Tag Archives: Committee To Protect Journalists

Syria’s Agony: The Photographs That Moved Them Most

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.



Tim Hetherington Installation and Video on View

 

 

Installation shot of Sleeping Soliders by Tim Hetherington. Image taken with SONY a33 DLSR Camera and Lens, generously donated by Sony USA

In remembrance of Tim Hetherington, photographer, reporter, and filmmaker, Aperture is honored to present his Sleeping Soldiers video installation and his Diary video, from Wednesday, May 25 through Thursday, June 23.

Tim Hetherington was killed in Misurata, Libya, on April 20, 2011, during an attack by pro-Qaddafi forces on the rebel-held town. His funeral took place in London on May 13 and in New York, May 24.

Sleeping Soldiers (5 minutes, 2009) is an immersive video essay, shot at the same time as the film Restrepo, featuring soldiers of a U.S. Airborne Infantry platoon based in the Korengal Valley of Eastern Afghanistan, in combat, and asleep. The original three-screen installation was first shown in New York in 2009 at the New York Photo Festival, in an exhibition curated by Jon Levy.

Diary (19 minutes, 2010) is a highly personal and experimental film that expresses the subjective experience of Hetherington’s working life, and was made as an attempt to find himself after ten years of reporting. It’s a kaleidoscope of images that link our Western reality to the seemingly distant worlds we see in the media.

Both videos were shot and directed by Tim Hetherington, with editing and sound design by Magali Charrier.

Hetherington’s family and friends have suggested that donations in his memory be made to the three charities that Tim felt most strongly about: Human Rights Watch, the independent organization dedicated to defending and protecting human rights, for which he worked regularly; Committee to Protect Journalists; and Milton Margai School for the Blind in Sierra Leone, where Hetherington photographed and worked with students, who had been intentionally blinded by the Revolutionary United Force. Donations to these charities will be accepted at Aperture during the screening of his videos.

Tim Hetherington was born in Liverpool, UK, in 1970. He studied literature at Oxford University and later returned to college to study photojournalism. He lived in New York and was a contributing photographer for Vanity Fair magazine. He was known for creating diverse forms of visual communication and his work has ranged from multiscreen installations, to fly-poster exhibitions, to handheld device downloads. Known for his long-term documentary work, Hetherington lived and worked in West Africa for eight years and reported on social and political issues worldwide.

As a filmmaker, he worked as both a cameraman and director/producer. He was a cameraman on Liberia: An Uncivil War (2004) and The Devil Came on Horseback (2007), and his directorial debut, Restrepo (codirected with Sebastian Junger), was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and shortlisted for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, in 2011.

He authored and published two books of photographs: Long Story Bit by Bit: Liberia Retold (Umbrage Editions, 2009), and Infidel (Chris Boot, 2010).

He was the recipient of numerous awards, including a Fellowship from the National Endowment for Science, Technology, and the Arts (2000–2004), a Hasselblad Foundation grant (2002), four World Press Photo prizes, including the World Press Photo of the Year 2007, the Rory Peck Award for Features (2008), and an Alfred I. duPont award (2009).