Friday 29 March 2019

A Week in Pictures Middle East and Africa March 29, 2019

Wham! Siphiwe Sibeko’s picture hits you as hard as the downdraft from the helicopter rotor blades. The boys explode past you as if the starting gun has just fired for a 100-metre Olympic sprint. Arms, legs, faces, in the frame, out the frame, in highlight or in shadow all rush past you over the flattened grass. One small point: I’d like to see a little movement in the rotor blades, but then maybe we’d lose sharpness in the running boys. See more of the story here

People run after collecting food aid from a South African National Defence Force (SANDF) helicopter rescue team in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai in Nhamatanda village, near Beira, Mozambique, March 26, 2019.    REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

After the pictures of the huge impact of Cyclone Idai on the landscape and infrastructure and the rescue stories come the sad personal stories of death. Philimon Bulawayo’s picture of a man using his bare hands to dig in the mud to find missing relatives is as powerful as it is haunting with its close-up detail of the tragic task. 

Relatives use bare hands to dig in the mud as they search for their missing loved ones in the debris and rubble left in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai in Chianimani, Zimbabwe, March 23, 2019.   REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Equally powerful are images of “calm after the storm” as a survivor tries to get on with daily life with ruin all around.  Blue skies appear through storm clouds and the trees in Mike Hutchings’ picture seem to bow to embrace the boy as he walks through the flood waters. The twisted corrugated iron half submerged in water, aided by shadow from the trees, pick out the small, solitary figure making his way through the devastated landscape. More from Mozambique here

A child walks past debris as flood waters begin to recede in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai, in Buzi, near Beira, Mozambique, March 24, 2019.   REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

After the devastating plane crash story from Ethiopia it’s great to see such an affectionate and warm image by Tiksa Negeri, on the return of a historic relic from Britain. The pride in the ex-soldier’s stance and face and the sense of joy in the dancers is overwhelming. It takes a while to notice the stark background of the room as you are led visually from the proud former soldier to the dancer on the left and then through to dancer in shorts and sandals to the musician in the background. Its only then you notice the sheen and glare in the varnished wood surfaces 

An Ethiopian army veteran dances during the welcoming ceremony of the two locks of hair of Emperor Tewodros II as it is repatriated from Britain’s national Army museum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 23, 2019.   REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

I am very uncomfortable remarking on the beauty of this image as it’s an act of violence, but there is no escaping the visual strength of the symmetrical composition, perfect timing and richness of colour in Mohammed Ajour’s picture of an explosion. The ball of fire reaching its crescendo, illuminating the buildings next to it, giving us the sense of scale of the blast all set against a black night sky. You have to respect the nerves of steel it takes waiting on the roof of a building for explosions just to take a picture.  

Flames and smoke are seen during an Israeli air strike in Gaza City March 25, 2019.   REUTERS/Mohammed Ajour

Mohammed Salem has captured a simple moment of gentle human kindness: a girl wiping her brother’s face. The powerful image of a sweet act is amplified 1,000-fold as they are standing in the rubble of their destroyed house after a missile attack. It’s not only her gentle action but her leopard skin print top and the red shoes, that seem completely out of context in the ruins. More pictures here

A Palestinian girl cleans the face of her brother outside their destroyed house after an Israeli missile targeted a nearby Hamas site, in Gaza City March 26, 2019.  REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Broken glass in delicate shoes is an image that sets the mind on edge immediately, it’s just not right and that is why Ammar Awad’s detail picture is so powerful. The image perfectly opens the door to the story: you just need to know more. Why are these delicately coloured shoes with a pretty yellow bow covered in shattered glass? Whose shoes are they, and what happened to the owner? Why are they covered in glass? 

Shattered glass covers shoes left on the seat of a car that was damaged after a rocket hit a house north of Tel Aviv, Israel, March 25, 2019.   REUTERS/Ammar Awad

The passion and desire our photographers to make pictures never ceases to amaze me. Even though Ammar Awad was on assignment covering the scene of the rocket attack where he shot the picture above he spotted and took this beautiful, peaceful rural scene. It’s the pursuit of beauty of image that I most admire, be it missile attack or cow in a field. I suspect what caught Ammar’s eye is the graphic pattern of the three similar shapes in a landscape: bush, cow and trees. 

Cows are seen in a field in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights March 25, 2019.   REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Just try looking away from those eyes, in Abduljabber Zeyad’s picture. When you do finally escape that gaze, you see the child in the background, dirty face, distressed, hand on head and enormous bump on his forehead. It’s only then that you notice what should be a distraction, the yellow and black shirt. You are then drawn back into those eyes again. A thought for you: if the father’s fingers were all kept in the frame would it be another distraction? I think so, so good they were cropped out.

Hanaa Ahmad Ali Bahr, a malnourished girl, sits on her father’s lap in a shanty town in Hodeidah, Yemen, March 25, 2019.   REUTERS/Abduljabber Zeyad

It’s hard to fathom what is going on in Amir Cohen’s picture as you look for a focal point -  all you get is a sense of cold grey steel weighing down on a mud base. As your eye jumps around trying to make sense of it, you may pick up the white inverted V or maybe the white 4 on the right. Finally you spot the figure in the foreground, dwarfed by this crush of intimidating metal.  

An Israeli soldier stands atop and tank near the border with Gaza, in Southern Israel March 27, 2019.   REUTERS/Amir Cohen 

In complete contrast to Amir’s picture above, there is no confusion about the focal point as you are drawn immediately into the roaring flames of Mohamad Torokman’s image. As you study the flames they seem to come alive, drawing you into the angry hot fire and then forcing you out to the choking smoke on the right and back across to the background. Only then do you notice the three figures on the left, seemingly playing a bit part in the picture while stoking the flames.   

A Palestinian protester moves a burning tyre during clashes with Israeli troops near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, in Israeli-occupied West Bank March 27, 2019.   REUTERS/Mohamed Torokman

Dylan Martinez has shot a terrific story titled “capturing 24 hours in Gaza, one hour at a time”. Each picture in the series requires time, their strength is in their subtlety. I have chosen one image and I could have chosen many different ones. The image is shot wide so you can take in the scene, bare wasteland, the soil a putrid colour. In the background, pock-marked bare concrete walls, with burn marks and old plaster. Smoke hangs in the air. The overall sense is that of poverty. You then focus on the boy in the background, mouth open, shouting, taunting. In response to his taunts another boy prepares to throw something across the wasteland, or is it no-man’s land? They seem to be in trenches. This picture needs words to explain to us what we already sense about the image. Boys are re-enacting the ongoing conflict, but as play. See the whole picture story here

Children play a game of ‘Arabs and Jews’ outside a school in Gaza City February 20, 2019. Dylan says ‘These kids were burning some cardboard, they had trenches, they were throwing sand balls so they weren’t hurting each other. And I said, Oh, what are you guys doing?’ and they said ‘Oh we are playing Jews and Arabs.’ The image he said, ‘will probably stay with me forever’.   REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Friday 22 March 2019

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

It’s hard to tell the story of the damage and destruction of Cyclone Idai in one picture but I think Siphiwe Sibeko has gone a long way to tell it in two. First you need to get a sense of the scale of the destruction. A far as the eye can see there is nothing but waterlogged destruction in this flat landscape shot from a helicopter. 

Flooded homes are seen after Cyclone Idai in Buzi district outside Beira, Mozambique, March 21, 2019.   REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

And once you have the sense of scale you need to see how Cyclone Idai is affecting families: the human cost. Initial reports were that this cyclone may impact as many as 200,000 peoples’ lives. That figure is so large that it’s almost meaningless until you see a family trying to protect their young child from the water in a floating fridge. The wave from the boy is not so much a plea for help but perhaps more ‘we’re okay because we are alive’. See the latest here.

A child is transported in a fridge in floods after Cyclone Idai in Buzi district outside Beira, Mozambique, March 21, 2019.   REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko 

The mood of Maheder Haileselassie’s image is dark. Through the strong back light you  catch glimpses of people’s faces, occasionally getting a hint of photographic portraits in the shadows or in reflected highlights. The coffins and portraits of the victims of the Ethiopia Airlines ET 302 crash are laid to rest. A sad moment well captured. But at the rear of the image you see many people working together to help lift the weight of the coffin. Maybe this shared action brings solace to those collectively grieving?  More images here 

Workers carry a coffin of a passenger of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, into the wall vault cemetery of Balewold Church, part of the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 17, 2019.   REUTERS/Maheder Haileselassie

Khaled Abdullah’s story is about Afaf, a malnourished child from Yemen. It was hard to choose one picture from the series as there are so many powerful yet subtle images. This image haunts me as all I see are her dark, hollow and sad eyes. I barely notice the beauty of her face, the richness of the colour of her dress or even the pale face of the out-of-place doll and the pink dress. Those eyes stare out at me as I fear she has just given up. But maybe I am wrong. Someone who has seen Khaled’s pictures and read the story has offered financial help. I hope that works out. Read the story full here 

Afaf Hussein, 10, who is malnourished, holds a doll near her family’s house in the village of al-Jaraib, in the northwestern province of Haijah, Yemen February 20, 2019. Afaf who now weighs around 11kg is described by her doctor as ‘skin and bones’.   REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

At first glance, Mohamed Torokman’s picture appears to be just black with a hint of mid tone here and there. But the eye wants to make sense of it and very quickly, through the dark smoke, you pick out the forehead and nose of the masked protester. Take more time to look and you get the hint of shape behind this masked man. Is it a fire? Is it a hand holding a catapult, stretched to its limit is about to release the rock, the image, like the scene, is dark and angry.  

A Palestinian protester watches during clashes with Israeli troops near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Torokman

Also forming shape from abstraction is Ammar Awad’s picture from the scene of a shooting. We see the three highlights of bullet holes and are quickly aware of the blue glove. It’s then we notice the face of the forensic officer. The bullet hole lines up almost exactly over his eye, maybe mirroring the bullet wounds from the attack.

An Israeli forensic police officer inspects a damaged car at the scene of a Palestinian shooting attack near the Jewish settlement of Ariel, in the occupied west bank March 17, 2019.   REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Would Ammar’s picture be too abstract if the glove was cropped out? I add this visual idea for you to choose.

An Israeli forensic police officer inspects a damaged car at the scene of a Palestinian shooting attack near the Jewish settlement of Ariel, in the occupied west bank March 17, 2019.   REUTERS/Ammar Awad 

To illustrate an ongoing company news story like Eskom you need to refresh the file regularly with images that can be used as both as news pictures on the day and then, on occasion, as stock. These images are not easy to shoot as they have to be timeless, great quality, eye-catching and, obviously, illustrate the story. Siphiwe Sibeko’s perfectly timed picture does all that and more. It speaks of power, light, darkness and has figures trudging through the image as if they are preparing for another blackout as the clouds gather. 

Men walk past electricity pylons as they return from work in Orlando, Soweto township, South Africa March 18, 2019.   REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

What is immediately attractive about Ahmed Jadallah’s picture is the warmth of the tones and the warmth of the man’s smile. The diagonal composition that cuts from top let to bottom right gives a wonderful impression of the procession that snakes from the cool blue mountain skies in the background to the warmth of the flames in the foreground. It’s an affectionate and respectful picture of celebration. Rejoice spring is here!

Iraqi Kurdish men carry fire torches as they celebrate Nowruz day, a festival marking the first day of spring and the New Year, in the town of Akra near Duhok, in Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraq March 20, 2019.   REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

Amr Abdallah Dalsh picture is a little quirky. I looked at it and - initially attracted to it and not quite sure why - discarded it and then looked again. The passenger, staring directly into the lens has the weary look of any commuter. We almost recognise him but in reality it’s that look we recognise and not the person. Compositionally, the image is chopped up into well-defined blocks of muted colour - reds, blues and greys, with strong horizontal and vertical lines. It takes a while to work out what is a reflection and what is not.  

