Tag Archives: Hometowns

Syria Under Siege: Photographs by Alessio Romenzi

Syria is a country with two clashing armies. On one side is President Bashar Assad and his more than 200,000 men, tanks, mortars and weapons from Russia. Opposing them is a phenomenon called the Free Syrian Army, a loose franchise of lightly armed military defectors and, in some areas, civilians, who are waging a growing number of guerrilla campaigns in their hometowns and cities. The FSA fighters count on weapons that enter clandestinely from Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq. Every Syrian man who flees across the border is “FSA in waiting,” according to a human-rights activist in Jordan, where Kalashnikovs have been going for about $1,600. Most of the men go back into Syria as soon as they secure a weapon, he says.

Back in their homeland, they face a regime that is out to annihilate all who oppose it. Photographer Alessio Romenzi was among the enemies of the Assad government, with fighters of the Free Syrian Army and people of Bab Amr, a rebellious district in the besieged city of Homs. On assignment for TIME, he took shelter with locals in a basement of a home in Bab Amr. There, no one dares to step outside or even venture upstairs for fear of government shells crashing onto them. Bodies have been dragged into homes from the streets so they will not rot out in the open. It is too dangerous to hold funerals. Romenzi counted 25 civilian fatalities in just two hours of bombardment in the area. As he wrote in an e-mail, “The word ‘safe’ is not in our dictionary these days.”

Romenzi is a freelance photographer based in Italy. You can see more of his work here.

Abouzeid is a Middle East correspondent for TIME. Follow her on Twitter at @raniaab.

Colombo Art Biennale 2012 audio podcast with festival founder and director Annoushka Hempel

With just 12 days to go till the Colombo Art Biennale (CAB) opens – from 15-19 February – the Roaming Eye (tRE) caught up with CAB  festival founder and director Annoushka Hempel to find out more ahead of the opening.

Annoushka kindly spared 30 mins to talk to Hotshoe Blog about how the festival started in post-conflict Sri Lanka, its aims, the type of works on show, funding, the theme ‘Becoming’, and future developments and hopes. The festival takes place across three sites Park Street Mews, JDA Perera Gallery and the National Art Gallery.

The audio is just under 30 mins long and it’s really worth listening to every second. So, why not tune in while you cook, clean or just sit back and listen.

Click on the link below – it goes lime green – then follow it the podcast named CAB Annoushka Hempel_Audio1 and click again for it to load. Enjoy.

Colombo Art Biennale 2012 interview with Annoushka Hempel

For those who like visuals, watch this video I am  (1m 59s) – a multimedia exploration of identity through the lives of Sri Lankan elders. It reflects on the question: Was there a time when Sri Lankans didn’t describe themselves as Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim or Burgher? and is a journey seeking a generation who identified themselves based on kith and kin, livelihoods and hometowns as they did in times of lore and in so doing it sheds light on questions about identity and experiences of conflict.

Kannan Arunasalam’s journey took him to Jaffna, Kandy and Galle, where he visited churches, kovils, temples and mosques and was welcomed into people’s homes and workplaces. He met and photographed elders; many wise men and women who trusted him with their life stories.

Also here’s another video snippet (1m 13s) with Nigel Sense (Australia) – one of the featured artists at the Colombo Art Biennale 2012.

Filed under: Art Fairs & Biennales, Podcasts, short films Tagged: Annoushka Hempel, art biennale, Australia, Colombo Art Biennale 2012, Kannan Arunasalam, Miranda Gavin, Nigel Sense, Sri Lanka

Sleepless Nights in Paris’ Red Light District

In 1959, Swedish-born photographer Christer Strömholm moved to the Parisian neighborhood of Pigalle. There, during the darkest hours of the night, he would comb the streets, not as a voyeur, but as a participant of the night’s activities. In time he would meet and form intimate relationships with the transsexuals of Place Blanche. At that time, France was ruled by General Charles de Gaulle, the man who led the Free French Forces during World War II, and his wife Yvonne, who were both devout Roman Catholics. Tante Yvonne (Aunt Yvonne), as she was known to the general public, held old-fashioned conservative views that created a puritanical atmosphere. As a result, Strömholm’s “friends of Place Blanche” found solace in each other, most having escaped a life of misconception. These friends, biologically born as men, were forced to flee their hometowns in search of a place where they could be at ease with themselves.

But life in Paris was just as difficult. It is a widespread belief that it was Aunt Yvonne’s influence on her husband that brought forth the reinstatement in of a 330-year-old draconian law that punished landlords who allowed prostitutes to work on their premise with the forfeiture of their property. There was no social security in Paris nor any chance of getting hired if the name on a person’s identification card did not match his appearance. Without the help of society, these ladies of the night had little choice but to sell their bodies in hopes of earning enough money to make it to the hospitals of Casablanca where they could physically be transformed into women.

The photographs in Les Amies de Place Blanche, a new re-edited version of the original book published in 1983, demonstrate the photographer’s compassion for these women and the intimate friendships he developed during the time he lived in Paris’ red light district. They do not reflect the cruelty that these women endured, perhaps because in their own world, life was that much brighter and hopeful. After spending all night working the street corners, Strömholm and his friends would gather at the brasserie on the place Blanche and order hot chocolate and walk quietly back to their hotel rooms. The next day Cobra, his next-door neighbor at Hotel Chappe, would knock on the wall to announce that coffee was ready just as dusk was breaking. Crumbs would fall into the creases of the sheets as they shared their thoughts in bed.

Christer Strömholm—Agence VU—Aurora Photos

Christer with Panama, 1968

Living side by side with these women, Strömholm perfected taking photographs at night. As these women got ready for work, so too did the photographer. With his Leica, Tri-X films and a pipe in his hand, he would walk down the boulevard from place Pigalle to place Blanche ready to capture fleeting moments of beauty.

Les Amies de Place Blanche, will be published by Dewi Lewis in the United Kingdom this February, and in the United States this March.