Friday 29 May 2020

A Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, May 29, 2020

Mike Hutchings’ gentle picture just speaks to me of calm. Soft light plays on the faces of the clerics waiting to catch a glimpse of the moon. This all set in an arc of light that extends from complete darkness in the top left to the highlight on the left. The figures and the horizon break the image up into classic thirds. More pictures here.  

Muslim clerics await the sighting of the moon that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan during a lockdown aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on Sea Point promenade in Cape Town, South Africa, May 23, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

A very simple picture by Khalid al-Mousily that I was drawn too and then tried to discount as not much is happening in it, but I kept coming back to it. I asked myself, why? Well there is really something quite sad about this brightly coloured merry-go-round that is devoid of children and screams of delight. More pictures here.  

A view of a deserted amusement park during the first day of Eid al-Fitr, after the government imposed a full lockdown on some areas of the city, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Baghdad, Iraq May 24, 2020. REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily

 Amir Cohen’s picture is both very good and I think very lucky. Netanyahu supporters wave a sea of flags: whites and blues all set against a dark background. Through this whirling mass we are drawn to the focal point of the image, a single face, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. How much different this image would have been if the face was even slightly covered. Just a mass of flags and no focal point. Read on here.    

Supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wave Israeli flags during a rally as Netanyahu's corruption trial opens, near the Jerusalem District Court May 24, 2020. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Luc Gnago treats us to a complex compositional zig-zag as children socially distance on their first day back at school. Boys in blue, girls in pink, evenly spaced, feet together, wearing masks to help protect them against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and all weighed down by school bags heavy with books and lunch. And if we are in any doubt where we are we see the big word SCOLAIRE – school.

Pupils, wearing protective masks, stand in line in front of the Merlan school of Paillet, observing social distancing during the reopening of schools, as the lockdown due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is eased, may 25, 2020 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

Putting it quite simply Muhammad Hamed has delivered a crowd pleaser. Red fireworks caught at their peak and a crescent moon set against a pitch-black sky with a hint of a smoke-covered cityscape. What’s not to like? So, enjoy it for what it is.

Fireworks light up the sky above the Abdali Boulevard, next to the crescent moon, during a celebration of the country's 74th Independence Day within a limited number of activities amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Amman, Jordan May 25, 2020. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

Hard to choose one or even two pictures from a project that has taken quite a while to pull together and involves many photographers from different countries but I have settled on pictures by Ronen Zvulun and Siphiwe Sibeko. What I especially like is that the subjects shot the picture from inside due to social distancing and I love that they have shot as they got into the spirit of the project. For Ronen’s image I like both the mix of warm and cold light created by the tungsten glow and all those busy triangles and diagonal lines in the composition. These angles echoed by Yael with her feet, the bed edge and the window framing. Read on here

A combination picture shows Yael Ben Ezer, a dancer from Israel's Batsheva Dance Company, seen through a window while she practices in her apartment, and a view that she sees from her apartment, as authorities around the world impose various guidelines on lockdowns and social distancing to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Tel Aviv, Israel May 19, 2020. When asked, what will you miss most about being in lockdown? Yael Ben Ezer, replied 'I will miss the comfortable feeling of IT'S OK. It's ok not to "do" anything, it's ok not to be "productive" in the way we usually think. Things would come and go, the sun would rise and set, and I would just be living. And that's totally enough'. Picture taken May 19, 2020. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun and Yael Ben Ezer/Handout/via REUTERS

Siphiwe Sibeko also played with shapes, but in his image ovals and circles are fighting with the harsh light. But that harsh light has helped create strong blocks of colour. And for Zodidi’s picture we are treated to a soft and warm light through the curtains.  

