Tag Archives: Dignity

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.



Guy Tremblay

We are judgemental people. It’s human nature to assume things, to form opinions about the people we don’t know. Canadian photographer, Guy Tremblay, is looking at this phenomenon with his series, Ton visage me dit quelque chose (Your face tells (reveals) me something) . Revisiting an idea he had in 2003, he asked social workers that deal with the homeless and the addicted, to bring one of their “clients” to the shoot. It is up to the viewer to decide which one is the social worker, and which one is the client.

Marie-Michèle

Guy has been involved with photography for almost thirty years, not only in creating work, but he organized the Mois de la Photo à St-Camille for the past seven years. He also teaches photography to teenagers on a volunteer basis in collaboration with different organizations. He has received grants from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Quebec, in addition to many solo and group exhibitions. His photographs are held in public and private collections in Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia.

In Ton visage me dit quelque chose, all the social workers from Sherbrooke, PQ were photographed. I asked them to bring along one of their clients for the photo shooting. One of the goals of that series was to demystify the reality of the street, to get away from the usual cliché. I wanted to put the subject in a neutral context without the reference to the street. This way, it became pretty hard to categorize them. I usually ask the people not to smile when I make their portrait. But this time I let them loose, I wanted to get true feeling not an artificial image. I wanted them to be themself with dignity and not to show them as miserable or with problems.

Annie

In 2003 I made a similar series « un trentième de seconde » (On third of a second). The former series was all made outside in a disaffected area ( An easy to find meeting point downtown Sherbrooke). For the new series, I decided to use a makeshift studio that was mounted for each meeting in the office of the street workers (Coalition Sherbrookoise pour le travail de rue) right downtown. By using this setup, I also wanted to pay a tribute to Irving Penn who was a major inspiration to me.

Daniel

All the portraits were made with a medium format camera and they are silver gelatine prints, selenium toned to respect Mr. Penn’s spirit. Few years ago, Mr. Penn personally encouraged me to continue in that direction.

Émily, Jessica and Sharlie

Erick

Geneviève

Mathieu and Akiam

Michaël

Michel M.

Michel P.

Milène

Rémi

Roch-Henri

Sophie

Sylvain

Waste Land by Vik Muniz

Ordinarily I don’t feature movies on Lenscratch, but after watching Wasteland recently (on Netflix), is am moved to broadcast the importance of this film. Artist Vik Muniz shows us what the power of humanity and art can create, and how it can change lives. Wasteland was nominated for an Academy Award, and a long roster of other awards including the Sundance Audience Award for Best World Cinema Documentary.

Filmed over nearly three years, WASTE LAND follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world’s largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. There he photographs an eclectic band of “catadores”—self-designated pickers of recyclable materials. Muniz’s initial objective was to “paint” the catadores with garbage. However, his collaboration with these inspiring characters as they recreate photographic images of themselves out of garbage reveals both the dignity and despair of the catadores as they begin to re-imagine their lives.

Favorite Shoots with Elisabeth Biondi

The New Yorker has a wonderful series of images by a number of photographers that discuss their relationship with Elisabeth Biondi, who has been the photo editor at The New Yorker since 1996, soon after the magazine started to use photography, until his recent departure.

“A photograph is an entity. You don’t crop it, you don’t butcher it, you don’t plaster text over it, you treat it with dignity.”

Photograph by Robert Polidori, from “Gorgeous George,” in the issue of March 26th, 2001.

The execution of this photograph permanently changed my working methodology. To be honest, the subject—a temporary lighting treatment on the George Washington Bridge—is something I would never have contemplated shooting on my own. Probably sensing this, Elisabeth got me involved in a conversation in which we both described our mental projections of what the resulting photograph should look like. By the end of our office session I had actually penciled in a crude drawing of the shot that I was to seek.-Robert Polidori (Read more).


Elisabeth Biondi by Elizabeth Avedon | La Lettre de la Photographie

LCD TVs .

Elisabeth Biondi in her Condé Nast office – photograph by Enrico Bossan

“A photograph is an entity. You don’t crop it, you don’t butcher it, you don’t plaster text over it, you treat it with dignity.”

Read the full interview at La Lettre de la Photographie