Friday 24 April 2020

A Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, April 24, 2020

As a late addition to this week’s selection is Ganoo Essa’s stark image on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan. Grouped together in worship a small group of people are dwarfed by the Kaaba where normally thousands would worship around it. The building construction in the background half-light seem to lean into the scene, an enlarged echo in shape of the tiny figures in the foreground. I love the final touch of the man rushing in from left to right.  

Worshippers perform Taraweeh prayer at Kaaba in the Grand Mosque on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia April 24, 2020.   REUTERS/Ganoo Essa   

You get a real sense of the children’s heads turning sharply to look at the man coughing in Thomas Mukoya’s picture. The moment is captured perfectly as they walk past, a comforting arm across the shoulder of the smaller boy. Would I want to crop this tighter, even to a vertical? Maybe, but then you’d lose the context of the place they are walking through. 

A man coughs as children walk past amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Nairobi, Kenya, April 19, 2020.     REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya 

Mike Hutchings has been working on the complex story of land rights at a time when there is forced curfew and lockdown in South Africa. For me, what gives this image its strength is the way Mike has used scale and shape to build a very sophisticated image. A large group of people standing about in harsh light in a featureless landscape is not great material for a picture. What Mike has done is stand back and used a terrific bold line made up of the crowds of people that horizontally cuts across the image. The apex of the tent, quite small in reality but large in the frame, cuts upwards across this compositional line. The running boy gives the eye a focal point and brings the viewer back round the image from left to right.   

A child runs past a tent set up after a Khayelitsha township community won a court case against local authorities who has demolished shacks and evicted residents on land that they said was illegally occupied during a nationwide lockdown aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Cape Town, South Africa, April 19, 2020.    REUTERS/Mike Hutchings  
A sort of antidote to the sophistication, quiet and subtlety of the image above (not that you should need one) is the wham-bam of Mike Hutchings’ image below. Full of action and noise as police stride across the landscape firing weapons. The figures form a diamond composition in the frame against a slight tilt and a deep blue sky. A lens vignette holding all the action in the frame, and, if you take the time to look, a spent cartridge popping out of the shotgun lets you know these weapons are being fired. Read on here. 

Police fire shot guns and tear gas as they attempt to disperse Khayelitsha township residents trying to erect shacks on open ground during a nationwide lockdown aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Cape Town, South Africa, April 21, 2020.    REUTERS/Mike Hutchings  

You can almost smell the incense and hear the song in Tiksa Negeri’s image of an Easter celebration. Timeless pageant, beautiful dress, rich colours and a wonderfully big umbrella have all been cleverly shot so the red carpet in the foreground doesn’t dominate and distract the eye away from the ceremony. I would so love to be at this ceremony. 

Ethiopian Orthodox deacons sing during Easter Eve sermon at the Holy Trinity Cathedral amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia April 18, 2020.    REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri  

At first glance Zohra Bensemra’s picture is just a grey wall with square black holes of unfinished windows. You also catch a glimpse of yellow almost centre frame. This bit of colour is just enough to catch your eye and draw you in. It’s then you see the zigzag of workers passing building materials up through the rickety scaffolding, from the bottom of the frame, where we see the helmeted man reaching up, to the workman at the top of the frame, reaching down. 

Workers stand on scaffolding at a construction site amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Dakar, Senegal, April 18, 2020.    REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra 

 Two relatively ‘simple in concept’ images work well for different reasons. The concept is people look at graffiti of the coronavirus. The first from Khalil Ashawi shows the image of the virus seeming to jump out from a bomb-damaged building to threaten people walking past, a double warning ‘keep away, keep away’. The artist uses the curves of the crushed building to echo the shape of their art, depicting the virus like a WWII sea mine. The image is almost totally bleached of all colour.  Read on here   

People walk past a damaged building that has drawings on them that allude to the coronavirus and encouraging people to stay at home, in rebel held Idlib City, amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Syria April 18, 2020.    REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi   

The second graffiti image, from Thomas Mukoya, doesn’t so much say ‘keep away’ but ‘look at me’. The bright colours of the art and people crowding in to look at it initially seem to have had the reverse affect. But the clever composition between the gathered heads allows the single eye to peer out at you with sheer malice.   

Children look at an advocacy graffiti by the Mathare Roots youth group against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the Mathare Valley slum, in Nairobi Kenya, April 19, 2020.   REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya    

 Even with the spread of the coronavirus, the politics in Israel continues. Corinna Kern takes full advantage of this combination of events to shoot a wonderful anti-government demonstration meets social distancing picture, aided by the neon lights to give the image an eye-catching glow. Even though the image is shot quite wide you are drawn into the centre by the blue and white of the Israeli national flag and the red writing on the white background of a protest banner. Read on here.   

