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  

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