A man looks out of a window of an old electric tram in Alexandre, Egypt March 16, 2019.    REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh 

This makes me smile, not only because of the playful use of scale by Amr Abdallah Dalsh, but because the cloud looks like the breath of the camel. It seems the man in the rear of the frame is standing well back as if he’s waiting for something to be over. You can see the rest of the camel racing story here – it’s quite fun. 

Mohamed Mostafa looks on during the opening of the 18th International Camel Racing Festival at the Sarabium desert in Ismailia, Egypt, March 12, 2019.   REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Thursday 14 March 2019

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

Zohra Bensemra’s picture of celebration in the streets has a wonderful triangular composition to it that leads the eye to the very top of the visual pyramid and to the Algerian flag. The eyes, the arms and the hands all push you up past the bright street lights, which don’t distract from the action but add to it.    

People celebrate on the streets after President Bouteflika announced he will not run for a fifth term, in Algiers, Algeria, March 11, 2019.   REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

There is no escaping the open grief of this woman in Tiksa Negeri’s picture as she visits the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines crash where her relative was killed. There is so little left of the bodies at the crash scene and she is so overwrought that - trying to get close to her loved one – she splashes soil from the scene into her face. One of the saddest mourning pictures I have ever seen. Read on here

A relative throws soil on her face as she mourns at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 crash, near the town of Bisoflu, near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 14, 2019.   REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

Even though there is very little detail in Rodi Said’s picture from Baghouz, there is no mistaking a powerful sense of ferocious battle. It’s almost as though your eyes have to get accustomed to the brightness of the fire before you can get a feeling of the scale. Slowly you begin to pick out the size of the buildings and it’s then that you realise the whole landscape, to the far horizon, is ablaze or covered in smoke. 

Fire and plumbs of smoke are seen during fighting in the Islamic State’s final enclave, in the village of Baghouz, Dieir Al Zor, Syria March 11, 2019.   REUTERS/Rodi Said 

Siphiwe Sibeko’s picture of the evening commute to Soweto works on so many different levels. First the wow factor as you look at the relaxed and smiling commuters literally on the front of the train. True, it’s not as packed as trains you see in Bangladesh, but one slip and instant death awaits. Beyond this, the picture has even more to offer: the contrast of the warm and bright colours in the foreground, against the cool blues in the distance, the man on the tracks walking us to the cool horizon past the warm dot of red of the signal light. To the left a small gaggle of children, sitting on the tracks watching as the train goes by. Lastly, but worth a mention, have a think about where Siphiwe is standing to shoot this terrific image.

Commuters hang on the sides of a train as they return from work in Soweto, South Africa March 12, 2019.    REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko 

Temilade Adelaja picture is such a powerful news picture that it sets the pulse racing. Every element of news imagery is there: action, energy and every emotion imaginable on the faces of the rescuers crowding around the child. Best of all, this is a picture about survival. You can see the follow up story here 

Rescue workers help carry a child at the site of a collapsed building containing a school in Nigeria’s commercial capital of Lagos, Nigeria March 13, 2019.   REUTERS/ Temilade Adelaja

Unlike Temilade’s picture above from the same news event some pictures defy an instinctive crop because they work in so many different ways. Afolabi Sotunde’s image of a child being rescued is one such image. First, here is the full frame. The figures in yellow and highlights on the right are distracting so you don’t see the action of the girl being helped properly. They need cropping…I think. 

Rescue workers help carry a child at the site of a collapsed building containing a school in Nigeria’s commercial capital of Lagos, Nigeria March 13, 2019.   REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

But once you crop them out and leave in the wonderful expressions of the men in the background the image becomes a little square and will not be easy to fit into a standard digital imaged space. To crop the men out will spoil the ambiance around the main action.  

So why not crop to a vertical? But if you keep the child’s foot in bottom left and the powerful face top left and the finger and grey shirt on the right along with the face top right that looks back into the picture, the image ends up a little square again. 

So another crop, this time tight and in a classic horizontal 4x3 shape to really draw the focus on the child’s face. Although the shape is perfect and the key action very strong, the faces of the men around the child look a little passive compared to the men in background in the previous crops. So the answer, on this rare occasion, is to move them all and let other professional picture editors have the choice. Am I passing the decision- making buck or giving customers more choice? Another interesting debate, but not for now. See the full picture file here 

Rescue workers help carry a child at the site of a collapsed building containing a school in Nigeria’s commercial capital of Lagos, Nigeria March 13, 2019.   REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

There is no visual ambiguity whatsoever in Khaled Abdullah’s striking picture of a woman recovering from her injuries after a bombing raid in Yemen. A decisive crop was important to protect her identity. We sense her pain, the slightest movement uncomfortable, her arms crossed against her chest to protect herself. The cool tones of the blue and white of her clothing and the sheets contrast with the warm colour of her hands and the darkened skin of her injuries.      

A woman who was injured in air strikes lies in a hospital bed in Sanaa, Yemen, March 12, 2019.   REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

On some rare occasions it’s a small almost unperceived moment in a busy and chaotic image that tells a story, if you take time to see it. As I have mentioned before I always take the time to look at the faces of those who are dead in our picture file. I feel no matter the circumstances of the death they are owed this from me. When looking at Mohammed Salem’s picture I noticed the hand touching Mussa’s face. It’s not quite clear where this hand is coming from but once you see the tenderness of the touch, the noise of the shouting men, the struggling crowd and the pushing media all fade away. All you can see, feel and hear is this gentle caress.       

Mourners carry the body of Palestinian Mussa Mussa, who died of his wounds he sustained at the Israeli-Gaza border fence, during bis funeral in the central Gaza strip, March 12, 2019.   REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Friday 8 March 2019

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

I wanted to share Baz Ratner's wonderful cameo portrait in yesterday's initial edit but as the selection was quite large I decided to exclude it. Having slept on this decision I have changed my mind. The colours and the strong shape of her profile had actually haunted my dreams. Not much I can add as the simplistic beauty of this portrait speaks for itself, except I would have loved a slight crop on the left to remove mark in the background. You can see the full story here

Kenyan model Aiuma Nassanyana waits behind the scenes before the fashion show showcasing African fashion and culture during a gala to launch the book 'African Twilight: The Vanishing Rituals and Ceremonies of the African Continent' at the African Heritage House in Nairobi, Kenya March 3, 2019.   REUTERS/Baz Ratner

It would be wrong for me to include only one image from Rodi Said, who is in Syria near Baghouz waiting for the last Islamic State enclave to fall, so I’ve chosen three. In the first image it’s the catchlight of the warm late sunlight above the shadows that highlights the look on the boy’s face as he looks out from the shelter of the queue of women. No matter how hard you look he is giving none of his thoughts away. Maybe that’s a good thing for us but a bad thing for him as who knows what this child has witnessed. Latest here

A boy looks out from a queue of waiting women near Baghouz, Deir Al Zor Province, Syria, March 5, 2019.   REUTERS/Rodi Said

Not the most beautiful image I have selected but  certainly one of the most subtly poignant. The focus of the image is created by the clever crop of the truck that leads the viewer’s eye straight to the children in the back of the speeding vehicle. Their gaze takes to you the line of people in the mid distance. The captions reveals that the recently freed are now looking across at their former captors,  who are now prisoners themselves.  

Children from the Yazidi community, who were recently freed after being captured by Islamic State fighters, ride on the back of a truck near Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria, March 6, 2019.    REUTERS/Rodi Said

It takes a little for you sort out what is going on in Rodi’s picture as your eye darts from pile to pile of scattered clothing and blankets. You finally notice the grey hood of child sitting looking at the makeshift bed. It’s only then you see the child with the pink hat leaning on their mother. Once in the core of this image you cannot draw away.   

Children sit next to their injured mother near the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province in Syria March 7, 2019.   REUTERS/Rodi Said

Who has not, as child, thrown food up into the air to catch it in your mouth? And sometimes the game is extended to throwing sweets and food for others to catch in their mouth, the simple joy of a “catch” more than a little pleasing. It is this basic sense of joy that draws me to Samar Abo Elouf’s picture from Gaza, captured perfectly in environmental portrait style, hands throwing up nuts, eyes focussed and mouths wide open. To see the full story if girls living in Gaza click here.

Fatma Youssef, 17, a Palestinian high school student and horse rider and her friend catch nuts in their mouths at their school in Gaza City, February 7, 2019. REUTERS/Samar Abo Elouf

A simple portrait beautifully shot by Hayam Adel using the strong window daylight to sidelight his subject and the warm tungsten lighting of the lamp to give the background a warm glow. Crossed curves of light used to their best effect.  You can see the whole story about global maternity leave here.

Nahla Mohamed Abdel Rahman, 37, a professor at faculty of applied arts, hold her three-month-old baby Younis, at their house after her first week back at work, in Cairo, Egypt, February 22, 2019.   REUTERS/Hayam Adel

The composition of Khalid al-Mouslily’s picture zooms you at speed along the muddy and battle-damaged street to the vanishing point on the distant horizon, not a yard of this journey untouched by the conflict. When you return to the foreground of the image you see the three lonely figures walking through this barren cityscape, trying to pull their lives back together. 

Marwa Khalid, 28, walks with her children, Mustafa and Muhaymen, in the old city of Mosul, Iraq March 3, 2019.   REUTERS/Khalid al-Mouslily

Although the march was attended by hundreds of people I like this single act of defiance in Zohra Bensemra’s picture. It’s not clear if this woman is taking pictures of herself within the demonstration or whether she is shooting pictures of the demonstration itself, but she looks determined and powerful even though the perspective of the image dwarfs her against the riot policeman. Her action of shooting pictures with her phone is clearly defined against the clean background, making it the focal point of the image. This clarity of shape contrasts with the confusion of the busy reflections in the riot shield in the foreground.  

A lawyer holds up her mobile phone near a police member as she marches with others to the constitutional council during a protest to denounce an offer by President Bouteflika to run in elections next month but not to serve a full term if re-elected, in Algiers, Algeria March 7, 2019.  REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra  

A regular line of blue helmets and black uniforms cut through a crowd of protesters cutting the image in half, a perfect illustration of the saying “thin blue line” – the separation between order and disorder - in Ramzi Boudina’s picture. I can’t help feeling a sense of unease when looking at it. I am not experienced in crowd control but I would have thought that for effective policing, ideally a police line should not be completely surrounded, no matter how peaceful the crowd?   

Students take part in a protest to denounce an offer by President Bouteflika to run in elections next month but not to serve a full term if re-elected, in Algiers, Algeria March 7, 2019.  REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina  

I am a great fan of detail pictures that tease you and draw you into a story and make you want to know more. Raneen Sawafta’s will be a pull for anyone interested in film; not only because it’s almost a sin for film to be on the floor in the grit and dirt and will send a shudder down the spine of most, but because once you have got over the initial shock of this, you will want to know more about the green ticket. You can find out here

Film strips and a ticket ae seen on the ground in a former cinema in Tulkarm in the Israeli-occupied West Bank February 24, 2019.    REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta

And really there is no other reason for adding Amir Cohen’s image to the week’s selection than that it’s a moment of simple joy captured in a perfect balance of light and intrigue. When was the last time you did a headstand when taking your dog out for a walk? And imagine the odds of doing that and having it captured by an international photographer of Amir’s calibre.

A woman does a headstand along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea in Ashkelon, Israel March 2, 2019.    REUTERS/Amir Cohen

And lastly, our talented and cherished colleague Yannis Behrakis died last week after a year-long battle with cancer. What he has left is an amazing legacy of powerful news pictures that can be seen here    

A Syrian refugee kisses his daughter as he walks through a rainstorm towards Greece’s border with Macedonia near the Greek village of Idomeni September 10, 2015.   REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis