Saturday, 9 December 2017

A week in Pictures Middle East & Africa December 8, 2017

Clashes erupted in the region after US President Donald Trump’s announcement to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Mohamed Torokman’s picture is as much about the US flag being in tatters as it’s about clashes, for me symbolising the almost global condemnation of this decision. The figure reaching down, their hand creates a moment’s tension between dark shapes and the skies that leads us down into the flames of the picture with what I feel is a growing sense of unease. Click here to see a gallery of images for the clashes. 

A Palestinian protester prepares to burn a U.S flag during clashes with Israeli tropps at a protest against U.S President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, near the West bank city of Ramallah, December 7, 2017.   REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

It would be quite easy to scroll quickly past images of a funeral from the West Bank, they are, after all, not rare; but I never do. I take time to look at them all. I study the faces of the dead and the faces of those mourning. Sometimes I am captured by a picture’s moment and transported to the funeral. For me Abed Omar Qusini’s picture is one such example. The harsh light picks out the face of the pallbearer, the angst on his face obvious, the hand then points you back to the dead from the shadows. You are led back along the red, white and green of the flag into the shadows of the crowd of mourners, who are slowly shuffling from right to left. Then, caught in the light on the far left, a surprise, a new life. 

Mourners carry the body of Palestinian man Mahmoud Odah during his funeral in the West bank village of Qusrah December 2, 2017.   REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

Walking slowly through the dust created by a shelling a boy rubs his face in a picture almost entirely drained of colour. I could have chosen images of the dead being dug out of rubble or the injured being carried but this picture by Bassam Khabieh, for me, portrays a feeling of exhaustion, loneliness and isolation, for me a visual interpretation of the rebel held enclave of Ghouta.

A boy is seen during shelling in the town of Hamoria, eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria, December 3, 2017. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

A striking portrait of a man accused of being an ISIS bomber is seen through a complex web of vertical and horizontal black lines and shadows created by the cell bars. What for me really makes Muhammad Hamed’s image very intriguing are the dark and shadowy figures that surround the man who stands in strong side light looking directly at you. Is this the face of a member of an organisation that has created so much fear, destruction and terror or is he innocent and wrongly accused? The alleged crime; setting off a car bomb that killed six people and injured many others in a refugee camp on the Jordan Syria border.

Five Syrians, accused of facilitating the Rukban bombings in June 2016, react during their trial at the state Security Court in Amman, Jordan, December 4, 2017.  REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

In a scene that looks like something created in Hollywood Thaier al-Sudani captures a wonderful business as key members of the Iraqi government meet with Russian oil magnates. All suited and booted they walk as if in carnival parade, their matching white helmets and red lanyards making them appear like soldiers, a troupe of dancers or victorious members of a football team leaving the field of play. A question I have; is the man on the left very tall or is his size an optical illusion? If he is in the foreground why does the man on the right appear smaller than him? If you look at the man on the right his feet he is nearer to the photographer and therefore should appear bigger? I let you think about that.

Iraqi Oil Minister Jaber al-Luaibi and Russian Energy Minister Alexander Dyukov, head of the Russian oil producer Gazprom Neft walk during a tour of the Badra oilfield in Kut province, Iraq December 6, 2017.   REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani

In Amr Abdallah Dalsh’s football picture I think we all know what is being thought by the sportsmen in the picture; Emilano thinking ‘Please no! Please! Please no! And the referee Malang is thinking ‘No chance son, I’m not interested, move along here’. The picture is perfectly timed, the praying hands, the one eye wide open staring past the hand that lifts the whistle that’s just about to touch the referee’s lips. Wonderful and no doubt a microsecond later the shrill sound of the whistle and the moment, that Amr has frozen in time, broken.