A combination picture shows Zodidi Desewula, a housewife from the Eastern Cape province, taking a break by reading as seen through the doorway of her one-roomed rondavel house on May 23, 2020, and a view is pictured from her house on May 24, 2020, as authorities around the world impose various guidelines on lockdowns and social distancing to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the Sibanye Stillwater's women hostel in Carletonville, South Africa. When asked, what will you miss most about being in lockdown? Zodidi says there is nothing she will miss about the lockdown once it is over. To her it was torture because she and her husband were stuck in one place unable to move. She also said " Myself and my husband were stuck in this single room house unable to go to work. We were struggling in getting food to eat because there was no income". REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko and Zodidi Desewula/via REUTERS

To me, Zohra Bensemra’s picture has an element of fear in it, but I am not sure if I am projecting my own concerns for the boy or whether it’s the way it has been beautifully shot that creates this feeling. The boy is looking out from an encroaching black space that occupies almost a half of the image and looks to consume him in darkness, almost like a giant wave. The mask adds to this feeling of breathlessness and holding breath waiting for the wave. He is looking out of the window towards the light, the glass separating him from the scene, his eyes seem to be searching for someone. But if we look at all the figures outside they seem to have their backs turned and he won’t be able to see the loves one he is looking for. Read on here.

A boy looks out of a bus window as teachers prepare to board government-chartered buses to go back to schools of countryside towns, scheduled to reopen next week, amid travel bans between regions due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Dakar, Senegal May 27, 2020. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

At first glance Ahmed Jadallah’s picture looks like a lone skier coming to the end of a ski run with lots of ski lifts seen against a grey sky, the red fencing guiding him to safety. But all is not all it seems, as this is a 3D trompe l’oeil and I like the momentary visual trick until the caption is read. As Dubai slowly comes out from lockdown what better way to celebrate and get some exercise than at an indoor ski slope in a shopping mall in the desert city. 

A person wearing a protective face mask ski at Ski Dubai during the reopening of malls, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Mall of the Emirates in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, May 28, 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

 Aziz Taher is not shooting pictures at the biggest or most violent clash in his long career but for sure it is one of the first instances where he, the security forces and the protesters all need to protect themselves against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as well as the usual clashes. Those closest and face to face in the confrontation are all wearing face masks. I like the rather stylish mask the woman is wearing as she leans back from the baton that looks as if it is being raised as a warning rather than for a downward whack on exposed fingers or head.  

Demonstrators confront with riot police as they try to cross barricades on a road leading to the UNESCO Palace where Lebanon's parliament is holding a legislative session, during a protest against a controversial amnesty draft law, in Beirut Lebanon May 28, 2020. REUTERS/Aziz Taher

Friday 22 May 2020

A Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, May 22, 2020

There is no way you can look at Mohamed Torokman’s picture without a smile appearing on your face. It’s reminiscent of images of Olympic breaststroke swimmers coming up for air when, for a split second, a film of water covers their faces, distorting their features. What is special about this image is that not only can you see the boy just under water cooling himself but you get a sense of the place with other swimmers in the background.  

A Palestinian boy dips in a natural spring to cool off during a heat wave, amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), near Jericho in the Israeli-occupied West Bank May 17, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

Maybe it’s the extra grip the rubber gloves that allows the hairdresser to pull the hair a little tighter, but the slight grimace in Mohamed Abd El Ghany’s picture lets us know that for sure it hurts a little. I love the muted colours in this picture, the white set against the solid black of the background, and the tiny, but all so important, fringe of hair that is about to be clipped off.      

A boy gets his hair cut by hairdresser Youssif Hamada at his home in Cairo, amidst the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Egypt, May 18, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

One of many from a terrific sequence of images by Abubaker Lubowa of an arrest. What gives this one is the edge for me is the fate of the fallen glasses that Stella is looking down at. They are beyond rescue. What I would not give to have the arm of the glasses extended to match the other side perfectly, but life is imperfect, so I will settle for what is here. Read on here

Ugandan academic Stella Nyanzi looks at her glasses as police officers detain her for protesting against the way that government distributes relief food and the lockdown situation to control the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Kampala, Uganda May 18, 2020. REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa

Siphiwe Sibeko has given me a dilemma, which I hand to you. I can’t choose which picture I like best. Do you prefer the strong diagonals of vast queues of people that create compositional lines that stretch to the horizons, cutting across the powerful orange and blue colours in this first image? We are immediately grabbed by the shape and colour and left in no doubt as to how many are in need of food handouts. Read on here

People stand in a queue to receive food aid amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the Itireleng informal settlement, near Laudium suburb in Pretoria, South Africa, May 20, 2020. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Or do you prefer this second image? The dynamic compositional relationship of the orange and blues bisected by lines is not as strong, but that is countered by the powerful horizonal shapes made by the queues of people. Secondly, we don’t quite get the same sense of just how many people are queuing, as the queues are less defined in the background. But what we do get is a greater understanding of the individuals waiting in line. Just look at that woman in pink in the foreground, hands on hips as she takes a long stride and moves slowly forward.

