TIME Behind the Photos

The Story Behind the Photo of Shaimaa al-Sabbagh’s Dying Moments

Egyptian photographer Islam Osama captured the moment Shaimaa al-Sabbagh was killed during peaceful protests in Cairo on Jan. 24

In the week since her death, Shaimaa al-Sabbagh has become a symbol against Egypt’s military rule.

The leading member of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party died on Jan. 24 after suffering shotgun pellet injuries while peacefully marching to commemorate the hundreds of demonstrators killed during the Arab Spring uprising of 2011.

Egyptian photographer Islam Osama, 23, captured her dying moments. His powerful portrait of Sayyed Abu el-Ela holding the severely injured protestor has drawn international attention, taking on an iconic status similar to the footage of Neda Agha-Soltan’s dying breath during the 2009 Iranian protests.

Osama, a photojournalist with the Egyptian Youm El Sabea newspaper, was covering a press conference in Cairo when he heard about the Socialist Popular Alliance Party’s march, and headed over to cover it. “It was an ordinary day,” Osama told TIME. “We didn’t expect any clashes or violence from the police. The streets were almost empty.”

The march was on one side of a street leading to the iconic Tahrir Square, and the police stood on the other side. “[There were] only 25 people, and the demonstration only lasted two minutes,” Osama said. “Suddenly, without any warning, the dispersal began with the shooting of teargas and birdshot [pellets].”

Osama believes the police didn’t purposefully target Al-Sabbagh. “[They] fired in the general direction of the march.” The photographer, who was behind Al-Sabbagh when she was hit, saw her fall to the ground. He took six photos in a sequence.

At first, Osama didn’t realize he had captured such a powerful image. “The most important thing in that moment was Shaimaa herself,” he said. “I realized immediately that I had to leave. I had to send the photos to the newspaper, fast. If I waited a moment too long there was a chance that my camera could be taken and the memory card erased by the police.”

Using a USB data dongle and his laptop, he uploaded the photographs to his editor at Youm El Sabea. “From a human perspective, [my editor] had a strong emotional reaction to the image,” which has dominated the paper’s coverage since the incident.

Osama never expected to see his photograph make international headlines. “It was a big surprise,” he said. “I didn’t expect this kind of reaction. When I see this, of course I feel proud. But the most important thing is that I was able to bring Shaimaa’s message to the world… As a photographer, it’s my job to transmit this reality to the world.”

And, the current political situation in Egypt hasn’t made his job easy. “Photojournalists [here] are not safe. If you carry a camera in the street, you’re a target. People consider anyone with a camera [to be] with Al Jazeera, the Muslim Brotherhood, or a traitor to the nation.”

For Osama, his job is not to take sides, he said. “I’m not against the police. I’ve photographed policemen who [were] injured and killed, who [were] targeted by terrorism. My photos show reality.”

Interview by Jared Malsin in Cairo

TIME On Our Radar

A Personal Exploration of Egypt’s Turbulent Years

Laura El-Tantawy's photobook In the Shadows of the Pyramids is out now

Laura El-Tantawy’s newest book, In the Shadow of the Pyramids, might appear to be a straight-up exploration of the 2011 Egyptian revolution, but when asked to describe the project, she finds it easier to explain what it’s not about.

“It’s not a book about Egypt,” she tells TIME. “It’s a personal exploration; dark, chaotic, sentimental and passionate. It’s not informational or educational [either]. It is a factual book that explores a place of personal significance through imagery that is predominantly impressionistic.”

El-Tantawy — who grew up in Cairo but left with her family in 1998 — has spent most of her life outside the country. But in 2011, when the revolution began, she felt a deep urge to return, to both document what was happening, and to explore her own relationship with its people and culture.

This book, she says, expresses the conflict she experienced in trying to establish a sense of belonging in a place that was going through massive political upheaval, and one that she had been absent from for many years. “The juxtaposition of past and present is key,” she continues, nodding to a series of self-penned, diary-like recollections that pepper the work, “since these memories have been my strongest tie to Egypt.”

She hopes readers will gain insight into the inner workings of her mind through a project that reveals fragilities she would normally keep secret. “I couldn’t compromise the honesty of the book by hiding,” she adds. “The book is an experience, the images guide you through it and the text punctuates it. It is edited to look like it is all happening in one night,” El-Tantawy says. “Peace and tranquility by day turning to chaos and darkness [like] something really nasty is happening. Then a new day begins.”

In the Shadow of the Pyramids will have a relatively small print run (just 500 copies) because she says it is a special, and very personal, project. “There is attention to the finest details and it all fulfills the delicate and personal nature of the work,” she adds. “I see this book appealing to book collectors, art lovers, people with a specific interest in Egypt.” She is also keen to produce an alternative and cheaper version of the book for an Egyptian audience.

“I decided to go at it alone,” she adds, speaking about her decision to self-publish. “I did all the work and invested all the money to make sure I produce a beautifully realized book. I made sure to work with the best in the business, from design (SYB), to the lithography (Colour & Books), printing (Jos Morree) and binding (Handboekbinderj Geertsen). At the start of the process I had cold feet because I was terrified of failure since this is my first book. The response I received based on the dummy version was impressive and this made making hard decisions easy,” she says.

Her advice to photographers who may be thinking of self-publishing? “The most important is being confident in what you want and having a good reason to make a book to start with. This allows you to make brave decisions. The work never stops. [So] I made sure to surround myself by people who knew much more about book making than I ever will.”

And the potential payback for all the hard work, for both El-Tantawy and other self-publishers? “The book gives me a sense of personal closure,” she says. “I feel released and now I can move on.”

Laura El-Tantawy is an Egyptian photographer. Her book In the Shadow of the Pyramids is available for order now.

TIME celebrities

Demonstrators Picket Bill Cosby’s Performance in Canada

Canada Cosby Shows
Protesters stand against doors at the entrance to the Centre in the Square theater in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada on Jan. 7, 2015 to protest Bill Cosby. Hannah Yoon — AP

His show took place uninterrupted, however

More than a dozen demonstrators weathered subzero temperatures to protest Bill Cosby’s appearance in Kitchener, Canada on Wednesday night with signs deriding the comedian and chants aimed at fans attending his performance.

Inside the venue, Cosby took the stage donning a sweater that read “hello friend” and greeted the crowd with a “thank you” before beginning his routine with remarks about the cold weather, according to the Associated Press. No disruptions were reported during Cosby’s routine.

The iconic comedian has been immersed in a firestorm of allegations from at least 15 women who claim he sexually assaulted them in the past. Cosby has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Earlier this week, three women, who claim to have been assaulted by Cosby, filed a defamation lawsuit against the comedian, after he publicly described them as liars.


TIME Germany

German Politicians, Celebrities Denounce ‘Islamization’ Protests

80 public figures say "Nein" to nationalist protests

A petition backed by 80 public figures in Germany slammed the “hollow prejudices” of Pegida, a protest movement that has organized a series of demonstrations against the “Islamization of the West.”

The petition was published in the Tuesday edition of the Bild, a German Daily. Its authors slammed Pegida, saying the movement “appeals to hollow prejudices, xenophobia and intolerance,” the BBC reports.

“A look at our past and economic sense tells us Germany should not spurn refugees and asylum-seekers,” said the petition, which was organized by former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and signed by prominent actors, politicians and athletes.

The statement comes after rival rallies broke out across Germany on Monday evening, with an estimated 18,000 Pegida supporters gathering in Dresden and thousands of counter protesters rallying in Berlin.

TIME Germany

Counter-Protesters Rally in Germany Against Anti-Islam Movement

BERLIN, GERMANY - JANUARY 05 :  A man holds a placard reading "We all say, stop the hate against Islam" during a protest against Pegida (Patriotische Europaeer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes) movement in Berlin, Germany on January 05, 2015.  (Photo by Cuneyt Karadag/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A man holds a placard reading "We all say, stop the hate against Islam" during a protest against Pegida movement in Berlin, Germany on January 05, 2015. Cuneyt Karadag—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Germans in four cities gathered by the thousands to oppose anti-Islam demonstrations

Thousands of protesters rallied across four cities in Germany on Monday to denounce a recent wave of demonstrations by nationalist parties against immigration and the “Islamization of the West.”

The counter protest movement was expected to draw a crowd of 10,000 in Berlin and several thousand more in Dresden, Stuttgart and Cologne, the Associated Press reports.

Protest organizers said they would endorse a message of tolerance and urge Germans to reject the nationalist ideology of a movement that has united under the name Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, or PEGIDA.

“You’re taking part in an action that, from its roots and also from speeches, one can see is Nazi-ist, racist and extremist,” the provost of Cologne’s famous cathedral, Norbert Feldhoff, told AP. Churches and city hall in the cities agreed to darken their lights in solidarity with the counter protest.


TIME Crime

Ezell Ford Had ‘Muzzle Imprint’ After Fatal Police Shooting

LAPD Releases Autopsy Report On Police Shooting Of Mentally-Ill Man
Activists look at a mural of Ezell Ford, a 25-year-old mentally ill black man at the site where he was shot and killed by two LAPD officers in August on Dec. 29, 2014 in Los Angeles. David McNew—Getty Images

Autopsy report on Los Angeles man's death released Monday

A mentally ill man who died in a summer police shooting in South Los Angeles was shot three times, including once at very close range, according to an autopsy report released Monday.

The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of Ezell Ford on Aug. 11, two days after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., sparked nationwide police protests.

Authorities claim that Ford, 25, was involved in an altercation with two officers and was shot as he struggled with them and attempted to reach for one of their weapons. But, the Los Angeles Times reports, a family friend who saw part of the encounter alleges there was no struggle. Ford was shot once in the right side, once in the right arm and once in the back. The latter wound showed signs of a “muzzle imprint,” the report details, suggesting the gun was fired at a very close range.

Police had asked the coroner’s office to withhold the report, claiming it could influence statements by witnesses in the ongoing case, but Mayor Eric Garcetti called for it to be released earlier this month. Ford’s family has filed a wrongful-death suit against the police department.

TIME portfolio

Bulent Kilic: TIME Picks the Best Wire Photographer of 2014

Amidst a turbulent year, Bulent Kilic's photographs have consistently grabbed the attention of editors and viewers around the world

Wire photographers often work in the shadows — their names frequently overlooked in favor of their agencies’ monikers, from Agence France-Presse to Associated Press, Getty Images to Reuters, and many others.

For the past five years, TIME has turned the spotlight on these men and women who put everything on the line to bring us the news, to document what might otherwise go unseen. Their images have adorned the front pages of newspapers and covers of magazines around the world. Among these photographers, a handful of names repeatedly emerge from the fray.

Getty’s John Moore proved, once again, that he remains one of the best wire photographers out there, producing some of the most heart-wrenching and iconic images of this year’s Ebola outbreak in West Africa, where about 7,000 people have died. Oliver Weiken of European Pressphoto Agency (EPA) made a name for himself as well, documenting, early on, the African refugee crisis in Israel. In the summer, he made the long walk into Gaza — his third visit since October 2012 — where he produced an impressive series of images depicting the scale of the destruction in the coastal enclave during the seven-week war between Palestinian militant groups and Israel’s defense forces.

There’s no doubt we’ll see more of Moore and Weiken in 2015, but, when it comes to 2014, the year without a doubt belonged to AFP photographer Bulent Kilic.

The 35-year-old Turkish photographer, who joined the agency in 2003, systematically found himself at the heart of the news in Ukraine and Turkey all year. His striking, vivid and memorable images have captured the attention of photo editors across the planet, especially in October when he caught the exact moment when militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) were the target of an air strike near the contested Syrian town of Kobani.

For the last two months, however, Kilic has kept a low profile, working in Istanbul on local stories. “I was exhausted,” he says. “When I was covering the clashes in Kobani on the Syrian border, I would be driving every day, leaving the hotel at 5 a.m. and only coming back late at night.” That’s not the most ideal situation for a married photographer of an infant boy. “When you go on an assignment for many weeks or even months at a time, you have to find time to stay at home,” says the married photographer, who became the father of a boy this year.

Kilic’s busy year started in Ukraine where the pro-European protests took a turn for the worse in January and February. “I was sitting at home with my family, watching the television when I saw all of this black smoke in Kiev,” he says. “The photos [coming out of Ukraine] looked incredible.”

He asked his editors in Paris to go. “When I arrived in Kiev, the demonstrations were in their third month. It was still ongoing. I expected the situation to take a long time to develop.” Just hours later, Independence Square (known as Euromaidan), which had been overtaken by protesters, was a war zone, with pro-government forces firing on the crowd.

Bulent Kilic TIME 2014 Wire Photographer of the Year
Bulent Kilic (center), TIME’s 2014 Wire Photographer of the Year, in Turkey. Yasin Akgul

There’s no doubt in Kilic’s mind: his work in Ukraine stands out as one the best assignments he’s ever had. “You could just feel the emotions of thousands of people around you,” he says. “It felt good. The demonstrators were singing and chanting and I was there with them.”

But not everything went smoothly. Kilic had never been to Ukraine before, and he didn’t know how people would react to his work, especially when protesters started dying at the hand of pro-government snipers. “In the Arab world, people let you photograph people who have just been shot,” he says. “In Ukraine, I didn’t know what people would do.” So, he tried. “I saw this man die in front of me. I tried to photograph him, but his friends didn’t let me. They don’t like this kind of images.”

After a month in Ukraine, Kilic flew back to Istanbul, thinking he would be able to take a few days off. That’s when 15-year-old Berkin Elvan, who had been in a coma after being hit by a gas canister in the June 2013 street protests, died. “I felt that I needed to shoot this situation,” he says. “It was my responsibility, and I didn’t ask for any time off and just went to photograph the boy’s funeral.”

Over the following months, his images were again on front pages worldwide when 301 people died in the explosion and resulting fire at the Soma coal mine in Manisa, Turkey. “This was one of the biggest tragedies in Turkish history,” says Kilic. “I was there before other media organizations, and that’s when I took this picture of a man [kissing his son] when he came out of the mine. This was a very important photograph for me.”

Working around the mine wasn’t easy, though. “Some miners and their families were attacking the press,” he says. “You have to understand, their children, their husbands were trapped in the mine.” Kilic was targeted twice, necessitating police intervention to calm the crowd. But the photographer was unfazed. “You have to find a way to continue working,” he says. “You have to control the situation, but you shouldn’t stop.”

And Kilic never stopped working. On Sept. 15, he was driving home after a soccer game when an unexpected message came on the radio. “I heard a call for all Kurdish people to go to the border with Syria to save Kobani. I thought it wasn’t normal, and I felt something unusual was going on.”

He called his editors, booked his plane ticket to the region and the next day, he was on a Turkish hill in Yumurtalik overlooking Kobani, offering a direct view of the fighting between Kurdish forces and ISIS. “I thought this was going to be a very big story.” He wasn’t wrong. On Oct. 23, as Kilic learned that militants had planted their flag atop another hill, he rushed to find a villager that would allow him on the roof of their houses. “It was getting dark, and that’s when the bomb dropped.” Using a 400mm lens with a 1.7 converter, Kilic captured a series of four frames that showed the jaw-dropping explosion. The image has since appeared in most media organizations’ selections of the best photos of the year – including TIME’s Top 100.

“A lot of people ask me if it was easy to see these people killed in front of me. They ask me if I felt something,” says Kilic. “It wasn’t easy. But this is war, and these people are also killing other people. Sometimes, you can’t really feel anything. Sometimes, you don’t want to talk about it.”

Speaking matter-of-factly, “this is my life,” he says. “I chose this many years ago, and I’m still [learning] and trying to find my style. I’m a student of Yuri Kozyrev, James Nachtwey, Josef Koudelka, Robert Capa and Larry Burrows. I’ve been watching their work for many years to get a stronger vision. I can’t say that I’ve found it, but it’s starting to feel right.”

And with the support of his family — “they know I like this life and this job, and they respect it,” — and from AFP, Kilic is looking forward to 2015. “I don’t know where I’ll be going next. Maybe I’ll be back in Ukraine. But one thing I’ve learned in this job is that you have to be ready at all times.”

Bulent Kilic is a photographer with Agence France-Presse. He is TIME’s Wire Photographer of 2014. Previous winners include Muhammed Muheisen in 2013, Marco Longari in 2012, Pete Muller in 2011, and Mauricio Lima in 2010.

Phil Bicker, who edited this photo essay, is a Senior Photo Editor at TIME.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

TIME Civil Rights

NYPD Cancels Holiday Parties as Protests Continue

Protesters Stage Nationwide Marches In Wake Of Recent Grand Jury Decisions
NYPD officers stand guard during the National March Against Police Violence, which was organized by National Action Network, at One Police Plaza on December 13, 2014 in New York City. Kena Betancur—Getty Images

Protest leaders are meeting with the Mayor on Friday.

New York City police are canceling or postponing their holiday parties as protests over the death of Eric Garner become almost a nightly occurrence.

DNAinfo New York, a local news source, reports that police precincts don’t want to risk taking officers off the streets as the protests continue across the city two weeks after a grand jury decided not to indict a police officer in Garner’s death.

At least two thirds of the precincts had canceled their festivities, which the police pay for themselves, according to DNAinfo. Some will be rescheduled for January — if the protests have subsided by then.


TIME Crime

This Time-Lapse Shows the Massive Turnout for New York’s March Against Police Violence

25,000 people were estimated to attend the march on Saturday

Thousands of people took to the streets of New York City on Saturday to demonstrate against police violence in the wake of several deadly confrontations this year between officers and unarmed black citizens. This time-lapse video, made at the intersection of Sixth Avenue and 29th Street in Manhattan, shows demonstrators marching over a 90-minute period. Authorities estimated that more than 25,000 people marched in New York on Saturday, police told the New York Times, while thousands more held a similar protest in Washington, D.C.

TIME Crime

See an Undercover Cop Draw His Gun on Protesters in Oakland

An undercover police officer, who had been marching with anti-police demonstrators, aims his gun at protesters after some in the crowd attacked him and his partner in Oakland
An undercover police officer aims his gun at protesters after some in the crowd attacked him and his partner in Oakland, Calif. on Dec. 10, 2014. Noah Berger—Reuters

Police said more than 100 demonstrators marched through Oakland and Berkeley, which has a history of social activism

An undercover police officer, who had been marching with demonstrators, aims his gun at protesters after some in the crowd attacked him and his partner in Oakland, California on Wednesday.

Police said more than 100 demonstrators marched through Oakland and Berkeley, which has a history of social activism, to protest grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers in the deaths of two unarmed black men. Under cloudy skies, turnout was smaller than earlier in the week, when demonstrators in the area threw rocks at police and shut down a major freeway…

Read the story from our partners at NBC News

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