Israelis demonstrate against Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, under strict social distancing restrictions introduced to slow down the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), on Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, Israel April 19, 2020.    REUTERS/Corinna Kern    

The bar needs to be very high when shooting wildlife pictures as there are so many beautiful images shot by specialist photographers that anything less looks quite weak. In my opinion, Amir Cohen’s image of a town fox certainly reaches that high standard. A cleverly timed slow exposure allows us to see enough of the animal’s form to know it’s a fox but blurs things enough so we get the sense of it hunting at night in a warm glow of soft textured colours. Read on here  

A red fox runs near the seashore in Ashkelon, where predatory animals now roam the streets amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak restrictions that has closed beaches and emptied streets of people April 19, 2020.   REUTERS/Amir Cohen  

Such a busy picture from Rania Gomaa captures a complex and historic moment. Family and friends gather around a wedding couple excited and happy in a narrow and crowded street. The bride, beautiful in her white wedding dress, reaches up to adjust her tiara, her groom watches, splendid and proud in his sharp suit and neat haircut. And then you have the face masks worn to protect the couple against the coronavirus. Such a powerful and touching moment as the bride’s sister carefully adjusts her mask the same time as the bride herself is adjusting her tiara. There more than likely will never be another wedding picture quite like this one. 

Bride Noha Hamid and groom Mustafa Amin wear protective masks amid concerns over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), during their wedding ceremony in Qalyub, north of Cairo, Egypt, April 16, 2020.   REUTERS/Rania Gomaa  

Friday 17 April 2020

A Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, April 17, 2020

Such a powerful image by Khalil Ashawi from the refugee camp in Idlib province. In my mind small individual elements build a picture of desperation while tempered with at least a little hope. A face mask to protect against the coronavirus, brightly painted yellow, a small smile, a  thin and worn shirt with a friendly image of a panda, other children nearby taking part but social distancing, tents for displaced living, but well-constructed, blue skies and probably most importantly, bright eyes only just, peering out from a mask that is too big. Read on here

A displaced girl wears a mask as she takes part in an event organised by Violet Organisation in an effect to spread awareness and encourage safety amid coronavirus disease (COVID-19) fears at a camp in the town of Maarat Masrin in northern Idlib, Syria April 14, 2020.   REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi 

A very simple but striking image from Ronen Zvulun as worshippers observe social distancing at the Western Wall, a site normally crowded at Passover. For a minute, enjoy the shape and tones, half close your eyes and look. It puts me in mind of a seascape, with white sailing boats on a cold grey sea and heavy rain clouds bearing down. 

A small number of Jewish worshippers pray during the priestly blessing, a traditional prayer which usually attracts thousands of worshippers at the western Wall on the holiday of Passover, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Jerusalem’s Old City April 12, 2020.    REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun  

Normally the question would need to be asked ‘what is going on here?’ with hundreds of people walking in a highway. But we all know. By standing back, Afolabi Sotunde has managed to capture the essence of the road and roundabout while at the same time being close enough so we get a sense of individual people walking about, some practicing social distancing better than others. Good too that the skyline has been cropped out or we’d be distracted from the small figures by that highlight. Read on here.

People are seen during an exercise session as the authorities struggle to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spread in Abuja, Nigeria April 13, 2020.   REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde  

It took me a while to understand quite why I liked this picture by Khaled Abdullah so much. First off, it’s a good news image of the aftermath of a flood, a wrecked car dumped in debris and wet mud left by the deluge as people make their way past it. What makes this a bit special is the wonderfully dressed person who appears to be taking his time to stand still in all this chaos and really take in the whole scene of devastation. Once you spot him you are no longer visually interested in the car but only this solitary figure.  

People walk along a flood damaged street after heavy rains in Sanaa, Yemen April 14, 2020.   REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah  

Without the giant P for parking in Hamed I Mohammed’s picture you would not really know that these Intensive Care Unit beds are in an underground car park. Once you understand that fact, you can see that Hamed has used the open space of the floor and a slight camera tilt to enable us to marvel at the sheen on what is essentially a car park floor.   

Fully equipped beds are seen in a makeshift ICU ‘Field Intensive care Unit’ set up by Bahrain authorities to treat coronavirus disease (COVID-19) critical patients, in a car park of the Bahrain Defence Hospital in Riffa, Bahrain April 14, 2020.    REUTERS/Hamed I Mohammed  

 It’s the combination of the expression on the faces of these two men and the fact that they are emerging from a cloud of thick smoke that really makes Khaled Abdullah’s picture work. If there was much more smoke you would not be able to see their faces, scrunched up against the fumes; any less and you’d see detail in the background and not get a sense of just how dense it is. 