Auckland City’s Emilano Tade appeals a decision by referee Malang Diedhiou durng their Cup World Cup match against Al Jazira in Al Ain City in United Arab Emirates December 6, 2017.   REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

 Something that never fails to intrigue me is how a small part of a picture can change the feel of an image as a whole. In Mohammed Al-Sayaghis picture of fighters attending a funeral we first look at a scene of men brandishing their weapons and shouting, what we can assume, are slogans of retribution and oaths of undying revenge for their fallen comrade in front of a mosque, an angry and aggressive picture. What softens the mood is the man on the right doing a selfie. It seems to me that he is not capturing the funeral for prosperity, historical documentary or potential propaganda; he is capturing himself, for himself. 

Houthi fighters attend the funeral of their comrades who were killed during the recent clashes in Sanaa, Yemen December 7, 2017.   REUTERS/Mohammed Al-Sayaghi

Although taken last March but only published this week as part of a special report is would be hard for me not to include Luc Gnago's picture of what appears to be two men on a white cloud looking at darken clouds in the skies. Personally I might have been tempted to crop it to remove the brown earth at the bottom of the frame, but the dark tone does help to balance the composition against the dark skies. Either way a fun and gentle image. Click here to see the rest of Luc's pictures and the special report about Monsanto. 

Farmers work in a cotton market in Soungalodaga village near Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso March 8, 2017.   REUTERS/Luc Gnago

Friday, 1 December 2017

A Week in Pictures Middle East & Africa December 1, 2017

It takes a few moments to work out from this almost abstract image that this is a close-up of blood, bullet cases and buttons left behind after more than 300 people were killed in the Al Rawdah Mosque in Sinai, Egypt,. Dozens of images were shared on social media after the attack, none of which we could get the rights to use, but I think this complex image by Mohamed Soliman says it all.

Empty shells and blood stains from victims are seen after an explosion and attack at Al Rawdah Mosque in Bir Al-Abed, Egypt November 25, 2017.   REUTERS/Mohamed Soliman

A simple shape, classic thirds composition and bold but soft colours make Siphiwe Sibeko’s image a definite pick for this week’s round-up. Once you see past the worker’s yellow jacket you join him in his view as he takes a break, leaning on a hoe. You speed through the lush fields of growing tobacco, past the tiny dots of his fellow workers in yellow jackets, to the distant horizon lined with dark trees and looming storm clouds. I expect the worker has a different set of thoughts from mine; maybe he’s thinking of the work he is going to have to do in the coming rain.

A farm worker is seen during the harvesting of tobacco at the Dormervale farm east of Harare, Zimbabwe, November 26, 2017.  REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

What a powerful and affectionate portrait by Siphiwe Sibeko! I feel I am going to be eaten alive if I don’t agree to whatever Father Mukonori says or thinks. Direct eye contact freezes the viewer; you can almost feel his arms, which are out of the frame, enveloping you. Talking of frames I love it that his glasses appear as if they will pop off his face as they are under such strain from this arresting and yet kind face.  

Father Fidelis Mukonori, a Jesuit Priest who is former president Robert Mugabe’s close friend speaks during an interview at Chishawasha mission primary school east of Harare, Zimbabwe November 26, 2017.    REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

A very terrifying picture shot early in the day by Baz Ratner, with people spilling through gates around a soldier in a fog of tear gas. Looking at the picture I fear they are going to get crushed in the rush to enter the stadium. The tear gas blurs the background, helping to draw your attention to the fallen people in the foreground as they scramble to safety. To see a slideshow of pictures from the inauguration click here

People fall as police fire tear gas to try to control a crowd trying to force their way into Kasarani stadium to attend the inauguration of President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi, Kenya. November 28, 2017.   REUTERS/Baz Ratner

The opening of a shopping centre doesn’t immediately spring to mind as a subject for good pictures but Afolabi Sotunde has turned the mundane into something special. The frenzy of people grabbing baskets, arms thrashing about in a sea of red and white, has the feel of the start of a triathlon. Once you look beyond the splash of colour you start to see the expressions on the faces, so take some time and look at them one at a time – wonderful. What is interesting is that an editor on the picture desk decided to crop this picture even tighter. Personally I like the wider version: balloons, ‘see you soon’ and the gold arch in the background framing the mayhem. But I also like the tight version so you can really see the faces. I’ve included both so you can choose.  

People reach out to pick up baskets at a newly commissioned Shoprite store at Novare Gateway Mall in Abuja, Nigeria November 30, 2017.   REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

A warm and affectionate picture by Mohamed al-Sayaghi as people crowd in to take part in the celebration of Prophet Mohammad’s birthday in Yemen. With some women already precariously balanced on the fence, clutching their friends or the railings, others scramble up to get a better look. Initially I looked at cropping out the busy figures wearing green in the foreground but then decided if I did that it lost context.  

Houthi supporters hang off an iron fence during a rally marking the birth anniversary of Islam’s Prophet Mohammad in Sanaa, Yemen November 30, 2017.   REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

‘You stink!’ was the shouted slogan of angry protesters towards government officials accused of failing to resolve the rubbish (garbage) crisis in Beirut in 2015. Aziz Taher’s striking picture shows the mountain of rubbish that has continued to build and is now the focus of a Human Rights Watch report. What I like about this picture is the sense of the scale of the problem, portrayed by the strong diagonals that lead you from the mountains of rubbish in the foreground, past housing, onto the bay in the background and then finally the hills in the distance. Each band of decreasing perspective visually adding to the size of the problem. I can’t begin to imagine just how bad it all smells.    To see the whole story click here.

Piled up garbage is seen in Jiyeh, near Beirut, Lebanon November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Aziz Taher

Reuters have just published the pictures of the year so if you want to see what we consider our best click here

Saturday, 25 November 2017

A Week in Pictures, Middle East & Africa November 24, 2017

Relatively late in the day on Friday Siphiwe Sebeko filed this picture of a supporter at the inauguration of Zimbabwe's new president. that I wanted to include it as an update. At first look it's a wide picture of a supporter in a crowd holding a banner that says 'Thank you Zimbabwe'. I could not resist cropping this to bring out what I really like in this picture, the sea of faces in the banner that almost matches the sea of faces in the crowd. As a foot note to my thinking; had I left it as a tighter cropped horizontal (as I wanted to) I felt the red shirt of the man on the right would have been too much of a distraction. Agree? 

Locals celebrate after the swearing in of Zimbabwe's new president Emmerson Mnangagwa in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 24, 2017.   REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko 

Good pictures of people waiting for something to happen are hard to shoot. People are not doing anything, just waiting. But that in itself presents an opportunity, translating a long period of quiet and calm into something visual can produce powerful pictures that ooze tension, apprehension, anticipation, hope, longing and boredom. Both Ibraheem Abu Mustafa and Suhaib Salem, in my opinion, have achieved just that.

Palestinians wait for relatives to cross into Gaza, after Rafah border crossing was opened under the control of the western-backed Palestinian Authority for the first time since 2007 in Rafah in the southern Gaza strip November 19, 2017.   REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Palestinians wait for travel permits to cross into Egypt after Rafah border crossing was opened under the control of the western-backed Palestinian Authority for the first time since 2007 in Rafah in the southern Gaza strip November 19, 2017.   REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

Again a disturbing image of an injured child needs to be seen, as the story of the besieged town of Douma in Syria unfolds. It’s not the injured arm that disturbs me in Bassam Khabeih’s picture, but the sheer terror in the child’s face. That fear is accentuated by the light reflected in his eye, while his tense and open mouth fight for your immediate attention with the blood on the white table. The strong diagonals of the line of the wall and the markings on the floor draw you back in, not allowing you to look away.

A wounded child is seen lying in Douma hospital after heavy shelling in the rebel-held besieged town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria November 19, 2017.    REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

You can almost taste the tension in Philimon Bulawayo’s picture as Robert Mugabe fails to announce his expected resignation in a live television broadcast. You don’t need a caption to tell you what the men are talking about as your eye dances around the greens, reds and blues of the bar’s lighting that create negative and positive shapes formed by the men’s profiles and their incredulous lips.

People talk as they watch television in a bar in Harare Zimbabwe as Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe addresses the nation November 19, 2017.    REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Not many know there was a stampede of people in Morocco when food aid was being distributed. Fifteen people were killed. Youssef Boudlal’s picture of grieving relatives is a haunting reminder of this easily ignored tragedy. As a viewer, I am not sure if the women are hiding from the camera or grieving, I suspect both. For me, the strength of this picture is the small boy who peering around from the back of the woman who is staring into space. His presence, like the news of the deaths at the stampede, is easily missed.

Relatives mourn the death of Lakbira Essabiry, one of the people who were killed when a stampeded broke out in the south western Moroccan town of Sidi Boulaalam as food aid was being distributed in a market, in Sidi Boulaalam, Morocco November 20, 2017.   REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal

 A bible-holding supporter of President Kenyatta screams into the air with joy, as people celebrate the news that a court had upheld his re-election. The relief on the faces of these people in Baz Ratner’s picture is so powerful that the visual noise of the yellow line, white pillars and railings don’t destroy the image. A close look reveals that the bible is open at Kings 2, Chapter 12, ‘Joash repairs the Temple’. I hope that rebuilding is the theme of the presidency after all the clashes.

Jubilee party supporters cheers after Kenya’s Supreme Court upheld the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta in last month’s repeat presidential vote in Nairobi, Kenya, November 20, 2017.   REUTERS/Baz Ratner

I have little secret, I love good pictures that illustrate business stories especially when they are about commodities. Mining, oil pictures from drilling to the global impact of price changes, and agriculture are particular favourites. So how could I resist Khalid al-Mousily’s symmetrical picture of a small mountain of sugar in Iraq, a man in black striding purposefully towards it. A picture with great shape that jumps out at you and can be used well on any platform, from a small screen on a mobile device or as a double-page spread in a magazine, or on an advertising hoarding in the street.  

An employee checks raw sugar at a sugar refinery in the city of Hilla, Iraq, November 21, 2017.   REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily

Amid the euphoria of Zimbabwe it would be easy to forget the crisis in Yemen, if only for a day. But there is no respite as Khaled Abdullah’s picture brings our minds quickly back to what is going on. It’s hard to tell the age of the person with thin and fragile legs until you realise that this helpless child is so tiny that he is on a set of scales designed for weighing babies. For me, the fact that you do not see the face of this malnourished boy gives a sense of the wider issue of hunger created by conflict in Yemen, and not just one person’s story.  

A boy lies on a weighing scale at a malnutrition treatment centre in Sanaa, Yemen, November 22, 2017.   REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 

Almost a week of rising tension in Zimbabwe ended in an explosion of joy, relief, all night parties and smiling faces after fears that the transition of power from Mugabe would be bloody proved unfounded. Hard to chose one picture from Mike Hutchings but I think the frame full of smiling faces is a winner for me. I wish I was there. Have a look at more pictures here to lift your spirits.

Zimbabweans celebrate after President Robert Mugabe resigns in Harare, Zimbabwe November 21, 2017.  REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

One might not immediately think of Libya in terms of sun, sea, sand and … motorbikes.  So it’s therefore impossible to not include Ahmed Jadallah’s simple but affectionate picture of bikers, some of whom belong to the ‘Monsters’ group, on a Libyan beach. Although the picture was taken a while ago I’ve included in this week’s round-up as it was only published this week. You can read on here.

Members of the Tripoli bikers group ride their motorbikes at the beach in Tripoli, Libya November 4, 2017.  REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

Friday, 17 November 2017

A week in Pictures Middle East and Africa November 17, 2017

Some gestures seem more futile than others at demonstrations. Khaled Abdullah’s picture of a man holding up a dagger seems to shout out anger and frustration, which gives the picture its strength. There is no mistaking the knife’s shape, the silver metal glinting in the sun with violent intent. The hand holding the knife is central in the frame, thrusting up to pierce the perfect blue sky, while the scene around the blade seems to lean into it. The picture says to me there will be more bloody violence. 

A supporter of the Houthi movement waves a dagger during a demonstration in Sanaa, Yemen against the closure of Yemen’s ports by the Saudi led coalition November 13, 2017.    REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 

Following the theme of blue skies being pieced, how could I ignore Satish Kumar’s affectionate and gentle picture of a broken heart? What I like about this picture is the imperfection of the heart’s shape as the fumes melt away, taking the edge off the blue sky and the irregular red headscarves. After all, the pursuit of matters of the heart is rarely perfect. See Editors Choice here.

Visitors take pictures as Al Fursan aerobatic team of the United Arab Emirates Air Force perform during the Dubai Airshow, in UAE, November 13, 2017.   REUTERS/Satish Kumar

I am always a sucker for a graphic shape. Here, colour is drained from the scene to leave a cold, monochromatic stage for a figure in isolation. Mike Hutchings’ classically composed picture gets my vote this week. I love the overall shape that is aided by a tilt that is not so overdone that you feel you are slipping off the picture. In a perfect world I might have wanted the figure to be taking a more pronounced step, but we don’t live in a perfect world.

A Student walks up the steps in-front of the University of Cape Town’s Jameson Hall in Cape Town, South Africa November 13, 2017.   REUTERS/Mike Hutchings 

Suhaib Salem’s picture from the commemoration of Arafat’s death is a very sophisticated composition that slowly works its way into your mind. It is a busy, back-focused and harshly lit image that invites you into the complex web of vertical and horizontal lines of scaffolding punctuated with yellow flags. Slowly you are drawn out to the man at the bottom right. His face is partly hidden by the shadow from his hand as he shields his eyes from the harsh light, looking a little like a character from superhero comic book. 

Palestinian Fatah supporters take art in a rally marking the death of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Gaza City, November 11, 2017. 

There is no ignoring the upheaval in Zimbabwe this week. As you can imagine it is a difficult story for a photographer to cover. But two pictures by Philimon Bulawayo  caught my eye, both images conveying a feeling of tension and unease. The first shows a woman carrying a child as she passes a military vehicle, her eyes darting across the picture as quickly as she darts through the nearly empty streets. The second is also a captured momentary glance, as a saluting officer looks across from Mugabe at a graduation ceremony. What I also like is the contrast between the different shapes of the hats they are wearing: the soft curve of the officer’s cap compared with to the sharp angles of the mortar board worn by Mugabe. See more pictures from Zimbabwe here.

A woman hurries past an armoured vehicle outside the parliament building in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 16, 2017.   REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe attends a university graduation ceremony in Harare, Zimbabwe November 17, 2017.   REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Violent clashes have again broken out in Kenya, with stone-throwing protesters up against riot police, who fired tear gas. Nothing illustrates the confusion and chaos better than Thomas Mukoya’s image of people being hit by vehicles speeding away from the tear gas. Something else that strikes me in chaotic scenes is how ordinary objects seem to take on greater importance, or how ‘quiet’ pictures can sometimes be the strongest. The colours in Baz Ratner’s image initially lead you away from the fact this man is injured. First you see the yellow shirt, then his arm leads your eye to the water bottle. (Why is he still holding onto something so unimportant? Maybe as an antidote to the effects of the tear gas?). Then you see the reds of the shoes. The grey of the open space on the left then  makes you look back at the blood-covered face. Although the man looks in a bad way, Baz confirms that he was not killed. See more pictures from the clashes here.

Kathiani Member of Parliament Robert Mbui (beneath the darker vehicle number plate) is hit by another car as riot police disperse the convoy of Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga, upon Odinga’s return to Nairobi, Kenya November 17, 2017.    REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

An injured supporter of Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga lies on the ground in Nairobi, November 17, 2017.    REUTERS/Baz Ratner