Friday 26 June 2020

A Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, June 26, 2020.

Eat your heart out Alfred Hitchcock fans, as Baz Ratner has produced a terrific picture with a crow backlit by a partial eclipse. Technically a nightmare to expose for; and to get the full curve of the sun just above the slope of the roof with the crow looking into the centre of the curve is just magical. More eclipse pictures here. 

A crow stands on a roof as a partial solar eclipse is observed in Nairobi, Kenya, June 21, 2020. REUTERS/Baz Ratner 

 World Refugee Day brought out the numbers interest in photographer Khalil Ashawi. Nine years of conflict in Syria that has generated millions of refugees. Khalil set about finding nine children, from nine different cities impacted by the conflict, each aged 1 to 9. He then posed them for a picture in their temporary accommodation to produce a sad and haunting set of images, one of which I include. It seemed only natural to make a square combination picture from all nine portraits that not only hinted at the sense of scale of the problem but also provide the perfect shape for sharing on social media to draw attention to the plight of these youngsters. Read on here.

Rawan al-Aziz, a 6-year-old Syrian displaced child, from Southern Idlib countryside, poses for a picture in a tent at Atmeh camp, near the Turkish border, Syria June 19, 2020. Picture taken June 19, 2020. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi  

Combination picture shows (top row, L-R) Ranim Barakat, a 9-year-old displaced Syrian girl from Hama countryside; Jumana and Farhan al-Alyawi, a 8-year-old displaced Syrian twins from east Idlib; Maysaa Mahmoud, a 5-year-old Syrian displaced child from Homs countryside; (middle row, L-R) Walid al-Khaled, a 2-year-old displaced Syrian child from Aleppo city; Rawan al-Aziz, a 6-year-old displaced Syrian child, from Southern Idlib countryside; Mahmoud al-Basha, a 3-year-old displaced Syrian child; (bottom row, L-R) Mariam al-Mohamad, a 4-year-old displaced Syrian child from Homs city; Mohamed Abdallah, a 7-year-old displaced Syrian boy from Jabal al-Zawiya in Idlib's southern countryside and Abdul Rahman al-Fares, a 4-month-old displaced Syrian baby from south Idlib countryside posing for pictures in a tent at Atmeh camp, near the Turkish border, Syria June 19, 2020.  REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi  

As heatwaves hit different parts of the globe Mohamed Abd El Ghany’s sunrise picture is a great illustration. The shimming orb dwarfs the buildings and trees in the foreground as it rises to clear the horizon. A picture that is easy enough to shoot in Egypt for sure but the added treat in this one is the kite dancing in the morning air on the right that you will miss if you dont look closely enough. 

The sun rises in Cairo, Egypt June 23, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany 

 For me there is a very strong sense of sadness in Raneen Sawafta’s picture. Maybe it’s the ghost- like appearance of the figure in the cloth, maybe the fact the colours are drained from her face or could it be that her eyes are downcast and we cant see into them? Probably a combination of all those things. The strength of the image is in making me instantly feel that emotion. The caption explains the sadness -  it’s International Widows Day 

Manal Al-Essa, a Palestinian woman whose husband died of cancer, is seen through a dress she sewed for sale, on the International Widows Day, in Tubas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank June 23, 2020. REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta  

Zohra Bensemra’s picture of children at play is an instant antidote to the image above I am sure like me you can hear their open-mouthed laughter. The black circular shape of the tire dominates the image, but Zohra has given us just enough time and space to look around the front of it to see all the way up the narrow dirt street. Captured to perfection are the hands rolling the tire, the younger child, I presume sister, reaching out to catch her big brother, his hands positioned giving the tire motion. The tiny but important space between the boy’s flip-flop and his foot and the echoed line of the running children’s legs. Such an affectionate and warm daily life picture.       

Children play with a tire, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Yoff neighbourhood of Dakar, Senegal June 24, 2020. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra 

 It’s that look over the white mask that instantly captures me in Siphiwe Sibeko’s picture, there is no getting away from those eyes. The man at first glance is appears as if he is elaborately dressed but on closer inspection we see that he has just loosened his jacket and unbuttoned and half taken off his checkered shirt to expose his yellow T shirt and more importantly his left arm. He is being injected with a vaccine trial for the coronavirus. The cleverly cropped text in the picture just above gloved hands, reading “‘Be wise”, seems to almost a question rather than a statement.   

A volunteer receives an injection from a medical worker during the country's first human clinical trial for a potential vaccine against the novel coronavirus, at the Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, South Africa, June 24, 2020. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko  

 The lighting and feel in Siphiwe Sibeko’s image puts me in mind of an opening shot of a film set in the 1930s and exploring the Great Depression. Dozens and dozens of people just waiting in a scene sucked of any colour. A powerful compositional arc leads you from the back of the queuing figures at the bottom right, around past the post that cuts vertically across the picture and the red traffic lights out to the bus on the left and then onto the bus in the hazy blue light, top right. You come away with a feeling of a never-ending wait in line. 

Buses are seen as stranded commuters wait for transportation at a bus terminal during a protest by taxi operators over the government's financial relief for the taxi industry, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown, in Soweto, South Africa, June 22, 2020. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko  

 There is no escaping the feeling of exhaustion and maybe even a slight sense of intrusion in Essam Al-Sudani’spicture, which has been shot quite wide so we get a real sense of the functional space. A stolen moment of peace and quiet, the head is tilted back even though the harsh room lights glare back – not very soft and relaxing lighting for sure and this is a utilitarian room that is not designed for comfort and relaxion. The flopped hand in the figure’s body language tells us he is doing his best to try to just a little rest before getting back to work.  

 An assistant of Dr. Hiba Jabbar Ashoor wears a protective face mask while taking a break at Basra Teaching Hospital, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Basra, Iraq June 20, 2020. REUTERS/Essam Al-Sudani  

 At first glance Mohamed Torokman’s picture is more than a little messy. The highlights in the background draw the eye, the feet of the soldier are cropped off (Grrrr – very much a pet hate of mine), the face of the man in the white shirt is obscured by his hand, as well as the soldier on the left give us a sense of obscuring the action while the soldier on the right seems to add nothing. Now look at the next and the recrop. 

A Palestinian man argues with an Israeli soldier during a protest against Israel's plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, in Jordan Valley June 24, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman 

Wham! No misunderstanding now what is going on. The soldier’s rifle is being prodded into the demonstrator’s lower chest and we now see the staring focus of the man’s eyes. We are also captivated by the masked child who looks directly into the camera, seemly oblivious of the potential danger. Equally important, what we can also now see is that the soldier’s finger is carefully away from the trigger. Would I have cropped this tighter to remove the running photographer in the background, coming down to lose a slice of the arm on the right and match that by taking a slither off the soldiers backpack on the left? Probably. But hey, I am nit-picking, which is a little unfair.   

A Palestinian man argues with an Israeli soldier during a protest against Israel's plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, in Jordan Valley June 24, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman 









Friday 19 June 2020

A Week in Pictures Middle East and Africa, June 19, 2020

It looks as if machine and man are in deep conversation: Mohamed Abd El Ghany has captured what looks like an intimate moment. Nicely cropped to give a sense of a mirror image between maker and made, and the yellow eye and white plastic look a little menacing against the soft features of Mahmoud.    

Egyptian mechanical engineer Mahmoud El Komy is seen beside the remote-controlled robot that he built to test people for the coronavirus by running PCR tests, limiting exposure to suspected cases, during the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Cairo, Egypt June 12, 2020. Picture taken June 12, 2020.REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany 

I struggled to choose one image from Anne Mimault’s series of images of a granite quarry, so chose two. Both give you completely different information from the same story. On one hand you want to see the environment these people are working in, and on the other you really want to see the people impacted. The dark granite and the contrast in the light consume all the small details of the people working in this misty environment. Read on here   

A general view of the Pissy informal granite quarry pit, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso June 10, 2020. Picture taken June 10, 2020.       REUTERS /Anne Mimault 

 In the second image we see the girl at play, with brightly coloured clothing and beaded hair, but we really don’t get a sense of the huge size of the quarry she is playing in. Read on here

Melissa Kabore, 4, jumps over a puddle in Pissy informal granite quarry, since schools closed amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso June 12, 2020.  REUTERS /Anne Mimault 

 Five sets of twins and a total of 19 children the parent say are all theirs are posed lined up by height in a classic visual trick put to good use by Khalil Ashawi to compose an image that could otherwise be very messy and visually exceptionally busy. This size order gives us an immediate sense that these people are all associated with one another and they are all brothers and sisters. Read on here.  

The children of Ahmad Yassin al-Ali and his wife Fawza Umri pose for a picture inside their tent, at Atmeh camp, near the Turkish border, Syria June 13, 2020. Picture taken June 13, 2020. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

Who can resist Evrard Ngendakumana’s picture as we are led into the sea of green by the two masked figures in red and then onto the flat red background. I love the spacing of the figures that gives us the room to wander visually into the frame. Read on here.

Supporters of Burundi's President- elect Evariste Ndayishimiye attend his inauguration ceremony following the sudden death of his predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza, amid the growing threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the Ingoma stadium in Gitega, Burundi June 18, 2020. REUTERS/Evrard Ngendakumana

The seating in this slum bar in Kenya is less empty than the terraces are in the Manchester City v Arsenal match as UK Premiership football kicks off again in empty stadiums. To me, Thomas Mukoya has captured the sense of a tentative return to normality, with one person jumping up in excitement while the others in the frame are not quite so sure. What is very obvious is that they are all masked to protect themselves against coronavirus (COVID-19), and maybe this look will now be around for a while.   

