Tag Archives: Critical Component

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.

Critical Mass: Susan Worsham

Looking at portfolios from Critical Mass 2011…

I am a long time fan of Susan Worsham’s photographs. Her color palette, her ability to combine still life and portraiture, and her quiet realism of things past and present always feel genuine and true. Of the many artist’s statements (200) that I read for the Critical Mass jury process, hers was the one that stood out to me. A statement is a critical component to a photographer’s project, and Susan’s sets a tone, tells a story, draws us in, and makes us realize we are all here, but for the Grace of God.

By the Grace of God: Growing up in Virginia, my childhood field trips were to cigarette factories and civil war battlegrounds, with a brown bag lunch in tow. As a young girl I could often be found holding a dixie cup full of Kool-Aid powder, with a few drops of water, making a sweet sugary paste for finger dipping. My childhood travels were spent wandering different neighborhoods on my Schwinn, and knocking on strangers’ doors with those same sticky fingers. I can remember one such house, where I knocked on the door to ask if I could jump on the trampoline in the front yard. It was the Gibson Girls’ trampoline, the descendants of Charles Dana Gibson, the famous illustrator. He drew the ideal woman of the early 1900’s, coined the Gibson Girl. I became a constant bouncing fixture on their lawn.


This series takes me beyond the backyards and trails of my youth. It deals with the hospitality of strangers, and hits on a feeling that I have sometimes when taking portraits. The feeling that I was supposed to meet a particular person, or turn down a certain road. The title is taken from the old saying “American By Birth, Southern By The Grace Of God”. The images are made up of the places, and characters, that I believe, I have found through a sort of divine intervention. They are strangers, that invite me into their homes, to sit awhile and hear their stories. Characters that are real, and not imagined by the literary greats of the south.

Family, Fourth Of July, Syracuse, NY

Golden Silver

Casket Storage, Va

Man With Snake, Syracuse, NY

Wild Plums

Used Car Lot Holy Bible

Church Storage, Va

Woman In Shed, Syracuse, NY

Destiny, Grandmother’s Roses, Va.