People stand in a queue to receive food aid amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the Itireleng informal settlement, near Laudium suburb in Pretoria, South Africa, May 20, 2020. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

There is no other way to put it, Temilade Adelaja makes you work hard to look at her picture. The centrally placed square-shaped highlight is quite abstract. We really don’t know what it is, but the eye is continually drawn to it and it dominates the image. We then get to see the figure lying in the gloom, on the floor and barely lit. Finally, we see the corrugated iron roofing and we get the sense of poverty. But this picture is about light and not poverty and we’ve been drawn into the story so read on here.

A beneficiary of a Salpha Energy solar panel home installation, Recent Kodjo, lies on a wrapper in her room illuminated by a solar-powered bulb, in Sagbo-Kodji community, amid concerns over the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Lagos, Nigeria April 25, 2020. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja

Just look at the faces in Clovis Guy Siboniyo’s picture. Every single one of these young men is  looking at the elder woman casting her vote. And just look at her expression too, determined, dignified and strong. Great too that the highlight of her profile is captured between the shadows on the man’s red shirt and the shadow cast by the security lock of the ballot box or it could so easily be lost in the busy and harshly lit picture.

A voter casts her ballot at a polling station during the presidential, legislative and communal council elections, under the simmering political violence and the growing threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ngozi, Burundi May 20, 2020. REUTERS/Clovis Guy Siboniyo

I can’t help feeling that this girl got a little more than she bargained for when she no doubt pleaded to have the bucket of water thrown on her in Ali Hashisho’s affectionate picture. Arms spread out, feet firmly placed and then splash, the force of the water pushing her head, and her hair, to one side. The slow shutter speed accentuates the speed and volume of the water. From my own experience of parenthood, if mum was watching I am sure a telling-off would quickly be issued – but what a wonderful memory of childhood Ali has captured.  

A man throws water on a girl playing in a pool, during a hot weather, amid concerns over the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Sidon, southern Lebanon May 21, 2020. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho

It’s an old visual trick, replacing a person’s head with a shape, object or ball. Sometimes it works better than at other times and on this occasion, I think Khaled Abdullah’s fun picture works well. Enjoy the smile from Yemen.

A man carries his son who holds a balloon outside a shopping mall ahead of Eid al-Fitr holiday, amid concerns of the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Sanaa, Yemen May 17, 2020.  REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 

Hard to socially distance when you are visually impaired and touch is so important. Temilade Adelaja has shot a clever set of pictures to illustrate this personal struggle. The image is exposed for the highlights of a harsh sliver of light, and we are only able to see a fraction of what is there. Look very hard and you see a second person, hand held for guidance. Read on here.  

Shobowale Kehinde, 28, an entertainer who is visually impaired, walks through the corridor at his church with assistance from his friend amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Lagos, Nigeria May 5, 2020. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja

Friday 15 May 2020

A Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, May 15, 2020

The strong graphic shape of a black circle with a black rectangle in it dominates Muhammed Hamed’s striking picture. What this shape does is to divide the image into two distinctive parts; one isolating the imam’s face and the other filled with the strong colours of the red cushions and purple dresses and the diagonal lines that cut across it. A visual bonus of a small boy behind the Imam is easily missed if you don’t take the extra time to look around these powerful shapes and colours.   

Jordanian Imam Ahmad Al-Harasis speaks to his followers as he broadcasts a Taraweeh prayer live via social media to be connected with his worshippers during the holy fasting month of Ramadan as prayers by worshippers in the holy places are suspended due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Amman, Jordan May 11, 2020. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed 

Zohra Bensemra’s picture is just heavy with sadness. Without reading the caption we don’t know why this slumped woman is suffering but her body language tells us that she is suffering badly. The stark almost featureless tented room and the empty chair, that acts as a compositional counterweight to the figure, add to the sense of loneliness and isolation.

