Friday, 31 May 2019

A Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, May 31, 2019

The light in Alaa Al-Marjani’s picture is a little tough: top artificial light creating downward shadows, flat highlights and a colour cast. But this does not distract from an image that intrigues. What is best about this image is the timing, even though the light is poor and the women are covering their heads, you can just about see all the faces, with downcast eyes, and through this you get a powerful sense of devotion. Take the time to look at all their faces.

Iraq Shi’ite Muslim women place copies of the Koran on their heads during the holy month of Ramadan at the Imam Ali Shrine, in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq May 28, 2019.   REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

Each week Reuters photographers are commissioned with a theme of the week. This week is ‘beauty’ next week is ‘tobacco’. They are free to shoot what they want on this theme. Hayam Adel has chosen beauty treatments and used full-on eye contact and a bold crop mixed with warm colours to shoot this striking portrait of a young woman getting her hair braided and her hand hennaed. Cropping off the top of the head and leaving the open space top-right draws you into the eye and then to the carefully braided hair. 

A Sudanese girl with braided hair poses for a picture in Cairo May 29, 2019.   REUTERS/Hayam Adel 

Sometimes a picture works well cropped in two different ways, as is the case with Ronen Zvulun’s picture of Netanyahu. The full vertical image, a classic ‘top of head’ in frame with the hand and fingers leading you through the image to the eyes, works and the quality is good. A strong single-column image, in newspaper terminology. 

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits at the plenum at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem May 30, 2019.   REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

But a bold horizontal crop brings Ronen’s picture into the classic, easy to use and easy to consume digital platform format. It also brings your attention to the eyes in deep contemplation. Look carefully where each eye appears to be looking. The hand is creating wrinkles that bring you back into the image and those eyes as you are led from bottom left to top right by the fingers.   

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits at the plenum at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem May 30, 2019.   REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Ammar Awad’s picture plays a visual game of hide and seek. Your eye chases around the cool blues and greens and between the highlights and shadows looking for something to focus on. And then suddenly you see Netanyahu’s face, half obscured, peering at you from a protester’s banner. What a clever and creative way to photograph a demonstration, through a passing bus. 

A bus passes next to the residence of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest against him in Jerusalem May 30, 2019.   REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Waleed Ali’s picture has immediate impact with its strong graphic composition. A solid black space is bisected by a gold panel occupying just about half the image, eye-catching even when viewed small. You then notice the sea of people moving through a bold L shape from top left to bottom right. It’s then that the single figure, wearing a white shirt, jumps out at you as he stretches to touch the holy Kaaba. And once you have spotted him you just can’t look away as he tries to resist the movement of the tsunami of people to prolong his touch. More pictures on Ramadan here.

Muslims perform Umrah around the holy Kaaba at the Great Mosque during the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, May 26, 2019.  REUTERS/Waleed Ali

Some pictures just lift the heart, and Siphiwe Sibeko’s image does just that. Surrounded by colour, sound and movement is the biggest, warmest smile of the week. Siphiwe’s picture is perfectly timed so the waving flags don’t obscure the face. But the real secret to the success of this image is the eye contact. She’s looking right at you, even from across a crowded stadium. 

Guests sing and dance as they arrive for the inauguration of Cyril Ramaphosa as President, at Loftus Versveld stadium in Pretoria, South Africa, May 25, 2019.   REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Just enjoy the wonderful gentle horizontal zigzag composition of Mohamad Torokman’s picture. People are spaced out against the tooth-like concrete barrier as they make their way under the solid black tones of the canopy, all set against the highlight of the blue sky. Take the time to notice how Mohamed plays with the viewer, the figures right and left are in fact shadows of people – a nice touch.    

Palestinians make their way to attend last Friday prayer of Ramadan in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, at Qalandia checkpoint, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank May 31. 2019.   REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

A very simple picture by Aboud Haman that is quite thought-provoking. At first sight, it’s just a couple, dwarfed by the rubble of a destroyed building, not uncommon in Raqqa. But look deep into the shadows. These people are not walking past it, they are walking through it. A potentially dangerous journey, but in the context of recent history, not as dangerous as it was before. What occurred to me is how things that are not normal in many places seem completely commonplace elsewhere.   

People walk through the rubble of damaged buildings in Raqqa Syria May 29, 2019.   REUTERS/Aboud Hamam

The name Idlib conjures up images of a city gripped with tension and destroyed by conflict. Khalid Ashawi’s picture of bread being made in a bakery is counterintuitive and gives us a certain amount of respite from what is imagined. The whole image is almost completely monochromatic, the colour bleached out and the figure silhouetted by a single light bulb on the wall. A hint of a kiss of pink on the wall and the glow of the oven warm the whole image to the extent that you can almost smell that bread. Read on about Idlib here 

A worker bakes bread inside a bakery before Iftar, or fast breaking, during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in the city of Idlib, Syria May 28, 2019.   REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

I really don’t do cute, but hard to resist is Amir Cohen’s lucky and affectionate image of a fruit-bat suckling. The strength of this image is that it is pin sharp with a shallow depth of field, drawing your focus to the stretched teat, the bony wing and the touch of highlight in the eye of the pup. Soft-focused and in the background, is that a slightly indignant look on the mother’s face? 

An Egyptian fruit-bat pup suckles from its mother at a laboratory in the Steinhardt Museum of natural History in Tel Aviv, Israel May 27, 2019.   REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Friday, 24 May 2019

A Week in Pictures Middle East and Africa May 24, 2019

Two weeks to go before the Women’s World Cup France 2019 kicks off. Zohra Bensemra’s picture smacks you right in the face as the ball thunders at you, making you want to duck. Once you realise you are not going to be hit you notice that the ball looks like a giant head, the player’s body perfectly positioned so the illusion appears real. Once your mind’s eye has finished playing jokes with you, you can enjoy the warm tones of the image, the bright colours, and the fact that football is being enjoyed even though the pitch quality is not as good as it might be. But that just doesn’t matter. You can enjoy the rest of Zohra’s picture story here on the Wider Image.

Gaelle Dule Asheri, 17, a soccer player, who is amongst the first wave of girls being trained by professional coaches at the rails Foot Academy, plays football with her friends outside her house in Yaounde, Cameroon, May 3, 2019.   REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Ibraheem Abu Mustafa’s picture caught my eye and I’ve thought mmm that’s nice and then moved on. I’ve then been drawn back to it again, but can’t quite put my finger on why. Maybe it’s the harsh warm light that gives the colours their richness, or the strong shadows that define the features of the man who looks you in the eye. Or maybe it’s just the strong zigzag composition that draws you through the fruit market, in and out of the shadows and highlights.

Palestinian shoppers walk in a market in Khan Younis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip may 21, 2019.  REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

At first glance, Khalil Ashawi’s picture is one of gentle tranquility; a child with a beautiful shock of blond hair highlighted by the rich blue in the foreground sleeps peacefully. This peace is then disturbed as you notice dozens of flies and mosquitoes around the child’s nose and mouth. The blue that initially added a cool calm colour turns out to be a ragged tent in a temporary refugee camp. Read on here. 

A displaced Syrian child sleeps on a mat laid out on the floor in an olive grove in the town of Atmeh, Idlib Province, Syria May 19, 2019.   REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

Viewers of Mohamed Abd El Ghany’s wonderful picture would go completely unnoticed as people busily get on with the well-deserved business of breaking their fast. All hands, eyes and mouths are focused on eating and drinking. I can’t imagine much talking going on even though the whole community of friends, family and neighbours have all come together. That no doubt will come later when stomachs are full and thirsts quenched.   

Residents of Ezbet Hamada in Cairo’s Mataria district gather to eat Iftar, the meal to end their fast at sunset, during the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Cairo Egypt, May 20, 2019.   REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

I can’t help thinking of the painter Lowry when looking at Anne Mimault’s well- balanced and nicely timed picture. The figures occupy their own individual space against the backdrop of the flat walls of the church, which lead you into the picture, a visual movement aided by the angle of the bent arms on the left of the frame. Take the time to enjoy the shapes and space in the picture and then read on here about the horrors these people have faced. Read on here.

Protestants, some of whom fled Dablo and its surroundings leave a church after a service in the city of Kaya, Burkina Faso, May 16, 2019.    REUTERS/Anne Mimault

Bleached of nearly all colour, Sumaya Hisham’s strong political portrait looks like a still from a film noir. The empty space either side of the cameo profile is just begging for text to be laid out on the page. If I were to seek perfection, I’d like the lips not to be slightly clipped by a dark shape in the foreground. But the perfect often eludes us, so I am more than happy with this.   

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks to the media after parliament formally elected him as State President in Cape Town South Africa, May 22, 2019.    REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

Zohra Bensemra’s picture is a collection of well-composed triangles in a landscape that is hard to understand. Where and what is this place? Why are the colours so strange? What is this person doing? No pun intended, but the icing on the cake is the perfect position of the foot, poised in the classic step position. Read on here, all questions answered.

An employee who works for Marie Diouf, aka salt Queen, harvests salt at a production site in Ndiemou on the outskirts of Fatick, Senegal, May 15, 2019.   REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra 

And a couple more pictures because I like them  

A firefighting aircraft flies over a forest as firefighters put out a fire near Kibbutz Harel, which was damaged by wildfires during a record heat wave in Israel May 24, 2019.   REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun 

A family prepares bread at their house in Egypt’s Nile Delta village of El Shakhluba, in the province of Kaft el-Sheikh, Egypt may 5, 2019.   REUTERS/Hayam Adel

Friday, 10 May 2019

A Week in Pictures Middle East and Africa May 10, 2019

Saturday saw a missile and rocket exchange across Israel and the Palestinian territories, with hundreds of missiles fired day and night. Our teams on both sides of the conflict produced a powerful file. Two images from Mohammed Salem: the first captures a missile a fraction of a second from its target, making you hold your breath as you wait for the imminent strike and blast. Read the rest of the story here.

A missile approaches its target as smoke rises during Israeli air strikes in Gaza City May 5, 2019.  REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

The second image by Mohammed Salem, which also keeps you on edge, is of a man walking across a “bridge” of crushed concrete and metal, heavily weighed down as he salvages belongings from the destroyed building. Mohammed has timed his picture so the man is frozen at the weakest point of the traverse, the dark abyss of a drop seeming to reach up to pull him down. The broken metal bars and collapsed concrete stairs look like the jaws of a mechanical Venus fly trap.

A Palestinian salvages his belongings from the rubble of his house that was destroyed by an Israeli air strike, Gaza City, May 7, 2019.   REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Trails of smoke from anti-missile systems fill the blue sky and soft clouds to make an almost abstract picture, captured by Ronen Zvulun. I wondered, would it be better without the lamp post? Use your finger to hide the dark shape, the picture immediately loses the scale and context. Remove your finger so you can see the whole image again. The lines of the missile smoke now seem even more angry – don’t they?  

Smoke trails are seen in the sky as Iron Dome anti-missile projectiles intercepts a rocket that was fired from Gaza, above the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon May 5, 2019.   REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun 

At first glance all you really see in Amir Cohen’s picture is a small green bush against a brown stone wall. You then notice the highlight of the man’s arms, crouched and covering his head, sheltering in much as the corner of the stone work as possible. The compositional line and diagonals of the wall then lead to you the figures peering out from their “corner”. The dark shape in the background presses you back into the image. You then understand these people are sheltering, frightened. The caption reveals air raid sirens are sounding and these people have been caught out in the open. They are hiding, Amir is taking pictures.   

Israelis take cover as a siren sounds warning of incoming rockets from Gaza, during cross border hostilities, in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon may 5, 2019.   REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Despite the vivid colours in the foreground and the matching T-shirts and posters there is a gentle calm surrounding Rogan Ward’s election picture in the soft morning light. Party activists are busy as they wait for voters in an empty landscape that stretches out to the far horizon. The question is, will anyone come? Read the story here

Inkatha Freedom Party agents are seen near a polling station ahead of South Africa’s parliamentary elections in the farm lands near Eshowe, South Africa May 8, 2019.   REUTERS/Rogan Ward

If you have read a few of my weekly posts you will know that I am a sucker for strong compositional patterns with obvious line and shape, but also not keen on silhouettes.  There is no getting away from the terrific fan shape created by the single central light casting shadows of the people waiting to vote.  Mike Hutchings has shot it wide enough for us to be zoomed into the picture at breakneck speed. It’s quite fun.

Voters queue to cast their ballots before polls close outside a polling station in Alexandria township in Johannesburg, South Africa, May 8, 2019.   REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

A slight tilt to Umit Bektas’ picture has created a wonderfully designed image that has a lyrical feel. You can almost hear the song and chanting as sticks are waved to the beat in the open space of the sky. If you don’t see and feel all that, then just enjoy the smiles.

Sudanese protesters shout slogans during a demonstration infront of the Defence Ministry compound in Khartoum, Sudan May 4, 2019.   REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Siphiwe Sibeko’s portrait picture is as warm in its tones as it is affectionate towards his subjects. The orange of Nobutho’s clothing is echoed in the bowl in the foreground and the cushion to the left. Both these blocks of colour are cropped off perfectly so they don’t distract you as they lead you around the image to the seated figure in the shadows, her husband, Mandla. This visual draw is accentuated by the line of shadow from the cushion to Mandla. Once there, you read the slogan on the wall. Read the rest of the story here.

Nobutho Thethani, 59, a full-time farmer, looks on next to her husband, Mandla, 61, a pensioner, at their home in Lawley township in the south of Johannesburg, South Africa, April 17, 2019.    REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

It’s now the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and in Yemen women are queuing up for charity iftar meals. Khaled Abdullah has chosen to shoot the long queue of women very wide to give the viewer to sense of scale of all those needing food as charity. What is really striking to me is the orderly nature of the queue as these people wait patiently. It has quite a sombre tone.

Yemeni women and girls queue outside a charity food distribution centre to get iftar meal during the holy month of Ramadan in Sanna, Yemen, May 8, 2019.   REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Friday, 3 May 2019

A Week in Pictures Middle East and Africa May 3, 2019

Mohammed Salem’s affectionate picture of skaters poses the questions: What is shadow? What is painting? And what is silhouette? Your eye bounces around the images as if you are a skater yourself. The downward curves of the painted arcs of colour and the upward black line lead you to the inverted solid black figure. The shadows of the spectators leaning in from bottom right lead to the centre, where a Matisse-like series of cut outs layer on top of each other. Read on here

Members of the Gaza Skating Team cast shadows as they practice their rollerblading and skating skills at the seaport of Gaza City March 8, 2019.   REUTERS/Mohammed Salem 

Hands that look almost as old as the wall itself wait to dig fingers deep into the cross in the wall in Raneen Sawafta’s wonderful detail picture of religious fervor. The colour and texture of the hands begin to merge into the warm tones and lines of the wall, a sense of melting that is stopped only by the dashes of red on the pink nails and the strong dark lines of wrinkles in the knuckle joints.   

A worshipper places her fingers inside the holes in a column that form the shape of a cross before the arrival of the Holy Fire, at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, in the Israeli-occupied West bank April 27, 2019.  REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta

There’s no mistaking the powerful draw of the fire in Corinna Kern’s image. Even today the impact is quite striking, so I can’t help imagining what life-changing effect this might have had on people who witnessed this scene in centuries past. The figures are dwarfed by the buildings glowing with the warm light of the fire.    

Worshippers take part in the Christian Orthodox Holy Fire ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City April 27, 2019.    REUTERS/Corinna Kern

A cyclone has hit Mozambique for the second time in a month.  What I have come to realise is that to tell the story visually you have to show both show the enormity of the devastation and the impact it has on individuals. Mike Hutching’s picture does just that. A lone figure is striding through water, firewood gathered and carried on the head. In the background, destroyed crops that disappear into the distance lean to the right, countering the leftward motion of the figure, showing the storm’s powerful mark on the flooded landscape. Read on here

A villager carries wood through maize fields flooded in the aftermath of Cyclone Kenneth, along the Mieze river near Pemba Mozambique, April 30, 2019.   REUTERS/Mike Hutchings 

There is an eerie calm around Umit Bektas’ picture. A small crowd gathers in front of what looks like a skeletal building, the focus of their attention a camel at rest, being cared for by the man in a yellow shirt, his hand resting affectionately on the animal’s back. Why is this happening? What are they expecting? Closer inspection shows that the camel’s legs are tied; the caption reveals it’s due for slaughter, the crowd waiting for meat.  

Sudanese protesters wait for a camel to be slaughtered to share its meat in-front of the defence ministry in Khartoum, Sudan, May 1, 2019.  REUTERS/Umit Bektas

A frenzied picture by Suhaib Salem of honey harvesting in Gaza. It’s been said that if your pictures are not good enough, get closer. Suhaib gets in as close as he can,  with a bee filling a large part of the frame top right and a swarm of bees filling the air as the workers try to calm them with smoke. This picture is, as they say, as busy as a bee. 

Palestinian beekeepers collect honey at a farm in Gaza City, April 29, 2019.   REUTERS Suhaib Salem

Sumaya Hisham has created a layered and surreal image that looks like a combination of a trompe l’oeil and a Windows background image. It’s an image that intrigues and makes you want to click to know more. What is happening? Why is the building unfinished? Why are there no people seen? Find out here

A view through the window of an incomplete house at Baken park housing project near Bethlehem, South Africa, April 16, 2019.   REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham