Friday 30 August 2019

A Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, August 30, 2019

At first glance Mohamed al-Sayaghi’s picture looks like the confused scene from some sort of blast or explosion, but it’s not. You are drawn into the image through the chaos, eyes searching out the focal point of the white flour sacks on the ground. Deeper into the image you make out the side of the truck, laden with dozens of sacks and then you finally see the men at work. They are disposing of sacks of flour that are considered expired or contaminated, in a country that faces areas of malnutrition.

Workers dispose of sacks of wheat, provided by the World Food Program (WFP), which is reportedly expired, on the outskirts of Sanaa, Yemen August 28, 2019.    REUTERS/ Mohamed al-Sayaghi

Mohammed Salem’s picture is divided in two by the classic shape of an AK47 rifle cutting diagonally through the image of the funeral cortege of a Hamas security force member. On the right, comrades stand to attention with calm respect either side of the body and  you can just see the dead man’s face. To the left people reach in to try to take pictures with mobile phones. A picture that reflects the confusion surrounding the death of this soldier in a bomb blast in Gaza, and that carries echoes of the internal division within Gaza. 

Members of Palestinian Hamas security forces carry the body of their comrade Salama Al-Nadeem during his funeral in Gaza City August 28, 2019.  REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Two days earlier Mohammed Salem was illustrating the power cuts that Gaza is facing. With an image that is almost totally black Mohammed teases with just enough detail to let the viewer know this is in a narrow street with people trying to go about their business. There is a hint of sky squeezed between darkened buildings. A distant figure walks through the only pool of light of the ground and a figure stands in a light that illuminates his face and arms as he chats with a friend who reaches out to him.   

Palestinians use their mobile phone torches during a power cut at the Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, August 26, 2019.   REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

What is most striking about Khalid a-Mousily’s image is the uncertain look on the boy’s face on the left of the picture and how the composition of the image leads you back to him. Although initially you are quickly drawn away from his face by the visual noise of the red and white flowers, the grieving man on the right and the centrally placed man with his head in his hands, the flow and shape of the design takes you back to the boy. His face shows a mixture of emotion:  he’s confused, concerned and frightened at the same time.  

Relatives of Kazem Ali Mohssen, a brigade commander of the Popular Mobilisation Force, who was killed by an attack from an unmanned aircraft close to the Syrian border in Anbar, mourn during his funeral in Baghdad, Iraq August 26, 2019.     REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily

Alaa al-Marjani’s picture has a bittersweet feel to it. Every compositional point and edge has been slightly cropped off and I feel cheated as I instinctively want them in frame. The bottom edge and point of the woman’s dress is just out of frame, the decoration at the top of the image is neither in nor out, I even want the lines of the carpet to flow exactly into the corners of the frame, but they don’t. But what a wonderfully complex image this is, bold shapes of flat black tones arranged around the warmth of the rich brown doors; complex and beautiful gold and silver script all divided up in a classic thirds format and squeezed just in.    

An Iraqi woman is seen at the Imam Ali shrine at the holy Shi’ite city of Najaf, Iraq, August 23, 2109.   REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani

A gentle visual smile from Thomas Mukoya as he illustrates the census in Kenya by using a mirror in one of the homes to double the number of people in the image. The illusion is a little harder to detect as the mirror line is not central. 

An enumerator uses a census laptop to record details of a family participating in the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya August 24, 2019.   EUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Underexposed, flare in the lense, no people in the image and very little colour. On paper,  Afolabi Sotunde’s picture should not work but it does. As part of a series of picture stories to mark the 400th anniversary of the start of the slave trade from Africa to North America this intriguing image is from one of the many historic sites associated with the trade. Although it has a faint feeling of hope it is tinged with sadness. As your eye moves from the single, almost derelict hut and away from the line of trees under a cool sky you finally notice the gentle roll of the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Once you notice this you can almost hear the waves in the still air, giving you time to reflect on what happened here 400 years ago. You can see the full story here.   

A shrine is seen on a beach where thousands of African slaves were once loaded onto ship in the historic slave port of Ouidah, Benin, July 17, 2019.   REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

I can’t help feeling a little uncomfortable as it dawns on me that of Fawaz Salmon’s picture from Yemen has similarities with a picture of a big game hunter standing, foot on kill. Death, pride and destruction all captured in one frame. A fighter stands, foot on vehicle, as a fuel tanker with a burned-out cab burns in the background. At his feet a man holds up a two-finger salute of victory.

Southern separatist fighters patrol a road during clashes with government forces in Aden, Yemen, August 29, 2019.   REUTERS/Fawaz Salman

From the mists of time in my head comes the Flanders and Swann 1950’s Hippopotamus song “Mud! Mud! Glorious mud, nothing quite like it for cooling the blood” and I am delighted by Abdullah Rashid’s picture. Cool blues and greys take any heat from the picture as people enjoy the water and therapeutic muds of the Tigris River very much like the imaginary hippo cooling itself in the song. Go on Google it if you don’t know it, it will make you smile. 

People sit in water after being covered with mud, which is reported to help treat skin diseases, on the banks of the Tigris River west of Mosul, Iraq August 20, 2019.   REUTERS/Abdullah Rashid  

Ronen Zvulun’s image of a man playing with a dog has a very edgy feel to me. You can’t quite see what the dog - and that is a big dog - is jumping up to grab in its mouth. The  man looks just a little apprehensive, but still keeps tight hold on his can of beer. It is a party after all. This all set against a graffiti background where the slow shutter speed seems to blur the letters and the shadows so we can’t quite get a firm visual grip on the details. It’s taken Ronen many weeks of shooting to get this story together, hence the January date on this image, but now it is released you can see it all here.    

A man plays with a dog as a party takes place in a nearby basement, known as Strauss, that is occasionally used as a venue for underground parties in Jerusalem January 25, 2019.  REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

The best smile of the week has just got to Baz Ratner for this wonderfully affectionate picture from Mozambique as the country prepares for the Pope’s visit. You just can’t grab enough visual joy from this image fast enough, that friendly toothless smile, the warmth of the tones created by the evening sunlight, the fizz of the cloth texture, colour and patterns and the corridor of the Baobab trees that lead you off to the horizon. All combined it makes you just want to visit.   

A man rides on the back of a cart pulled by a bull though Baobab alley near the city of Morondava, Madagascar, August 30, 2019.    REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Friday 23 August 2019

A Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, August 23, 2019.

This month sees the 400th anniversary of the first slaves transported to North America from Africa. I have chosen four images from one story as the whole series is quite striking. You can see the full story here.

Strong, flat shapes bear down on the solitary figure looking out to sea in Afolabi Sotunde’s beautifully composed image. The oppressive black tones seem to muffle and squeeze all the sound and air from the picture and we are left wondering what this man is thinking. Slowly we can breathe again as we look back to the blue window on the right and then beyond the figure to the far horizon.   

A man looks out from a sea viewing commemorative building that is known locally as ‘the Tunnel’ that is sited near the ‘Point of No Return’ where slaves were shipped from the slave port of Badagry, Nigeria June 21, 2019.  REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

You get a full understanding of the adage ‘still waters run deep’ in Luc Gnago’s eerie and slightly unnerving image of people gathered by the water’s edge. Although the almost perfect reflection is beautiful, you sense something not good has happened here. The trees, bushes and dark waters dwarf the gathered group, clouds have moved across the sun, which casts a shadow of flat light that gives the image a cold chill. 

Villagers take part in a bathing ritual at the Bodo river in the Kanga Nianze village in Tiassale, July 21, 2019, that was built on a former slave route where men and women captured and sold into slavery took their final bath before their sea journey to America.   REUTERS/Luc Gnago

That eye contact in Zohra Bensemra’s picture will not let you look away. Your glance might flick up to the highlight in the background along the gloomy, damp passageway but quickly you are drawn back. It’s then you notice the USA inscription, but only for a minute, and then back to those eyes. 

A Senegalese boy walks from the ‘Door of No return’ as he visits the ‘Maison des Esclaves’ slaves house, a gathering point from where slaves were shipped west in the 1700s and 1800s, at Goree Island off the coast of Dakar, Senegal July 7, 2019.   REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Bold bright colours and composition, and spot on timing, make Siphiwe Sibeko’s picture a great eye-catcher. One of its strengths is that it can be used very small on the page and it will still work. The words, even though a letter is obscured, still makes sense, the mind’s eye adding the ‘a’ in about. If the figure was a little to the right or the left the words will be broken up and will lose context.      

A girl walks past a flag of Ghana outside the Cape Coast castle in Ghana, July 28, 2019.  Cape Coast Castle was used as a slaving post from where slaves were bought and sold and then shipped off to the U.S. and other countries.  REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

There is no getting away from it, but in terms of beauty Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah’s pictute has no redeeming features. But this image is not about beauty it’s about the stark brutal reality that was gathered in the seconds allocated to take pictures and its harshness is gripping. A former leader, dressed in white, stands upright as he’s held in a black cage like an exhibit, with people sitting around waiting for court proceedings to start. The slightly awkward tilt, the hard light and the bright blue uniforms of the police tangle visually with the white, red and orange of the foreground, which all make fir uneasy viewing of an uncertain future. 

Sudan’s former president Omar Hassan al-Bashir stands guarded inside a cage at the courthouse where he is facing corruption charges in Khartoum, Sudan August 19, 2019.   REUTERS/ Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

Two days earlier Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah waited for the perfect shape as a train laden with celebrating people slowly approached him. Once you have finished enjoying the sweep of the national flags at the front of the train, you are led back, back and further back along the arc of the train’s carriages, all brimming with hundreds of people. A great feel-good picture. 

Sudanese civilians from other provinces ride on a train to join the celebrations of the signing of Sudan’s power sharing deal, that paves the way for a transitional government, and eventually elections following the overthrow of the long time leader Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum, Sudan August 17, 2019.   REUTERS/ Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

A classic or a cliché? Either way there is no escaping the immediacy of Mohamed al-Sayaghi’s picture that consists almost entirely of eyes staring directly at you, the message on her head very bold. 

A follower of the Shi’ite Houthi group is seen with a headband as she celebrates Eid al-Ghadir, which marks a day Shi’ites believe Prophet Muhammad nominated his cousin, Imam Ali, to be his successor, in Sanaa, Yemen August 19, 2019,  REUTERS/ Mohamed al-Sayaghi
An emotional picture from Mohammed Salem as a mourner weeps and appears to stare into infinity as he is both comforted by and comforts a fellow mourner. The grey and blue colours give the image a cold feeling despite the warmth of the close hug. The figure drifting into the image from the left looks almost abstract as it appears like a shadow on the softly lit wall to the foreground moments before it will obscure the view of the mourners.  

A relative of a Palestinian gunman who was killed by Israeli forces as he tried to cross the Gaza border, is hugged at a hospital in the northern Gaza strip August 18, 2019.   REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Shooting pictures to match stories about the Egyptian economy, inflation, credit ratings, GDP etc is never easy but Hayam Adel’s picture caught my eye. It is simple and effective. It has every element needed to illustrate most aspects of the economy: a product, a transaction, money, a vendor and a consumer. The fact that Hayam has managed to get all these elements into one well-composed (I love that diagonal), well timed and softly lit image that is rich in colour makes it well worth drawing highlighting this week. Take the time to enjoy it.  

An Egyptian vendor holds his money at the fish market in Cairo, Egypt August 20, 2019.  REUTERS/Hayam Adel 

I can’t help but be attracted to Ronen Zvulun’s picture from the world of cyber security. He got lucky in so much as the subject in the picture is hiding his identity with a red hoodie and the office space is daubed with terrific graffiti, mostly blue. To surround the figure in black by shooting through a doorway is a clever move that builds on the luck he was handed by the situation and gives us the sense that we are intruding, a perfect sense for a picture on cyber security. Read on here.    

A man takes part in a training session at Cybergym, a cyber-warfare training facility backed by the Israel Electric Corporation, at their training centre in Hadera, Israel July 8, 2019.   REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun