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Mohamed Morsy

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The year 2012 is coming to an end today and I’m sure you have seen plenty of ‘best of ‘ lists already (If you haven’t, you can find a lot of them here), but I couldn’t resist adding one more by sharing my selection of top ten photographs of the year. Trying to make such a tight edit of all the great photojournalism I’ve seen this year was challenging, but I thought ten was a good round number. So here are the top photographs of 2012, as chosen by me, in chronological order.

Lorenzo Meloni’s photograph of two menacing looking militiamen, one in shades and one wearing a balaclava, patrolling the streets of Benghazi in January 2012 stuck in my mind as soon as I saw The Telegraph Magazine run it double truck in May (The tearsheet here). The picture perhaps gains certain extra power also from the fact that we know what went on in Benghazi later on the year.

LorenzoMeloni

Photo © Lorenzo Meloni

Libya. January 2012. – Militiamen patrolling the streets of Benghazi.

Stephanie Sinclair had a great photo essay on Yemen in National Geographic magazine’s September issue (See it here). One of the last photographs of the feature is of a young boy without eyes, cradled by his mother, of whom we don’t  see much more than the very body parts the son is missing. Sinclair’s photo, reminiscent of Samuel Aranda’s World Press Photo of the Year 2011, is powerful in how it shows not only trauma but also love and care.

StephanieSinclair

Photo © Stephanie Sinclair

Yemen. March 2012. – Cradled by his mother, Saleem al Hazari lost both eyes to a sniper. The 12-year-old was shot when he joined antigovernmental protesters in Sanaa in 2011.

I find Dominic Nahr’s Sudan photo of a soldier lying immersed in oil in Heglig, one of the most striking images of the past year, not only visually but contextually, capturing something very essential of the conflict the two Sudans had in the oil-rich region. (See the photograph larger here)

DominicNahr

Photo © Dominic Nahr – Magnum for TIME

Sudan. 17 April 2012. – A soldier of the northern regime’s army, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), lies dead, immersed in oil next to a leaking petroleum facility after heavy fighting with southern SPLA troops after they entered Heglig.

Timothy Fadek had a photo essay on Greece’s economic turmoil on the Foreign Policy website in June (See the series here. NB You might have to create a free login.). The opening picture of drug addicts shooting up in broad daylight shows in strong detail one of the more extreme examples of the human toll the country’s downturn has caused.

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Photo © Timothy Fadek

Athens, Greece. May 2012. – Scenes from a failing economy. Heroin addicts shoot up behind the Athens Cultural Centeron Akademias Street in central Athens.

Egypt has continued to play a big role in the international news. In June, Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsy was announced as the winner of Egypt’s first democratic presidential election. Below frame, by Daniel Berehulak, of Egyptians celebrating Morsy’s election win, is the one picture with its flags and fireworks, that I remember the most. (See it larger here.)

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Photo © Daniel Berehulak – Getty Images

Cairo, Egypt. 24 June 2012.- Egyptians celebrate the election of their new president Mohamed Morsy in Tahrir Square.

Pete Souza has been doing incredible work documenting President Obama’s first term, and it’s difficult to choose his best photo from this past year, but I thought the below picture of Obama sitting in a White House cabinet meeting is an extraordinarily quirky portrayal of the President, taken from an unusual view-point. It shows little more than the chair with a badge identifying who it belongs to, and the President”s back of the head . But I’m sure the head (and the ears!) would be recognisable even without the badge on the chair, but the metal tag does give an air of authority. Amusingly, The Obama campaign tweeted the photo after Clint Eastwood’s infamous empty chair speech at the RNC, with the words ‘This seat’s taken’. I also like how the roundness of the President’s head matches the curves on the wall on the other side of the room.

PeteSouza

Photo © Pete Souza / The White House

Washington D.C., United States. 26 July 2012. – A view from behind of the President as he holds a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House.

Nicole Tung did several trips to Syria in 2012 to document the civil war there. Time Lightbox showcased her work on number of occasions. The opening picture of her Aleppo photo essay ‘A Syrian Tragedy: One Family’s Horror’ shows a horrific scene of a group of men carrying a 15-year-old boy, Hatem, who had been trapped under a rubble following an airstrike on 6 August. Hatem later died in the hospital. His father, mother, younger brother and sister and two younger cousins were also killed in the same attack.

I and Olivier Laurent interviewed Nicole Tung about her work later the same month. You can read the interview here.

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Photo © Nicole Tung

Aleppo, Syria. 6 August 2012. – Men carry Hatem Qureya, 15, after he was trapped under rubble following an airstrike in the neighborhood of Bustan al-Qasr in Aleppo, Syria.

Moises Saman has been doing terrific work in Cairo throughout the year. Above, I shared Daniel Berehulak’s picture of Egyptians celebrating their new president. Saman’s photo below shows a very different kind of flag-waving scene, this from the anti-Muslim YouTube video sparked riots directed at the U.S. Embassy in Egypt’s capital. Antonin Kratochvil once said ‘every photographer should have their own version of The Scream’, referring to the similarity of one of his own pictures to the famous Munch painting. If that’s true, I believe Moises Saman now has his. I can see and feel, real raw energy in the young man’s scream below. (See the picture larger here.)

MoisesSaman

Photo © Moises Saman – Magnum

Cairo, Egypt. September 2012. – Protestors shout and raise a flag above a burned-out car near the clashes.

I’ve seen two versions of the below scene. One by Narciso Contreras, whose coverage of the Syrian civil war has probably been the strongest and most comprehensive of any photographer out there, and the one seen here by Javier Manzano. Both are striking photographs, but I just happen to prefer the Manzano one, perhaps as the rays of light are slightly more pronounced in his photo due to the darker exposure.

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Photo © Javier Manzano / AFP

Aleppo, Syria. 18 October 2012. – Two Syrian rebels take sniper positions at the heavily contested neighborhood of Karmal Jabl in central Aleppo.

Out of all the photographs done done during hurricane Sandy and its aftermath, there’s no question in my mind that Iwan Baan’s aerial photograph of the Manhattan powercut, which ran on the cover of the New York Magazine, was the most remarkable and memorable. You can read about the shoot here.

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Photo © Iwan Baan

New York City, United States. 1 November 2012. – Superstorm Sandy aerial shot of Manhattan powercut.

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A huge, colorful mural of the men Egyptian youth activists know as “felool”—regime remnants—adorns a building’s wall on Mohamed Mahmoud Street in downtown Cairo. Branching off of the now iconic Tahrir Square, Mohamed Mahmoud leads to the dreaded Interior Ministry. A number of bloody clashes between protesters and Egyptian security forces have taken place here in the year and a half since a popular uprising ended the 30-year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak and launched the Arab world’s largest country into a tumultuous transition. To Egypt’s budding generation of revolutionary street artists, these walls are prime real estate for political expression.

Omar Fathi, the 26-year-old art student, who painted the mural with a set of cheap plastic paints last February, conceived of the idea after a deadly soccer riot had led to another series of clashes between police and protesters, leaving more than 80 people dead. Like much of his art, it was an image borne of frustration. Many of the youth protesters had blamed the ruling military and the police forces under its command for the deadly soccer riot and the ensuing violence as anger spread to the streets. To Fathi, it was further evidence of the state’s failure to govern and protect—something he had grown accustomed to under Mubarak, but that he and other youth activists and members of his “Revolution Artists’ Union” say has only continued under military rule. “Basically it represents the situation we are in, nothing has changed since the fall of the regime,” he says. “It’s the same leadership—the face has changed, but the rest is still the same.”

The mural depicts a split face—on the right, the scowling visage of ousted President Hosni Mubarak; and on the left, the man he once appointed to run his military, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi. As the head of Egypt’s powerful military council, Tantawi has been Egypt’s de facto ruler since Mubarak stepped down in February 2011.

Shortly after Fathi painted his masterpiece, someone—he suspects from the military —painted over it. To spite them, he painted it again. When it was painted over a second time, he re-painted it a third, this time adding the faces of two presidential candidates, Amr Moussa, and Ahmed Shafik. Both men had served in Mubarak’s regime. And the run-off to the presidential election this month pit Ahmed Shafik against a candidate from the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood, in a tense face-off that some activists characterized as a battle between the old order and the new; the military regime versus the revolution. In the end, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsy won. But Tantawi and his military council have ensured that Morsy only wields certain presidential powers; the military controls the rest. And Fathi says he’ll keep painting. “Our contribution [to the revolution] is to portray the demands of the revolution through art. This has been our role since the eighteen days [of the uprising],” he says. “We serve the revolution through art, and we will keep illustrating our demands.”

Sharaf al-Hourani is a news assistant for TIME Magazine in Cairo
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It’s been a restless month for politics in Egypt, where longtime president Hosni Mubarak was ousted from office during the Arab Spring last February. On June 14, just days before the country’s first democratic presidential elections, the Supreme Constitutional Court dissolved Egypt’s Islamist-majority parliament. The elections themselves were further marred by confusion when election officials delayed the announcement of a winner, saying they needed more time to investigate charges of electoral abuse.

Since the vote last weekend, supporters of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsy have been gathering daily in Tahrir Square. On Sunday, an official announcement declared Morsy the winner and the tension that had been brewing in the crowds all week quickly transformed into euphoria.

Photographer Daniel Berehulak documented the activity in Cairo in both the lead-up to the announcement and the ensuing celebrations. He described the frustration he observed while the public anxiously awaited an outcome, saying, “There was anger in the street, people were arguing on corners.”

As the results were announced on Sunday crowds packed into Tahrir, spilling out onto surrounding bridges. “People were jammed,” said Berehulak. “They were lining up to get into Tahrir to get a piece of it, to get a taste of freedom and a resolution to the revolution.”

Elated Morsy supporters set off fireworks and flares and the roar of trumpets and chants filled the air. Overwhelmed by both emotion and sweltering heat, several members of the crowd fainted and had to be carried to nearby ambulances.

Taking photographs was a challenge for Berehulak who struggled to find enough space to hold his camera up in the dense and excited crowd. “They were just embracing us,” he says. “It was so overwhelming, but it was so beautiful.”

Daniel Berehulak is a photographer based in New Delhi. See more of his work here.

Read more about Mohamed Morsy’s election on TIME.com.

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Egypt recently carried out its first democratic presidential election in the country’s history. But five days after the vote, the question of who won remains a matter of contention. The contest pitted a former military man who had served in the regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak against a leader of the regime’s longtime foes, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Most observers believe the most votes went to Mohamed Morsy, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). The party claims a 1.2 million vote lead over Ahmed Shafik, the former military man and Mubarak prime minister. Shafik, however, says he has 500,000 more votes than Morsy. And with the official results still pending, the tension is rising as Egyptians wait to find out which candidate—if any—is telling the truth.

The presence of Egypt’s decidedly undemocratic military in its fledgling democratic process has only added to the atmosphere of uncertainty. Shortly after the polls closed on Sunday night, the junta, which has ruled Egypt since Mubarak stepped down, issued a decree that served to dramatically limit the powers of the incoming president. Just a few days before, the country’s constitutional court had moved to dissolve Egypt’s first democratically elected parliament—which had been dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. And analysts say this latest decree seems tailor made to limit the impact of a Brotherhood win at the polls.

The Islamists have reacted to the pressure with a show of popular force; taking to Cairo’s Tahrir Square every night since, as the country awaits the electoral outcome. So far, the demonstrations have been largely symbolic. But they could turn violent if Shafik is declared the winner—an outcome that the Islamists have already said would be the product of electoral fraud.

Abigail Hauslohner is TIME’s Cairo correspondent.

Yuri Kozyrev is a contract photographer for TIME and was named the 2011 Photographer of the Year in the Pictures of the Year International competition.

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