A soccer fan reacts as they watch a television broadcast at a soccer theatre called the San Siro Stadium as the English Premier League season resumes after a three-month stoppage due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spread, in Kibera district of Nairobi, Kenya June 17, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

If you only look briefly, this Palestinian woman refugee in Mohammed Salem’s picture seems almost invisible, vanishing and blending into the background. Her headdress becomes part of the washing on the line, her dress is a very similar cool blue to that of the wall. Saturday marks International Refugee Day and this image feels a bit like a metaphor as the world’s attention is focused elsewhere. You can see more images from this crisis here

A Palestinian woman hangs laundry to dry outside her house at the Beach refugee camp in Gaza City June 18, 2020. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Friday 12 June 2020

A Week in Pictures, Middle East and Africa, June 12, 2020

Although the figures are kneeling, masked, socially distanced and some with heads bowed, there is no escaping the power and anger in the clenched fist that punches into the blue sky in Zohra Bensemra’s picture. To me this combination of order and anger is also echoed in the hand-written sign that spells out BLACK LIVES MATTER, the letters in capitals and alternatively coloured black and red. You can see more pictures from the global protests over the death of George Floyd here

Senegalese kneel during a Black Lives Matter gathering following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, in Dakar, Senegal June 9, 2020. REUTERS/ Zohra Bensemra 

There is a brutality and starkness in Siphiwe Sibeko’s picture that is captured in full direct sunlight. We are left in no doubt what is going on. It’s tightly cropped and vertically composed, and we are more than a little horrified to see a rhino’s horn being lopped off with a power saw. The position of the hand and the horn make it look like a trophy being lifted by a winning team captain or maybe a victorious warrior lifting the severed head of his opponent. Although quite sad and another consequence of the coronavirus, it’s not as bad as it seems, so read on here. 

Workers dehorn a tranquillised rhino in an effort to deter poaching, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve in North West Province, South Africa, May 12, 2020. Picture taken May 12, 2020. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko  

I love pictures that make you take time to look and think what is going on here? as much as pictures that hit you in the face with immediate impact. Both make you stop and look closer to understand, which to me is the power of news photography. Amir Cohen’s picture certainly makes you askwhat is going on here?” Why the apparent adoration from people wearing glowing headphones for a man, who is wearing a face mask while walking his dog down a street? In the background another man is wearing a flared all-in-one, orange, blue and yellow jump suit. Again, why?

A man wears a mask and walks his dog past people taking part in a silent disco event as some businesses reopened at the end of last month under a host of new rules, following weeks of shutdown amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis, in Tel Aviv, Israel June 4, 2020. Picture taken June 4, 2020. REUTERS/Amir Cohen 

Muhammad Hamed’s picture is simple but very eye-catching, with rich, strong reds distorted by shimmering silver. We are given enough information through the distortion that this is a man wearing a mask cleaning, and because the water distortion fills the whole frame it feels like he is cleaning everything in the world.  

A worker cleans a window of a cafe before reopening it to the public for the first time since the start of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions in Amman, Jordan June 6, 2020. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed 

I feel I am being looked at and judged by the child painted on the wall in Baz Ratner’s picture. My eye is drawn straight to that face and that fixed stare, a look of expectation that seems to be saying: “What are you going to do?” It’s only after I am visually released that I can come back out of the picture to notice the banners that read ‘Life is Priceless’ and then finally the demonstrators matching past.   

Protesters hold placards during a demonstration against police killings and brutality, in the Mathare slum in Nairobi, Kenya, June 8, 2020. REUTERS/Baz Ratner 

The structure and composition of Khaled Abdullah’s tightly cropped picture echo the crammed full cheek of the man chewing qat. Neither the image nor his cheek can fit in another morsel. Khaled’s tight frame inspired me to look to see what would happen if this was cropped even tighter as I am so interested in the focal point of the crammed full cheek. I think at the end of the day I prefer the original shape. Read on here. 

People chew qat, a mild stimulant, at a fruit market amid concerns of the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Sanaa, Yemen June 1, 2020. Picture taken June 1, 2020. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 

People chew qat, a mild stimulant, at a fruit market amid concerns of the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Sanaa, Yemen June 1, 2020. Picture taken June 1, 2020. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 

The strength of Amir Cohen’s picture is that I get an immediate narrative in my head, maybe actual or maybe just imagined? What indignity in the eye of this captured bird in picture! I feel I am being told, “Okay I will stop struggling now as you have got me but I don’t like it.” I Imagine it was quite a struggle because if you look close enough you can see the blood on the fingers. Once that is noticed the beak looks much sharper and that look in the eye now says “You better watch out when you do let go. Read on here as this is quite a wonderful and affectionate story. 

A conservationist holds the head of a griffon vulture after it was temporarily captured as part of a national project to protect and increase the population of the protected bird in Israel, at a makeshift data-collecting station near Sde Boker in southern Israel October 29, 2019. Picture taken October 29, 2019. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
Siphiwe Sibeko has captured the joining hands in prayer, but not quite, as the faithful follow the social distancing guidelines while they attend Church in an open field. Bending down to shoot his picture, Siphiwe has given his picture the symbol of a cross created by outstretched arms against the clear blue sky. I also love the dynamic space created between the woman’s right hand and the hand that comes in from the right, nearly touching but not quite.

Congregants of the Inhlanhla Yokuphila Apostolic Church In Zion practice social distancing as they attend a church service at an open field, as South Africa loosens a nationwide lockdown aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Soweto, South Africa, June 7, 2020. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko