Friday 6 December 2019

A Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, December 6, 2019

I wanted to update this week’s selection with three images from Baz Ratner in Kenya. They each represent a mix of emotion at the same time; despair, hope, fear, relief and joy as the story of the collapsed building unfolds. Looking at the sandwiched layers of floors of the building how can anyone be expected to survive, yet the rescue services dig in hope. People watch, some I imagine with loved one missing others just intrigued by the spectacle, drawn to the horror. And finally relief and joy as a woman is pulled from the rubble. No doubt next there will be anger, why did this building collapse? Read the rescue story here.

People watch as rescue teams search the scene where a building collapsed in Nairobi, Kenya December 6, 2019.   REUTERS/Baz Ratner

People watch as rescue teams search the scene where a building collapsed in Nairobi, Kenya, December 6, 2019.   REUTERS/Baz Ratner

An injured woman, rescued from the rubble, is carried by from the scene where a building collapsed in Nairobi December 6, 2019.  REUTERS/Baz Ratner
A debate is raging. Are the nearly dry Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe a consequence of
climate change or just seasonal and quite ordinary? Either way this is a striking image
that makes you stop and think about the debate.

Low water levels are seen after a prolonged drought at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, December 4, 2019. 

Better still if you can see what the waterfall looks like when it’s at full flow. The use of a
combination ‘before and after’ provides a visual solution. At the same time the format of
two images on top of each other creates its own problem. It won’t fit into the
conventional horizonal shape that is seen on most digital platforms. The solution is to use
two combination pictures next to each other. Read on here  

A combination picture that shows water flowing (top) and low water levels after a prolonged drought at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, taken January 17, 2019 and December 4, 2019. 

No matter how much you prepare, knowing that you are going to be surprised by love,
you are still surprised. Just look at Nevine’s face and gesture as she meets her son after
20 years. Even though Mohamed Abd El Ghany has shot this quite wide to give it a little
space, your eye just zooms into her face. It’s the complex arrangement of compositional
zigzag lines and shapes made up by the stairwell, the doorframe and their arms that keep
you centered on her joy. Read on here.

Palestinian Amjad Yaghi and his mother Nevine Zouhier, reunite after 20 years of separation in Banha, Egypt December 2, 2019.   REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

A slightly different pick for the week, but I just can’t resist the echo of the shape of the
flag being carried by Abdelkarim Hassan and the image of the flag on the hoarding in the
background in Ibraheem Al Omari’s picture. I also like the illusion of the giant ball
bouncing off the player’s knee too. Good luck or good judgement? A photographer’s eye
or a careful pick by an editor? I think a combination of all that.

Qatar’s Abdelkarim Hassan celebrates with a flag after their Gulf Cup qualifying match against UAE in Doha, Qatar December 2, 2019. REUTERS/ Ibraheem Al Omari

In a similar sense to the football picture above, Khalid al-Mousily uses the backdrop
graffiti to build his image. The success of this picture is the perfect timing that places the
woman, at full stride, in the centre of the tableau, poised between gunman and injured
protester. The matching scale of the figures helps the illusion.

An Iraqi woman demonstrator walks past a mural during anti-government protests in Baghdad, November 22, 2019.   REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily  

From the foreground, the cracked and dried-up earth of a reservoir stretches out to the
distant horizon like an alien landscape. Mike Hutchings has captured two tiny figures in
the bleak landscape who break the horizontal line where the cloud-heavy skies meet the
dried-out earth, giving the image a focal point as your eye races to the distance at
breakneck speed. Read on here

Clouds gather but produce no rain as cracks are seen in the dried up municipal dam in drought stricken Graaff-Reinet, South Africa, November 14, 2019.   REUTERS/Mike Hutchings 

I love pictures that have chaos and calm in them and Afolabi Sotunde delivers both with
this terrific image shot with a wide-angle lens. You feel that you are in the middle of the
fight as people grapple in the courtroom. You are not a bystander as the scene opens up
momentarily, giving you a view from the very core of the affray to the rear of the court,
where you can see the lawyers in the background, one of whom is causally shooting the
whole scene with his phone while the others glance around the wood-paneled room.

Fighting breaks out as security personnel re-arrest Nigerian activist Omoyele Sowore at the Federal high Court in Abuja, Nigeria, December 6, 2019.   REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde 

 image that makes you stop and think about the over-all debate.

A Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, December 13, 2019

As the year-end approaches I thought that I would compile some of the images that I have highlighted over the last 12 months and put it in a slideshow with music. It’s frenetic to say the least, but I hope you enjoy being visually bombarded. Click on the image below, expand to full screen, click play and hold on to your hat. Respect to the whole Reuters pictures team in the Middle East and Africa for producing such a striking set of images.

A long-term project finally published after months of hard work that involved several photographers in different counties with pictures that date from the 40s, 50s and 60s and today. A terrific set of images that bring to life quite an abstract concept: a ‘before and after’ where the ‘before’ was decades ago and the ‘after’ only exists in sense and feeling through human stories and not physical reality. This visual concept was used to illustrate the complex and pollical issue of funding UNRWA. See the whole story here

A combination picture shows young women playing basketball at the Women’s Activity Centre in Qalandia in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in this undated handout photo provided by UNRWA and Palestinian school girls playing basketball at the Women’s Activity Centre in Qalandia in the Israeli-occupied West Bank September 17, 2019.  REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

A combination picture shows Palestinian school girls waiting in line to collect UNRWA prepared food parcels during the first Intifada in the Gaza Strip in this handout picture believed to be taken in 1988 by UNRWA photographer Zaven Mazakian and Palestinian school girls waiting in line to collect snacks in a UNRWA-run school in the Gaza Strip September 2, 2019. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa 

A simple but effective detail picture from Ramzi Boudina catches the eye this week. Five candidates and five empty chairs seems a counter-intuitive way to illustrate the angry and bitterly contested Algerian election. The calm and cool effect of this image is created by the almost monochromatic colours and the regular spacing of the dark-toned shapes of the chair backs.

Ballot papers of the five presidential candidates are displayed at a polling station in Algiers, Algeria December 12, 2019.    REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina 

In complete contrast to the calm of the detail image above, a second picture by Ramzi of vote casting is as frenetic as it is perfectly timed. Your eye is drawn to the centre of the swirling, chaotic melee, to the crisp white voting slip and to Tebbourne’s face. If the paper was held an inch higher, the dark gap between the head and paper would dislocate face and ballot, an inch lower and the regular shape of the ballot paper would be broken, the focal point being lost. Despite the bright TV light in the background, your eye is drawn down to its reflection in the ballot box and then to the slit in the box.   

Algeria’s presidential candidate Abdelmaiid Tebbourne cast his ballot during the presidential election in Algiers, Algeria December 12, 2019.   REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina 

This is a wonderfully composed and side lit picture by Njeri Mwangi, with the subject of the image seeming to be crushed into the bottom of the frame. The visual weight of the microphone stand, police and security bear down on Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, but the highlights picking out the details of his upturned face push back just as hard. Finally, the highlight on the policeman’s blue shirt allows your eye to escape to the top of the frame, and without it you would be trapped in this visual pressure cooker.
Prison and police officers keep watch over Nairobi’s Governor Mike Sonko as he appears for a hearing on his bond application after he was arrested on corruption related charges, at the Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi, Kenya December 11, 2019,   REUTERS/Njeri Mwangi  

Many of the protests in Iraq have been bloody with more than 400 killed in recent weeks. The expectation is that you’d see images of death, injury, fires, armed security and violent clashes – all of which we have on the file. So this protest image by Essam al-Sudani comes as quite a surprise. Balloon-holding students are set against a beautiful blue sky in muted but determined protest. I really like it that you have to explore very hard to get additional detail from the picture whose shadows are dark amid the light bright. This sense is highlighted by the fact that most of the faces are covered or obscured, except one. To me this puts a human face on the crowd and I am rewarded with the detail after looking so hard.

University of Basra students carry balloons as they take part in an anti-government protest in Basra, Iraq December 8, 2019.    REUTERS/Essam al-Sudani

One of the oldest tricks in the book to grab visual attention is to set a small detail against an expanse of nondescript visual noise and they eye will be drawn immediately to it. If that detail is a bright colour set against a muted background you will draw the eye; if you set a small area of high contrast against flat tones the same will be achieved. Christopher Pike has done all three. What is also interesting is that this image is somewhat counter- intuitive to the whole story, which is about caving. It took a while to shoot and was released this week – read on here 

A member of the Middle East Caving and Expeditionary Team looks that the landscape after exploring the Birdwing cave, the deepest in gulf, on Jebel Kawr near Ibri, Oman December 1, 2019.    REUTERS/Christopher Pike 

A very gentle picture that is beautifully composed and timed from Corinna Kern. The horizon line divides the image up into classic thirds. The curve of the woman’s wind-swept clothing and the position of her arms complete the sweep of compositional line of the kite and its tail. To top it all I love the position of the boy in the background that acts a as a counterweight to the slightly right-of-centre position of the woman and the solid black shape her clothing makes. 

A woman flies a kite at Katara beach, Doha, Qatar December 13, 2019.   REUTERS/Corinna Kern