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Original author: 
Phil Bicker

From clashes in the West Bank and election preparations in Pakistan to the legalization of gay marriage in Colorado and battles against wildfires in California, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

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Original author: 
Vaughn Wallace

Since 1948, the Overseas Press Club of America has recognized photographers and photojournalists for exceptional photographic reportage. On Wednesday night, the OPC will announce the four winners of the organization’s annual prizes.

The Robert Capa Gold Medal is awarded to a photographer producing “photographic reporting from abroad requiring exceptional courage and enterprise.” This year, Italian photojournalist Fabio Bucciarelli was recognized for Battle to Death, his project recording the harrowing battles in Aleppo in late 2012. “The battle for the conquest of Aleppo is a real massacre,” he told TIME. “It’s a pleasure to see my work recognized with such a significant prize, and see my name listed next to great photographers like James Nachtwey, Larry Burrow, Horst Faas and Eugene Smith. But the real pleasure is to spread what is going on in Syria and to have documented the lack of human rights in the country.” Associated Press photographer Manu Brabo was also recognized by the judges for his own work covering Syria’s civil war.

The Olivier Rebbot Award for “best photographic reporting from abroad in magazines or books” was given to Samuel James, highlighting The Water of My Land, a story on conflict over oil resources in the Niger Delta. Continuing to photograph the story even after it was initially published in Harper’s Magazine, James learned of the award while “waiting for sundown on a beach with a squad of oil thieves.”

The 2013 Feature Photography Award was awarded to Associated Press photographer Oded Balilty for his story, An Ultra-Orthodox Wedding.

The John Faber Award for “best photographic reporting from abroad in newspapers or news services” was given to Bernat Armangue for his photographs of the conflict in Gaza. “War is a strange universe full of extreme landscapes; also the best place to experience the best and the worst of every human being, starting by your own soul,” Armangue told TIME. “Winning the John Faber award was a total surprise. OPC has always been a reference of good journalism so winning the award has intensified my desire to keep doing what I know best: photojournalism.”

Founded by a group of foreign correspondents in 1939, The Overseas Press Club is an association of journalists working in the United States and around the world.

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Original author: 
Phil Bicker

From Margaret Thatcher’s death and a 24 hour vigil for victims of gun violence to elections in Venezuela and the world’s biggest Pope statue, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

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Original author: 
Rania Abouzeid

They are a familiar sight to anyone who has been on the frontlines in the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo: striped sheets—formerly store awnings, curtains and drapes—that once blocked the harsh sunlight or a neighbor’s prying eyes, now acting as shields against more lethal threats.

The sheets are strung between buildings (what’s left of them, at least) and across streets. They are meant to obscure a sharpshooter’s line of sight, providing a small measure of protection from an assassin lurking in the shadows of these often abandoned and devastated neighborhoods. For residents, even the simplest task, like going to a bakery or visiting a neighbor, can be a harrowing dash across a street with nothing but a piece of fabric for cover.

The billowing fabric provides unexpected bursts of color in urban landscapes that have otherwise been reduced to a near-ubiquitous gray: the gray of crushed cinder blocks from pulverized buildings, the gray dust that covers household belongings strewn about the rubble, the gray of a once-vibrant city that has been reduced to a stalemated battleground where it can sometimes seem as if the only other color on view is blood crimson.

The sheets also highlight the asymmetrical nature of Syria’s battlefield. The conflict, now in its third year, pits the army of President Bashar al-Assad against a hodgepodge of disorganized defectors, armed civilians and makeshift militias. One side has tanks, helicopter gunships and body armor; on the other side there are anti-aircraft guns and other weapons, often sourced from the black market, and handmade weapons fabricated in local workshops. The sheets are one more tangible testament to the rebels’ ability to improvise.

Photographer Franco Pagetti, who has covered conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other hotspots, captures the beauty of these sheets, and the terror they represent, in this series of haunting images. There are no people in these photos. The curtains serve as a witness to and a barrier between the two sides of this unending civil war. Like so many aspects of the conflict, the curtains are quotidian realities that have been stripped of their mundane origins. Today, they fulfill a purpose very different from their original roles.

Pagetti says the curtains reminded him of the miles upon miles of concrete barriers that crisscrossed Baghdad during the worst of the sectarian violence there, in 2006 and 2007.

“Aleppo’s sheets serve the same purpose: they protect lives,” he says. “But you’re always aware how fragile they are.” As he moves through the neighborhoods, Pagetti says he has to be acutely conscious of the direction of the sun and wind. “If your shadow falls on the sheet, the sniper can see you… Boom, you’re dead. If there’s a gust that blows the sheet up for a moment, you are completely exposed… Boom.”

Franco Pagetti is an Italian conflict photographer represented by VII.

Rania Abouzeid is a Middle East correspondent for TIME. Follow her on Twitter @Raniaab.

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Syria has always been a tough place to cover for journalists. Confidently authoritarian with a ruthlessly formidable security and intelligence apparatus, Syria has long been one of the most policed of Arab police states. So when some Syrians defied their government to take to the streets in the southern city of Dara‘a in March 2011, the temptation to cover the story was overwhelming for many, including myself.

The story of the Syrian uprising is ultimately the tale of regular citizens silencing the policeman in their heads, breaking their own personal barriers of fear to speak, to demonstrate, to demand, to reject, to no longer be afraid, to live in dignity. It’s about what these people will do, what they will endure, and what they are prepared to become to achieve their aims.

It is also the story of a significant portion of the population that considers the regime of President Bashar Assad the country’s best option, because they believe in its Baathist secular ideology or directly benefit from its patronage or don’t have confidence in Assad’s opponents and fear what may come next. Understanding what this segment of the population will accept in terms of state violence, the narratives they choose to believe and their concerns is a critical component of the story, though one that is harder to obtain, given the paucity of press visas issued by Damascus.

The only way to tell the Syrian story, really tell it, is to be on the ground with the men, women and children who are central to it, whether in Syria on in the neighboring states that many Syrians have fled to. It isn’t easy to do — the Committee to Protect Journalists, based in New York City, has dubbed Syria the “most dangerous place for journalists in the world” — but it is essential. Nothing beats being there. There is no compensating for seeing, feeling, touching, capturing, living the story.

The images here are a testament to the power of being on the ground, of sharing and capturing a moment for posterity, of translating an element of a person’s life through imagery.

Take a look at the photos. Can you place yourself in these situations? Can you imagine what it must be like? What do you feel when you look at the images? Are you drawn into them, or are you repulsed? Can you relate to them, or are they too alien? This is the power of translating on-the-ground reporting to an audience. This is why we must and will continue to document the Syrian uprising from inside the country when we can, and we — members of the foreign press corps — are not alone. Sadly, as is often the case, local journalists (both professional and citizen) have disproportionately borne the brunt of the casualties in this crisis. Still, this story is not about members of the media and what we go through to tell it; it’s about the Syrians who entrust their testimonies, their experiences, their hopes, their fears, their images to us in the hope that they will help explain what is happening in one of the most pivotal states in the Middle East.

—Rania Abouzeid

This collection of testimonies is the third in a series by TIME documenting iconic images of conflict. See “9/11: The Photographs That Moved Them Most” and “Afghanistan: The Photographs That Moved Them Most” for more.

Abouzeid is a Middle East correspondent for TIME. Reporting by Vaughn Wallace.

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Narciso Contreras / AP

Night falls on a Syrian rebel-controlled area as destroyed buildings, including Dar Al-Shifa hospital, are seen on Sa'ar street after airstrikes targeted the area last week, killing dozens in Aleppo, Syria.

Narciso Contreras / AP

Men warm themselves by a fire in a Syrian rebel controlled area in where residents are trying to get back to their daily lives after months of heavy fighting in Aleppo, Syria.

Narciso Contreras / AP

On Sa'ar street in Aleppo, an apartment is illuminated by fire used to keep warm.

More photos from Syria on PhotoBlog

Slideshow: Syria uprising

Story: Airport road reopens but Internet still cut

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Fabio Bucciarelli / AFP - Getty Images

October 23: An elderly woman crosses a street next to a long black cloth used to separate the area from Syrian government forces' sniper fire, in the Bab el-Adid district in Aleppo. UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is pushing "extremely hard" for a ceasefire in Syria and will brief the UN Security Council on Wednesday on his efforts, the UN spokesman said.

By David R Arnott, NBC News

As we edited our slideshow on the conflict in Syria today, the picture above made us pause. The scene looked familiar. Checking back through the hundreds of pictures wire agencies have transmitted from Aleppo over recent weeks, we found out why: We had seen this street before, 39 days earlier.    

Marco Longari / AFP - Getty Images

September 14: A man carrying grocery bags tries to dodge sniper fire as he runs through an alley near a checkpoint manned by the Free Syrian Army in the northern city of Aleppo. Syrian regime forces used fighter jets and helicopter gunships to pound the city and province of Aleppo, monitors said.

Some tell-tale details remain the same. The red traffic sign on the right has the same small scratch across its band of white. The same green and red graffiti is just about visible on a distant wall. But in the intervening weeks, other things have changed. Rubble is piled up on the left of the frame, where an intact wall and sidewalk was previously visible. And while desperate civilians continue to risk the dangerous path across this piece of open ground, a long piece of cloth has been hung from one side of the street to the other, in an attempt to block the view of snipers.

In an article published on Tuesday, Hamza Hendawi of The Associated Press described the daily lives of Aleppans as the conflict rages around them:

With death lurking around every corner, the survival instincts of Aleppo's population are being stretched to the limit every day as the battle between Syria's rebels and the regime of President Bashar Assad for the country's largest city stretches through its fourth destructive month. Residents in the rebel-held neighborhoods suffering the war's brunt tell tales of lives filled with fear over the war in their streets, along with an ingenuity and resilience in trying to keep their shattered families going.

And while residents of the rebel-held areas express their hatred of Assad's regime and their dream of seeing him go, they also voice their worries over the rebels and the destruction that their offensive has brought to their city. Graffiti on the shutter of a closed store declares the population's sense of resignation: "God, you are all we've got." Read the full story.

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From the Taliban shooting of a 14-year-old activist in Pakistan to the vice-presidential debate in Kentucky to angry protests against the German Chancellor’s visit in Greece and a human tower in Spain, TIME presents the best images of the week.

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