People ride a motorbike amidst fumigation smoke during a campaign to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the outskirts of Sanaa, Yemen April 13, 2020.   REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah  

Jam packed with not an inch to spare, traffic is locked bumper to bumper in Mohamed Abd El Ghany’s cleverly composed image. As far as the eye can see the picture frames is full of locked up traffic. I feel panic stricken imagining being in that queue trying to get home before the curfew. A small point that also attracts me that Tahrir Square is basically round. 

A view of a traffic jam at Tahrir Square before the start of the night-time curfew set u to help contain the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Cairo, Egypt, April 13, 2020.   REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany  

Amr Abdallah Dalsh shamelessly, but very successfully, employs one of the oldest tricks in the book by using scale to make a great feature picture from what is essentially a grey building site. This classic format is aided by dappled light on the floor that looks a little like giant white footprints in grey sand.  Read on here 

A construction worker wearing a protection mask walks in front of a statue of King Ramses II at the site the Grand Egyptian Museum after the opening was postponed this year amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, on the outskirts of Cairo Egypt, April 13, 2020.   REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh  

I suppose what attracts me most to Njeri Mwangi’s picture is not only the shape and colour but the sense of people just chilling out. We don’t know if they are posing for the picture, trying to look cool, but for sure the figures make for a relaxed feel. I love the visual ‘brackets’ of the image that keep your eye moving in from the edges of the frame to the centre: on the left, the diagonal position of the legs and on the right, the man in the red hat whose body language and arm position force you back into the frame to look deeper, away from the easy satisfaction of the colour in the mural to the detail of the young men just hanging out. 

Kenyan men are seen in front of a wall mural advocating against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Nairobi Kenya, April 11, 2020.   REUTERS/Njeri Mwangi  

I am a great fan of detail pictures that home in on some small element that tells a bigger story. Ali Hashisho’s picture is as eye-catching as it is disturbing. He has used the circle of the drain cover and the shape of the shadow of the figure to draw your eye to the image from distance. When you look closer at the blue, black and white shapes you are bit shocked to discover that these are discarded gloves that were used to protect their owner from the coronavirus. Sadly, that same person has discarded what one can only imagine are infected gloves on the street with no regard for others – what hope here?    
A shadow of a man talking on the phone is seen next to thrown gloves, during a countrywide lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Sidon, Lebanon, April 15, 2020.    REUTERS/Ali Hashisho  

You might know it as golden hour and others, usually film makers, call it magic hour, but for sure Mike Hutchings has used the light during this short period after the sun has set to create a wonderfully lit picture. But Mike doesn’t really give us any time to enjoy the light as we quickly get the sense that these people bathed in the soft warm glow are homeless. The man on the right has a time-worn look and the others figure are hooded, bowed and surrounded by what little possessions they have. Read on here.    

A group of homeless men take in the last of the day’s light before seeking a place to sleep on a deserted promenade during the 21-day nationwide lockdown aimed at limiting the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Cape Town, South Africa, April 15, 2020.  REUTERS/Mike Hutchings  

Quite a strange picture from Ibraheem Abu Mustafa that puzzles me more and more as I look at it. In terms of the image itself the dark framing draws your eye straight to the mask. This darkness could sum up the different feelings people may have about the spread of the coronavirus disease. But why would a mother make a coronavirus costume for her child? What springs to mind is the scene in the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban film where the young wizards and witches are forced to face their greatest fears in the form of a BoggartThey have to defeat their fear by casting the Riddikulus spell through humour. Maybe this is what this young boy’s mother is doing too.  

A Palestinian boy gestures as he wears a costume, sewed by his mother, representing the microscopic view of the coronavirus amid concerns of the spread of the disease at his family house in the central Gaza strip April 16, 2020.   REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa 

If you have any doubt about the power in red in a picture, here are two images that should dispel that doubt. The first by Khalil Ashawi shows six evenly spaced dark figures striding through the field of flowers. There are disputed reports that the fighters are taking a break from conflict, creating a lull in hostilities as a reaction to the coronavirus outbreak. Are they oblivious to the beauty around them? Who knows, but for sure my mind jumps to the significance of red poppies, conflict, death and remembrance.   

Turkey-backed Syrian rebel fighters walk in a field of red flowers in Jabal al-Zawiya in Idlib’s southern countryside amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Syria April 15, 2020.    REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi     

And the second by Amir Cohen looks at first glance like an abstract picture. The reds of the flowers almost merge into solid forms, divided into equal shapes by the complementary green lines. One green line bisecting the image meets the white and red shape in foreground that on closer inspection is a figure dressed in those colours. What I also learned from this picture is that buttercups can be red as well as yellow
A woman picks buttercup flowers in a field near a Kibbutz Nir Titzhak in southern Israel, just outside Gaza Strip April 14, 2020.   REUTERS/Amir Cohen