A local resident waits to be examined after she was isolated due to the symptoms of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), inside an isolation tent for suspected cases at the army field hospital in Touba, Senegal May 1, 2020.   REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra 

When I first saw Sumaya Hisham’s picture I was stopped in my tracks. The tragedy of the scene set in the sweeping landscape is almost epic. The pall-bearers in almost full PPE look cold as they struggle with a heavy coffin in strong winds near the freshly dug grave. But what is most striking is a little less obvious, and it took me a while to understand why I feel an overwhelming sense of emptiness. Even though we see a wide landscape, there are no mourners in this picture to bid this person farewell. They are standing well away because of social distancing. The funeral shows another faceless, nameless death, adding to the increasing toll of coronavirus victims.   

Family members and funeral workers carry the coffin of a 51-year-old man who died from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a cemetery in Cape Town, South Africa, May 12, 2020. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham 

Mussa Qawasma must have fought hard to get where he is to shoot this dramatic funeral picture. There is a sea of faces from the foreground to the horizon, but I am struck by the fact that the only person with fair hair is bold in the foreground. Once you notice that you can’t see anything else as your eyes keeps coming back to it.    

Mourners carry the body of Palestinian teenager Zaid Qiseya, who was killed during an Israeli raid, during his funeral at Fawwar refugee camp near Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank May 13, 2020. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma 

What is going on in Muhammad Hamed’sbusy picture? A partial trompe l’oeil of a cat coming out of a crack in the wall with its eyes closed, looking like Blofeld’s cat, one eye blue and one yellow, peering around the wall and a girl whose mass of hair mirrors the trompe l’oeil hole in the wall. How much more can be crammed into this portrait? Love it. 

Jude Hajjaj, carries her cat near a picture of her cat painted on the wall by her father Osama Hajjaj, who teams up with his neighbours in creating works of art at their roof during the curfew imposed by the Jordanian government amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Amman, Jordan, May 10, 2020.  REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed  

A beautifully lit picture by Njeri Mwangi taking full advance of a shadow cast by the strong light. Just how temping would it be to crop out the figure and the white signage, being careful to leave the all-important detail of the discarded water bottle in frame. Good to consider as it would make a very bold image but I think I prefer the wider image, with the figure in it. Read on here

A girl walks past taps allocated for sanitisation, amid water shortage during the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Nairobi, Kenya May 13, 2020. REUTERS/Njeri Mwangi 

A girl walks past taps allocated for sanitisation, amid water shortage during the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Nairobi, Kenya May 13, 2020. REUTERS/Njeri Mwangi 

Mohamed Abd El Ghany’s picture is really a simple detail image of an ear of wheat to illustrate an agriculture production story. But what he has managed to do in one frame is combine both a close up and a vista of wheat harvesting: the ear of wheat, a man toiling with a bundle of the crop and the field itself. This, together with the beautiful warm glow of yellow and gold colours set against the blue sky, makes for a terrific image to illustrate an economic story, something that is not easy to do. If you are interested in wheat production in Egypt read on here.

A farmer carries a bundle of wheat after harvesting it from a field in the Gharbia Governorate, as Egypt ramps up efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Egypt May 14, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany 

I just can’t get thoughts of robotic dancing out of my head when looking at Mohamed Torokman’s slightly bizarre picture. One man has his eyes covered, another his nose and mouth, and both are standing in an open field. Is it the position of the arms and straightness of the fingers? Did you notice the gloves are different colours? Or is it the upward tilt of the head that gives me this sense? Either way a truly intriguing image and I am desperate to see what he is looking at through his VR goggles. Read on here 

A man wearing a Virtual Reality (VR) device tries Palestine VR, a free app created by Salem Barahmeh (L) to give virtual tours of Palestinian towns and villages, in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank April 23, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman 

And only because I love the fight the human spirit has to offer arts, beauty and creative imagination in times of adversity I add some mask fashion from Temilade Adelaja. See the story here

Nigerian style influencer, Angel Obasi, 24, poses for a picture with a fabric protective face mask on, with colours matching her clothes, following the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Lagos, Nigeria May 14, 2020. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja