Friday 27 March 2020

A week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, March 27, 2020

A twisted swirl of neon-lit roads is devoid of traffic except a single motorcycle in Satish Kumar’s eerie picture from Dubai. The dark bridge that cuts across the image but apart from that, to me, the yellow roads take on an undersea organic appearance.

An aerial view of the Sheikh Zayad Road following the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, March 26, 2020.    REUTERS/Satish Kumar

The bright reds and blues in Tiksa Negri’s picture of of humble worship are flattened in the soft light and the haze of incense. The way the woman is bowing gives such a gentle sense of reverence. The picture is held together by powerful compositional shapes and lines made up of classic vertical thirds of the figures in red and white and a diagonal emphasised by the bowing woman. 

An Ethiopian Orthodox Priest blesses the faithful with incense, which they believe will keep the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) away in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 26, 2020.   REUTERS/Tiksa Nigeri

As the coronavirus sweeps across the globe one thing that has struck me is how in some countries there is a full lockdown of movement and people are protecting themselves with masks, gloves and suits; while in others life goes on as normal. Baz Ratner’s images of two tourists in shorts strolling past a man sanitising an airport seems to sum this up.  

A health worker sprays disinfectant to help prevent the spread of an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Jomo Kenyatta International airport in Nairobi, Kenya March 24, 2020.  REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Olivia Acland’s image of traders waiting at a crossing point is a wonderfully composed portrait of a group of people. It looks as if it was constructed by a Renaissance painter. The gentle lop-sided U-shaped curve that leads your eye left to right to the figure standing in the doorway. Each limb leading you back along the line of people in a zigzag journey through the cool blues and tones. Olivia was careful not to crop out fingers, toes and clothing and kept them all in frame ; and then you see it, the smiling cartoon cow with a pink nose and thumbs up – nothing high Renaissance about that. Read on here.

Traders sit near a deserted crossing point between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the Petite Barriere in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Olivia Acland

A myriad of busy colour and chaos is the first impression of Zohra Bensemra’s wide-angle picture as your eye zooms in from all sides to the X-shape of the figure in a white suit. Once you visually step back to survey the mess you are left thinking about the size of this worker’s task. You are overwhelmed with a sense of pointlessness – what chances of controlling the virus in such a mess? Read on here.

A member of a local hygiene service wears a protective suit and face mask as he disinfects the street and market to try to stop the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Dakar, Senegal March 22, 2020.    REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

What wonderful colours in Afolabi Sotunde’s affectionate picture as cyan fights with yellows and ochre for your attention on a battle field of black and grey. And there to break up the fight is the “doorman”, standing tall, gloves and disinfectant at the ready. In reality, he’s a member of the church congregation making sure that people who enter to worship have their hands sanitized. The lines of door behind him and the mat on floor welcome you into the church. Read on here.

A man stands with a sanitiser in his hands at the entrance of a Living Faith Church following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Abuja, Nigeria, March 22, 2020.   REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Siphiwe Sibeko’s picture is a beautifully seen image of people going to church and being protected by using hand sanitiser. Take your time to look around, the coordinated women’s dress which is the uniform of the church, right down to their white shoes, thankfully kept in frame. The perfect moment of the hands outstretched waiting for the spray, and the relaxed, easy seated, legs stretched out manner of the woman applying the spray. Look further, the blue notice board matching the uniform colour, the cold metal of the brass instruments waiting to be blown and the visual joke of the heater trying to pretend it’s an instrument too. And finally, the picture of Jesus on the wall. Read on here

A member of the faithful applies hand sanitiser to a woman as she arrives to attend church service at the Apostolic Christian Church in Kagiso, near Johannesburg, South Africa, March 22, 2020.   REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

No escape and trapped in a cage a bear gnaws at the bars while a lion watches, on the face of it an easy image to capture. But not so, take closer look at Alaa al-Marjani’s picture, a combination of good luck, good light and perfect timing. Good luck as the bear is close to the bars, its enormous claws reaching out, good luck too as the lion is resting on this side of the cage and not the other. Good light so we can see both the foreground and into the shadows of the cage; and good timing as the bear’s mouth is wide open, teeth on show and the line of the bar divides the centre of the lion’s head so we can see both eyes on both animals. Remove any one of these elements and the picture would be so much weaker.  

A bear and a lion are seen in a closed zoo, as the zoo staff were advised to not come to work due to a curfew to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq, March 25, 2020.   REUTERS/Alaa Marjani 

A clever and thoughtful picture by Thomas Mukoya as people try to leave cities and escape to the countryside. The shapes and lines of the image drive us to the centre of the image so we are left in no doubt what we need to look at. It’s minimalist in its detail but we have just enough information from the shadows to let us know this is passenger carrying her child and baggage between two buses. Read on here.

A passenger carries he child before boarding a disinfected public transport bus as residents leave for the villages amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, March 25, 2020.   REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya 



Sunday 22 March 2020

A Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, March 20, 2020

As many Muslims around the World have been forced to perform Friday prayers away from the mosques they usually pray in many elderly have decided to stay at home. Ali Hashisho’s picture is gentle and affectionate portrait of an aging couple at home in prayer. Beautifully composed and lit so we focus on this woman’s eyes. Her expression to me seems to be one of gentle contemplation that brings peace and calm. The tilt of her head and shape of her head dress leads us to her husband and the softly side lit room.    

Nouzat Awada, 79, and her husband Ahmad al-Asmar, 84, perform Friday prayers inside their home as mosques are closed over concerns of the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Sidon, Lebanon, March 20, 2020.   REUTERS/Ali Hashisho 

For me Ronen Zvulun’s picture is both touching and a little sad. The couple are dancing seemingly momentarily oblivious of the fact that the room, which should be filled with friends and family to celebrate their marriage, is empty due to the measures implemented to control coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The only other figure in the image is a lone musician who plays a tune they dance to, an image that sums up the impact the virus has had on social behavior.

Israeli couple Roni Ben-Ari and Yonatan Meushar dance as they get married at Ein Hemed Forest Wedding Venue who are offering, free small-scale weddings for young couples whose wedding cannot take pace die to the restrictions imposed by the government to fight coronavirus, in Ein Hemed, Israel, March 18, 2020.   REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun 

I’ve seen dozens of images of workers disinfecting all sorts of places but not many have the beauty of the side light that makes Omar Sanadiki’s picture stand out. What I like too, if you take the time to look carefully is the portrait of Syrian President Assad on the edge of the shadows that places the picture in Damascus.    

A worker sanitises schools as part of preventive measures against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Damascus, Syria, March 18, 220.   REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

The team in the whole MEA region have worked hard to produce a series of ‘before and after’ combination images that illustrate the impact that self isolation, government ruling and fears over the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has had on communities throughout the region. There are many more that you can see here but below are four that I really like, from Amir Cohen, Alaa al-Marjani, Shokry Hussein and Zohra Bensemra.

A combination picture shows children on a swing at the beach of Ashkelon, israel march 16, 2020 and the same swing march 17, 2020, as Israel takes stringent steps to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).   REUTERS/Amir Cohen 

A combination picture shows passengers wearing protective face masks as they wait in Najaf airport following the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Najaf March 15, 2020 and then the same set of seats after all flights were suspended, amid concerns over the disease spreading March 17, 2020.  REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani  

A combination picture shows students attending a lecture at Cairo University in Cairo, Egypt, February 12, 2020 and the same scene following government efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) March 15, 2020.   REUTERS/Shokry Hussein

A combination picture shows Senegalese working out on a beach along route de la Corniche in Dakar, Senegal, March 12, 2020 and the same empty beach after the government tightened up measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Dakar, Senegal March 19, 2020.   REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

As far as the eye can see black and white chairs are spaced out with military precision waiting to be filled with people who will be tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Standing in the middle of Stephanie McGehee’s picture is the slightly scary figure of a masked and suited helper, her gesture saying ‘stop right there’.   

A volunteer directs visitors at a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing centre at the Kuwait international Fairgrounds in Mishref, Kuwait March 18. 2020.   Stephanie McGehee

My intention this week was to choose only coronavirus disease (COVID-19) related pictures but the next three images were all too interesting and powerful to ignore.

Abdullah Rashid shot a clever picture from the perspective of the rescuers eye view as he got himself a lift on a mechanized digger as people search for flood victims. I can’t help feeling through the body language of the driver that he feels he has the best seat, especially when you finally work out that the other rescuers are all squashed into the bucket of the digger. 

Volunteers search for people who need help in a flooded area after heavy rainfall in east Mosul, Iraq 18, 2020.   REUTERS/Abdullah Rashid  

A beautiful and well-timed image by Temilade Adeleja. Remove the figure in your minds’ eye and all you get is a smoggy featureless image. What is so crucial to make this work is that the image is timed to show the figure’s legs at full stretch and his arm outstretched so you get the classic ‘walking’ shape. Not so easy to capture when you think he is walking carefully on logs that are floating on polluted water. Read on here

A man walks on logs of wood placed in the river at the Makoko community in Lagos, Nigeria March 9, 2020.   REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja

I am not a fan of ever taking selfies as I am acutely aware of the need for the ‘selfie face’ and the impact it has on an image – smile or frown, either way will impact on the sensibility of the image. I think Khalil Ashawi’s picture is a wonderful example of how people compose their personal image before composing the ‘selfie’ frame to capture themselves in a historic moment in time.  

A Turkey-backed Syrian rebel fighter take a picture with a mobile phone during a protest against the agreement on joint Russian and Turkish patrols on M4 highway in Idlib province Syrian March 15, 2020.   REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

Almost to the point of abstraction Thaier Al -Sudani blends amazing lush colours and rich tones of flag carrying Shi’te pilgrims defying a curfew to make their way to Kadhimaya. You are seduced into the rich greens for what seems like an eternity until finally you escape to the hint of red in the background so your eye can finally make sense of the covered figures making their way down the road. 
Shi’ite pilgrims make their way to Kadhimiya to mark the death of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim during a curfew imposed to prevent the spread coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Baghdad, Iraq, March 18, 2020.   REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

Zohra Bensemra’s picture is a wonderful study of light, colour and shape that all seem to dance around one another in the frame. I love the way objects on the edges of the frame are cropped to point that we know what they are, a washing line, a gate, a blue tub of water, but they don’t intrude on central character. The girl who is beautifully dressed, carefully washing her hands in a tiny and delicate movement as if preparing for a Hollywood evening of glamour. 

A girl washes her hands at the entrance of her parents’ house in Pikine on the outskirts of Dakar, Senegal March 9, 2020. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra 

Through a sophisticated balance of deep shadows and bright colours Baz Ratner intrigues us with his portrait of a security guard who is protecting himself coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The guard seems to be almost hiding in the shadows of a post behind his head from the glare of the bright light and colors in the background. Baz gives us just enough detail to see the face mask and a hint of highlight in his eye.  

A security guard uses a face mask to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the main railway station in Nairobi, Kenya, match 17, 2020.   REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Friday 13 March 2020

A Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, March 13, 2020

I have a soft spot for donkeys (not sure why) and an even softer spot for quirky pictures, so Raneen Sawafta’s is an easy pick. At first glance you get as much information is as possible from this image. No matter how long you look, it's still a man is following a donkey down a stairwell. To find out why you need a caption, to find out even more you will need to read here.

A Palestinian worker uses a donkey to transport gravel as it walks down stairs of an under-construction building in Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, match 5, 2020.   REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta

Maggie Andersen’s picture can best be described as compositionally ‘very busy’. Your eye darts around, green shoes and shorts, yellow container, shoes and pillar, blue dress, white bag full of things, red fruit for sale in a doorway, people crowded in from the foreground to the very rear of the image and, of course, the white sink and container in the foreground. Even more interesting when you realise this is a picture to illustrate how Rwanda is trying to stop the spread of coronavirus. Read on here.

A man washes his hands at a public washing station before boarding a bus as a cautionary measure against the spread of the coronavirus at Nyabugogo Bus Park in Kigali, Rwanda March 11, 2020.   REUTERS/Maggie Andersen 

Ammar Awad has given us a glimpse into the world of small boys experimenting with things grown up. The moment caught could be that first ghastly puff of a cigarette. Under the watchful gaze of a friend, you can’t let yourself down, no coughing, no saying how horrid it tastes, and the friend knows that he must do the same and not lose face either. A wonderful affectionate moment. 

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish children smoke as they are dressed up in costumes during celebrations marking the Jewish holiday of Purim in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighbourhood March 11, 2020.   REUTERS/Ammar Awad

It takes a little while to work out what is going on in Mohamed Abd El Ghany’s muddy grey/brown picture until the buildings in the centre foreground snap into focus. The dark band top right of the image then makes sense as a road and the sheer size of the urban growth, with thousands living so close to each other, is realised. No colour and no city ‘lungs’ of green space to ease your feeling of claustrophobia  

A view from an aircraft window shows buildings in an area of dense population in Cairo Egypt March 10, 2020.    REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Mohamed Torokman’s picture is almost 100% non-figurative, except for the hand and the gas canister. Both are relatively tiny in the frame, but the eye just zooms in. I love the open space that the canister is hurled into, the clean blue sky helping to give the image clarity and a strong right to left flow.

A Palestinian demonstrator hurls a tear gas canister back that was fired by Israeli forces during a protest against Israeli settlements, near the town of Beita in the Israeli-occupied west bank, March 11, 2020.   REUTERS/Mohamed Torokman

Tiksa Negeri’s picture is just so sad. A year after the tragic accident of flight ET302, a lone figure trying to get as close to the earth as they can beside the stark fence that is keeping them away from the crash site. The crash site is flat and barren land and I just can’t get the feeling from my head that the skies are completely empty and they should not be. Read on here.

A mourner sleeps next to the fence of the crash site during a memorial service for the victims of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 Boeing 737 Max plane crash near Bishoftu, Ethiopia, march 8, 2020.   REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

It’s the uniform shape and colour that makes Alaa al-Marjani’s picture so appealing. This image was cropped from a wider picture. I like the context of the wider image but love the shapes of the tight crop. Which do you prefer?  

Shi’ite Muslim women wear protective face masks at Imam Ali Shrine, following an outbreak of coronavirus, in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq March 11, 2020.   REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani 

Shi’ite Muslim women wear protective face masks at Imam Ali Shrine, following an outbreak of coronavirus, in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq March 11, 2020.   REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani 

Sunday 8 March 2020

A Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, March 6, 2020

Khalil Ashawi’s image is very open to interpretation if you let your imagination wander. Is the impression given that the IDP camp is being hidden away, by the cloth, like the feeling among those at the camp that they are getting no help from the global community and are unseen? Is the woman trying to retain normality of life washing and drying her favorite item as if she were still at home, the beautiful cloth a reminder of a life gone by? Or she is just doing the washing? I leave it to you to ponder. 

An internally displaced Syrian woman hangs a piece of cloth out to dry in Atmeh IDP camp, located near the border with Turkey, Syria March 4, 2020.   REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

Afolabi Sotunde’s picture can best be described as warm and affectionate as the world braces itself to face the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. I think if the background were not so clean and the colour so warm this image would not do as well as it does to raise a gentle smile during these worrying times.     

A boy wearing two face masks records with his phone during a friendly football match for International Women’s day in Abuja, Nigeria March 5, 2020. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Mike Hutchings’ picture is as expansive as it is full of emotion. Even though the image is shot wide to keep the outstretched arms in frame you are drawn into the woman’s face that is fraught with emotion, via the bold 12 on her shirt. The police in the background make for a dark and somewhat static backdrop for the action in foreground. The tilt to the frame, although subtle, is an important compositional element that adds to the drama.

A woman wails as law enforcement officers move in to disperse a group of immigrants who had occupied a historic church and a square demanding to be moved to another country as they claimed not to feel safe because of xenophobic attacks, in Cape Town, South Africa March 1, 2020.   REUTERS/Mike Hutchings 

What a wonderful detail picture by Amir Cohen - which works so well as the eye is drawn to the single image of Netanyahu in a mass of ballot papers. His face is clear and bold even though it’s quite small in the frame. I also like that the  the colours in the picture are similar to those of the  Israeli national flag.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party election ballots are seen on the floor following Netanyahu’s address to supporters at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv, israel, march 3, 2020.   REUTERS/Amir Cohen 

Ari Jalal’s picture makes you feel like you are the person who is being checked for a high temperature, a symptom of possible coronavirus infection. The claustrophobic feel is created by a dark frame and the masked medical worker leaning into the image. Would I have cropped the yellow out on the left? Probably yes, but then maybe you would lose the sense that this was shot from inside a car, which is also very much part of its strength.     

A member of a medical team checks the temperature of an old man in a car at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Duhok, Iraq following an outbreak of coronavirus, March 2, 2020.   REUTERS/Ari Jalal

Hidden in a swirl of bright colours and patterns it comes as quite a shock as your eye finally settles on the child patient stricken with cancer in Essam al-Sudani’s moving picture. With the boy’s hand held to the forehead you can almost feel the pain. Your  eye moves along his long thin arm to the drip and  the cold grey wall on the left offers little comfort. This image makes me feel sad, and so it should. Read on here, a story that has taken weeks to compile. 

Cancer patient Mostafa Abdullah, 14, lies on a bed after receiving treatment at the children’s cancer hospital in Basra, Iraq September 25, 2019.   REUTERS/Essam al-Sudani

I make no excuses for showing this brutal image as I feel its important to document what happens in conflict. It is always a difficult balancing act between what is gratuitous and intrusive while showing the ugliness of injury and death and Umit Bektas has succeeded in his picture. We can see the man is injured but being cared for as he is in a hospital setting, the scene quite dark with the single light source bearing down on his injured body. It takes a while for us to see the amount of his blood on the floor. Read on here.     

Surgeon Mohammad Abrash waits to start surgery on an injured man in a hospital in Idlib, Syria February 28, 2020.   REUTERS/Umit Bektas

The best way to illustrate the impact that fears of coronavirus are having on public spaces is to show a simple before and after. Not a perfect match as access was somewhat restricted to get to exactly the same place to shoot the “after” picture, but Ganoo Essa’s combination does the trick.

A combination picture shows Muslim pilgrims wearing protective face masks, following an outbreak of coronavirus, as they pray at Kaaba in the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia march 3, 2020 (top) and a general view of Kaaba at the Grand Mosque which is almost empty of worshipers, after Saudi authorities suspended Umrah (Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca) amid the concerns of the outbreak, at the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia March 6, 2020.    REUTERS/Ganoo Essa