen 

A campaign billboard of Benny Gantz, a former Israel armed forces chief and the head of a new political party, Israel Resilience, can be seen in Tel Aviv, Israel January 29, 2019.   REUTERS/Amir Cohen