Tag Archives: Syrian City

Interviews and Talks | November 2012

Photojournalism_Links

Video of Steve McCurry shooting the Pirelli calendar…

Steve McCurry  : Pirelli Calendar 2013 behing the scenes video (Telegraph) ‘The world’s most beautiful women, including Karlie Kloss, Petra Nemcova and a heavily pregnant Adriana Lima, cover up for photojournalist Steve McCurry’s Pirelli Calendar.’

Steve McCurry’s Iconic Photographs #1 (Phaidon)

Steve McCurry’s Iconic Photographs #2 (Phaidon)

Steve McCurry (Art Space)

Steve McCurry  (YouTube) ‘Steve McCurry shares his expertise and opinions on shooting documentary photography’

Tyler Hicks on working in Gaza.

Photo © Tyler Hicks

Tyler Hicks : Working in Gaza (NYT Lens) ‘A Responsibility to Photograph, and Remember’

Bernat Armangué : The war in Gaza: photographing the conflict (Guardian) ‘Associated Press photographer Bernat Armangué tells the story behind some of his images that have featured on front pages around the world in the last week’

Don McCullin trying out Canon gear in this 27 minute video on the CPN site.

Don McCullin (CPN)  “The love affair I’ve had with photography has been total commitment and I’ve not taken any short cuts to do it.”

Don McCullin : The Art of Seeing (Guardian) ‘For the veteran war photographer, emotional awareness is the most important aspect of photography’

Don McCullin Reflects on a Career of Chasing Haunting Images (PetaPixel)

Barbara Davidson (PhotoShelter Vimeo) Luminance 2012

Photographers and NGOs : When Interest Creates a Conflict (NYT Lens) ‘Ethical Questions Raised by Photographing for NGOs’

Sebastiano Tomada Piccolomini (Al Jazeera) ‘Scenes from a Syrian city under siege : An audio slideshow from Aleppo by a photographer who spent two harrowing weeks dodging bullets to cover the conflict.’

Crosses mark a field where the bodies of murdered women were dumped in Ciudad Juarez during the 1990s. (Eros Hoagland)

Conflict Photographer Eros Hoagland on His Dangerous Craft (Daily Beast)

Michael Christopher Brown (New Yorker Photo Booth) HBOs Witness: Libya

Photographers Amid Chaos (NYT) On HBOs Witness series

Miguel Medina : Up close and personal with the Syrian rebels (AFP Correspondent blog)

Massoud Hossaini (scmp.com) ‘What’s behind a Pulitzer Prize winning photo?’

Tomas van Houtryve (Oslo Freedom Forum)

Ashley Gilbertson and Ed Kashi (smdlr)

Robin Hammond on his Zimbabwe work.

Photo © Robin Hammond

Robin Hammond (RFI English)

Robin Hammond (Arte TV) NB in French

Old John G Morris interview on C-Span.

John G Morris (C-Span)

I don’t have an iPad, so haven’t experienced using Reuters’ The Wider Image app, but it does look very nice..

Reuters’ Jassim Ahmad on ‘The Wider Image’ photography app (CPN)

Lisa Wiltse (PDN) ‘Breakout Photo Essay of the Year: Lisa Wiltse’s Charcoal Kids of Ulingan’

Scout Tufankjian on the photo of the Obamas hugging which went viral after the Obama campaign tweeted on the election night…

Photo © Scout Tufankjian for Obama for America

Scout Tufankjian, the photographer of the ‘Most-Liked Photograph of All Time’ (Slate)

Laura Olin :  The Photo the Obama Campaign Almost Used for Its Victory Tweet (Slate) ‘How did the Obama campaign decide to use that photo of Barack and Michelle Obama hugging to accompany its victory tweet? The photo that became the most-retweeted, most liked photo in social media history? Campaign social media honcho Laura Olin filled Slate in by email on the gametime decision—and showed us the photo that almost made the cut.’

Damon Winter on photographing Obama in 2008 and 2012 (NYT) ‘A Face More Careworn, a Crowd Less Joyful’

Fascinating video of Stephen Wilkes talking about his Day to Night project…

Coney Island. Photograph © Stephen Wilkes

Stephen Wilkes and his Day to Night project (CBS video on PetaPixel)

Jim Urquhart : Portraying polygamy (Reuters Photographers blog)

Brian Finke  (LA Times Framework blog) ‘reFramed: In conversation with Brian Finke’

David Alan Harvey on the Vogue Italy site.

David Alan Harvey (Vogue Italy)

Elliott Erwitt (Art Space)

Peter Marlow on photographing English cathedrals (Magnum)

Magnum Photographers Ian Berry, Stuart Franklin and Peter Marlow describe their work featured in Magnum Revolution, 65 Years of Fighting for Freedom. (YouTube)

High and Low: Jim Goldberg’s Works in Process (Lightbox)

Harry Gruyaert’s best photograph – waiting for a Belgian parade (Guardian)

Photo © Samuel Aranda

Samuel Aranda’s best photograph: a woman protects her son (Guardian)

Gideon Mendel (BBC)

Pieter Hugo (YouTube)

Photo © Joel Meyerowitz

Joel Meyerowitz  (NYT) ‘A Restless Lifetime of Paying Attention’

Joel Meyerowitz : A Question of Color — Answered (NYT Lens)

Taking His Time: A Look Back at 50 Years of Joel Meyerowitz’s Photographs (Lightbox)

Joel Meyerowitz : ‘brilliant mistakes … amazing accidents’  (Guardian) | The photographer, best known for his 9/11 pictures, talks about his new book, which celebrates his 50 years of finding the ‘wow’ factor in everyday places

Joel Meyerowitz interview by Olivia Bee : ‘The Young Gun Meets the Living Legend’ (Vice)

Fred R. Conrad on photographing Meyerowitz (NYT Lens)

Lauren Greenfield on the Bait and Switch of “The Queen of Versailles” and the Importance of Good Cinematography (Documentary Channel blog)

Paul Moakley (rereveal.com)

Larissa Leclair : The Indie Photobook Library (Lightbox)

Isa Leshko (PDN) ‘Sustaining a Long-Term Photo Project’

Photographer Daniel Beltrá on his Greenpeace mission to the Arctic (Guardian) audio slideshow

Two part Ben Lowy interview on A Photo Editor.

Photo © Ben Lowy

Ben Lowy – Part 1 Part 2 (A Photo Editor)

In conversation with the writer Pete Brook of Prison Photography and WIRED. (Phonar)

Crossing Paths with Niall McDiarmid (BBC)

Sony World Photography awards Student Focus winner Asef Ali Mohammad shares his hopes and fears as he starts his career in photography  (Guardian) ‘What is life like for emerging student photographers?’

How Iwan Baan got his amazing NYC/Hurricane Sandy cover for the New York Magazine.

Cover photo © Iwan Baan

Architecture photographer Iwan Baan explains how he got that New York magazine cover shot (Poynter)

New York Magazine director of photography Jody Quon on Baan’s cover (Time Lightbox Tumblr)

Great Reuters TV video of their photographers describing documenting Sandy and its aftermath

Screen Shot 2012-11-30 at 15.14.32

Reuters photographers show images of the devastation caused by hurricane Sandy  (Reuters TV) ‘A witness to Sandy’s wrath’

Andrew Burton : photographing Sandy (ABC News)

Levon Biss on photographing Mario Balotelli (Lightbox)

Melissa Golden (Digital Photo Pro)

John Delaney on Hoboken, New Jersey (BJP)

In My Bag – by Daniel Berman (Photo Brigade)

In My Bag – by David Welker (PB)

Matilde Gattoni: The Swallows of Syria

Editor’s note: The people in the story have been photographed with their faces covered and their names have been changed for security concerns. For the same reason, the exact locations in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon where the interviews took place have been kept hidden.

They were five, their faces covered with masks. They broke into the house and went upstairs. Few minutes later, they came down with my son Ali, handcuffed. linkwheel . They brought him away with no explanation. ‘Keep your mouth shut, or we will kill you’ was the only thing they told me.

Sitting on the porch of her new house in the Bekaa Valley, the Eastern Lebanese region bordering with Syria, Somaya struggles to hold back tears while recounting the last time she saw her son alive. Three days after his arrest, Ali’s corpse was found in a ditch near Talbiseh, a small village close to the Syrian city of Homs. He had eleven gunshot wounds in the stomach, the left arm was broken and both kneecaps had been removed, she says. Following her son’s death eight months ago, Somaya moved to Lebanon, where she is trying to cope with the nostalgia of her beloved country and the desperation of a mother that cannot get peace. Ali was a simple taxi driverhe didn’t like politics,” she says. “During the protests against the regime he used to stay at home because he didn’t want to run into troubles. Since his death, I pray to God every day to rid us of Assad.

Somaya’s story is not unique. Since the start of the revolution against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, more than one hundred thousand civilians (at least 114, 955 according to UN agencies) have taken shelter in Lebanon. According to the UNHCR, the majority are children and women. Most of them are housewives, but there are also students, teachers, retirees and widows. In order to flee from a revolution that has slowly escalated in a full-scale civil war, many have crossed the border illegally, defying the bullets of the security forces to save the lives of their children. Today, they live scattered between the Northern city of Tripoli and the myriad of small villages along the Syrian border. This war is a heavy burden on our shoulders. Many of us have lost husbands and sons, and now have to take care of their families on our own, explains 27-year-old Rasha, who fled the village of Soran on March 1 and is now hosted with her family in a stark two-room flat in the Bekaa.

Like her, tens of thousands of Syrian refugees (more than 31,095 according to the UNHCR) are still unregistered and live in desperate situations. Hosted in basements, farm sheds or tents, they survive thanks to the rare food rations delivered by local NGOs. The Lebanese government, which never signed the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees and does not have a specific legislation to deal with them, has so far refused to set up proper refugee camps for Syrians, out of fear that they might be infiltrated by armed groups and rebels, as was the case with the Palestinian ones in Lebanon during the 70s.

Many of the women refugees in Lebanon live halfway between prisoner and ghost, trying to avoid contacts with the local population for fear of being caught by the agents of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia militia and political party allied with Assad that constantly scours the country for dissidents. Every time my husband is late at night, I become hysterical, says Samira, 28, her dark, expressive eyes gleaming on her olive skin. Until six months ago she used to live in Hama with her four kids, the eldest of whom is only 11. Her husband, an opposition supporter, had already fled to Lebanon months ahead. During her lonely nights when Hama was bombed by the regime forces, Samira’s only dream was to rejoin him on the other side of the border. One night, the long-awaited phone call finally reached her. The following morning, she made an 80-kilometer trip that lasted for 13, interminable hours, during which Samira had to change four cars and pay $400 to bribe the Syrian soldiers manning the checkpoints all the way to the border. Today, Samira and her family live in the outskirts of Tripoli, but their problems are far from over. The stairs of the dilapidated building they live in are filled with pools of water and piles of garbage, while their balcony overlooks a rubbish dump. The monthly rent of $100 is a prohibitive price for her husband, who is struggling to find a job in Lebanon and is quickly running out of money. We don’t know how to pay the next rent, she says, before busting into a flood of tears.

The families who managed to reach Tripoli are the luckiest ones. Predominantly inhabited by Sunnis, the city has become the main stronghold of the Syrian opposition in Lebanon. There, refugees can enjoy proper health services and a relative security, but in the Bekaa valley, the situation is totally different. Divided among Shia, Sunnis and Christians, the region has been the theater of several raids carried out by the Syrian Army, as well as arrests and kidnappings of Syrian political activists and opponents of the regime. Hezbollah controls much of the region, and gives a hard time to refugees and the people who are helping them.

Though grateful for their safety, refugees still yearn to return to their own lives and homes. Mona, a 28-year-old refugee who escaped from al-Qusayr together with her husband and two young sons, now stays in the house of a host family all day long watching television with the kids. But the Arabic teacher has not lost the hope of going back to Syria to start teaching again. Too much blood has been spilled for freedom, she says. If the revolution succeeds, I hope the next generations will not spoil its fruits. This is the message I would like to send to my pupils.

Mona is not the only one missing school: 16-year-old Zaynab comes from the neighborhood of Al-Khaldeeye, one of the opposition strongholds in Homs. Until last January, she was the best in her class. But Zaynab’s dream of becoming a doctor was abruptly put to an end when she was forced to quit school after some soldiers kidnapped, raped and killed three of her schoolmates. Zaynab now lives in Tripoli with her father, brother and a mentally-challenged sister she has to look after. When she receives food from charity organizations, she has to sell part of it to buy her medicines. Despite the hard times she is going through, her faith in the future is still intact. I was expecting the revolution to be brief and successful,” she says. But I am still hopeful. Assad will fall soon, and we will be able to go back to Syria victorious.

Her optimism is not shared by other refugees, who are feeling the burden of the never ending clashes, deaths and deprivations. I don’t know how this war will endwe cannot even understand who is fighting whom anymore, complains Badia, a 51-year-old woman who came to Lebanon to cure her daughter who suffered brain damages during a raid of the security forces in their house in Bab Drieb, Homs. If this is the revolution, if it means that I am not able to go out of my house to buy a piece of breadthen I don’t want it. Or, as Rasha, the young Syrian girl from Soran, puts it: It doesn’t matter who wins this warSyria women don’t have rights from the day they are born. As a Syrian woman, I don’t know what freedom means.


Matilde Gattoni is a photographer based in Dubai and Lebanon. Her work often focuses on issues related to water around the world.

Matteo Fagotto is a 33-year-old freelance Italian journalist based in Dubai. He focuses on African and Middle Eastern issues through reportage and feature stories.


Interview: Nicole Tung on covering the battle for Aleppo

Earlier this month, TIME published A Syrian Tragedy: One Family’s Horror, a series of images shot by freelance photographer Nicole Tung. The images, shot in Aleppo as the Syrian city was under attack, portray civil casualties, highlighting how the war has torned apart families. For the past four months, Nicole has been documenting the uprising in Syria. Months before, she was in Libya, covering her first violent conflict at just 25.

Nicole started taking pictures when she was 15, living in Hong Kong, her hometown. “A good friend of mine, who also became a photographer, also served as one of my inspirations,” she says. “He showed me the first book in contemporary photojournalism that I clearly remember today, Winterreise by Luc Delahaye.” She studied journalism and history at New York University, and has since been published by The New York Times, TIME and Global Post among many other magazines and newspapers.

In an interview with Photojournalism Links, she tells us more about her work in Syria, how she gained access to the country and what she’s seen there.

Men carry the body of Hatem Qureya, 15, after he was trapped under rubble following an airstrike in the neighborhood of Bustan al Qasr in Aleppo, Syria, on Monday, August 6, 2012 which claimed at least eight lives including five children from the same family. Hatem later died at the field hospital. His father, mother, younger brother and sister and two younger cousins were also killed. Bustan al Qasr, a Free Syrian Army controlled district in south west Aleppo, has consistently been shelled and attacked by helicopters and planes over the last two weeks after the FSA entered Syria’s commercial capital and its most populated city. According to the UN, over 200,000 civilians have fled the city, whilst many other displaced remain inside, seeking refuge in mosques, parks, and schools. Bustan al Qasr remains almost fully populated by its residents who chose not to flee. Image © Nicole Tung.

Mikko Takkunen and Olivier Laurent: Why did you decide to go to Syria?

Nicole Tung: I decided to go to Syria because I felt that the coverage was lacking from the inside. But I was also personally curious and I wanted to fulfill something that the late Marie Colvin once said: “Our mission is to report these horrors of war with accuracy and without prejudice.” Marie was a friend and I felt that her death could not, should not, cow journalists from carrying out their missions. She would have been disappointed to know that her death was the reason so many decided to turn off from directly covering Syria. I admired her deeply, and felt the best way to honor her, and other colleagues killed in the past year was to continue working.

MT & OL: How did you manage to enter the country?

NT: I entered the country through Turkey, like many journalists do. Up until a few weeks ago, all the crossings in to Syria via Turkey had to be illegal. It involved some running across border areas with gear in hand, to avoid the Turkish military police.

MT & OL: How did you make your way to Aleppo?

NT: I first went to Aleppo city a week before the fighting began on July 20. I was in the Reef Aleppo (the country side), spending time in the towns there that were experiencing frequent helicopter and shelling attacks by the government forces. At that time, Aleppo was still in full control of the military, intelligence, and police units and getting in meant sneaking through back roads, avoiding the plentiful checkpoints, and high tailing it in to a safe house in the city. One could not really work as a photographer in Aleppo just four weeks ago– spies were everywhere and you were busy focusing on not sticking out, so having a camera in public, even out in the car, was absolutely out of the question.

The brother of Abdul Latif Qureya, 33, reads the Koran near his body after he was killed in an airstrike in the neighborhood of Bustan al Qasr in Aleppo, Syria, on Monday, August 6, 2012 which claimed at least eight lives including five children from the same family. Abdul Latif Qureya’s wife Wahiba, two sons, Hatem, 15, and Mahmoud, 14, and his 8-year-old daughter Bara’a as well as a neice, 7, and nephew, 1, were killed in the same airstrike. Image © Nicole Tung.

MT & OL: Was sending your work back to your editors a struggle? How did you manage it?

NT: When I went back to Aleppo as the fighting started, sending work back to editors was and is, certainly a struggle. Many of the activists there were caught off guard, I think, by the actual fighting having finally reached Aleppo. I saw a steady decline in the quality of communications over a three-week period. Phone networks in the city started to fail, and the 3G Internet the activists often relied on began to shut down too, besides the fact that it was very difficult to buy credit. Only a few, highly skilled activists could set up satellite Internet quickly enough, or run DSL connections out of still-government controlled areas of the city. Added to that was the severe electricity cuts that about 70% of the city was experiencing. I managed to send images out because of the Syrians, who would often go to the ends of the Earth to help me. They worked tirelessly to get a car, to get fuel for the car, to make sure the roads were safe, then worked to get you to a physical location in order to connect to the Internet. And then they stayed with you, drank tea and coffee with you, for hours on end while your files were beamed halfway across the world. It is a cumbersome way, but often the only way, to work in Syria. I have never experienced such patience and generosity from people who are themselves going through the darkest hours of their life.

MT & OL: Where you working with other photographers/journalists while there?

NT: I was working with one other videographer whilst I was there. It’s difficult to work in Syria in big groups because of the logistics. Also, in a dangerous situation, having too many opinions from too many colleagues often causes more problems.

MT & OL: Did you have an assignment before you left for Syria or were you confident you were going to get published once you were in the country?

NT: The first time I went into Syria at the end of May this year, I did not have an assignment. I was there to establish contacts and get a better idea of what things looked like on the ground. I went back several times, selling images to various publications before getting an assignment in June to go back in with Die Zeit. When I was not on assignment — I want to say I was confident, but in those situations you just never know — I knew for a fact that there were very few journalists covering Syria from the inside because of the dangers it posed and for logistical reasons. I thought that having a view from the ground might be somewhat valuable in itself.

Demonstrators shout slogans as they carry the bodies of nine civilians killed the night before by mortars fired on the city of Maarat Al Noman by the Syrian Army on Sunday, June 10, 2012. Estimates put the death toll between 20-30 people as many died on their way to Turkey for further medical treatment, and over 100 people were injured. Image © Nicole Tung.

MT & OL: Your work for TIME in Aleppo has received particular attention. Can you tell us about your experience on the ground in Aleppo?

NT: I witnessed the situation in Aleppo both before and after the fight for the city began on July 20. It was incredible to see the changes because the neighborhoods which are experiencing the heaviest fighting now, and which have been hardest hit, were the most defiant in terms of staging almost nightly demonstrations against the government even in a very tightly controlled city. When I first went there, checkpoints had been set up on all the main arteries of Aleppo. I moved around with doctors and activists who took incredible risks to do their jobs and added more risk by having a foreign journalist in their car. I couldn’t have my camera out at all, because there were pro-government militias known as ‘shebiha’ all around, and informers for the regime, as well. The only time I could take my camera out briefly was when I was at the demonstrations, running the risk that the protest would be broken up at any given time if the security forces open fired on the crowd, which they did very often.

I saw the Aleppo Underground as it was. There were doctors clandestinely treating injured protestors at private and sometimes public hospitals, and falsifying their medical reports (taking care not to write ‘gun shot wound’ or any other violence related injuries) to avoid scrutiny by security. There were pharmacists shuttling medical supplies in and out of the city to other affected areas around the country. Women who left the comfort of their middle-upper class life to deliver clothes, food, and formula to families who sought refuge in Aleppo from places like Homs and Hamah. One woman even counseled girls who had been raped. There were teenagers, all high school students, who dared to protest and were arrested, often tortured before being released and they were back on the streets the very next day protesting again. And then there were the Aleppo University students who became the heart of the uprising in city, through their shows of multiple, daily demonstrations in front of their faculties. They paid a high price for it, often getting beaten, shot at, and arrested by the security forces on campus. No less than one dozen students were killed on university grounds over the months of protests, and in June 2012, three medical students were found bound, shot, and their bodies burned for attempting to treat an injured protestor. The revolution was very much alive, and it was conducted almost completely through peaceful means. But finally, the war came to Aleppo, and since then, overcrowded neighborhoods have become ghost towns, the chatter and noise of daily life and children has given way to the sound of incoming mortar rounds, tank shells, the drone of helicopters and furious sound of diving fighter jets. Shelling in the contested areas of the city has no pattern and it is indiscriminate, often hitting civilians in their own homes. The Free Syrian Army has continued to pour in to the city. They have the advantage of knowing the streets and urban warfare is their forte. But they still lack weapons to make any real gain on the government forces. Civilians in some neighborhoods have fled to other parts of the city, to parks, university dormitories, and mosques whilst others have gone to Aleppo’s countryside. Some families have been displaced twice over as they left Hamah and Homs, only to be leaving their refuge in Aleppo. That was my experience in Aleppo: the situation was fluid, and working around it was incredibly difficult.

MT & OL: You concentrated a lot more on civilians rather than FSA fighters. Was this something you had decided beforehand or did it just happen?

NT: I did not decide beforehand that I would cover specifically civilians, but it became very apparent to me, once I was there, that it was necessary. The war is fought by two sides with particular, sometimes varying, agendas. Photographing combat is dangerously addictive to some people. I have a one-day tolerance for it when I’m there before I find that most of those images end up looking the same and provide little scope for what else is happening. Certainly the FSA is up against a violently disproportionate use of weapons but the civilians are the quiet sufferers of what happens on the battlefield. Assad’s forces don’t hesitate to kill them if they peacefully demonstrate or harbor FSA fighters in their neighborhoods. Often, the FSA base themselves there to try and protect the civilian population or use it as a point from which to attack the Syrian Army. But it’s the civilians who pay the price because they lose their lives and lose their homes. Sometimes there’s no reason at all for killing civilians. The worst is seeing children getting injured, or dying. For what, though? When I witnessed an airstrike last week that killed five children from the same family, it occurred to me that it was something beyond comprehension, beyond reason. At that point, agendas don’t matter at all.

Men gather at a graveyard on the outskirts of Anadan, Syria, on Friday, June 8, 2012 to bury Fawaz Omar Abdullah, 30, a civilian who was shot and killed by a Syrian Army sniper the day before as he was walking near a checkpoint in the village. Image © Nicole Tung.

MT & OL: How widely have your images been published?

NT: Certainly the advantage of having published with TIME is that many people see those images, and I have the editors there to thank for their support when I was working in an extremely difficult situation. They have since gone on to CNN, Human Rights Watch, Paris Match, other European publications and will also be screened at Visa Pour l’Image in September.

MT & OL: How different was covering Syria compared to Libya?

NT: Syria is far more dangerous and complicated than anything I ever experienced in Libya. Libya was the first combat zone I’d ever been to and I was lucky to have so many veteran journalists around who looked out for me and guided us younger photographers. We also shared rides with them and listened to (or more correctly, noted) their advice, followed them as they worked, and learned from them. I was fortunate to have security consultants lend me body armor and give me crash courses in first aid. Syria has none of those luxuries. I’ve since picked up my own body armor, took a combat medical training course, and made a fair number of my own contacts inside. You are on your own from beginning to end, and you cannot rely on anyone but yourself. The government’s use of fire power is unlimited. At least there was a no-fly zone very quickly established in Libya, but in Syria, anything goes. The people of Libya and Syria are not so different, though. I have met some of the most generous, warm hearted people working in both countries and their hospitality often knows no bounds.

MT & OL: Now that you are out of the country, what are your plans? Are you going back? Or will it prove difficult to go back?

NT: I will continue to go back to Syria because, like Libya, I have become committed to the story and the path of where the country will go. It will prove difficult going back only because of people’s concerns about my safety, which I certainly understand.

MT & OL: How do you see the situation evolving in Syria in the coming weeks?

NT: In the coming weeks, the fight for Aleppo will still be going on. The rebels there are no match to the forces of Assad, especially when they continuously run low on ammunition. The country is already in chaos when you think about how many millions are displaced by fighting, how many thousands of lives have been lost, and the amount of destruction this war has wrought, physically, financially, and emotionally. Added to that is the lack of unity from both political and military groups from the opposition. While Damascus and Aleppo become the biggest news stories, other cities near Idlib and Hamah continue to get pounded by government forces. And let’s say Assad were to be finished off tomorrow, what will a new government look like? Will minority groups be proportionately represented? And what about the regional implications of this war? These are all questions the Syrians are still wrestling with. Most don’t have answers that would satisfy the international community.

Nicole Tung’s images can be seen on TIME’s Lightbox here and here.

For more information about Nicole Tung, visit her website at www.nicoletung.com.

The Wrestlers of Chechnya: Photographs by Yuri Kozyrev

In 1994, when Russia invaded the breakaway region of Chechnya, Yuri Kozyrev, then a freelance photographer, captured some of the most iconic images of the ensuing war. It was too dangerous at the time to live in the Chechen capital of Grozny, which faced heavy Russian bombardment. So he and a group of other reporters (including Marie Colvin, who was killed this year while covering the siege of the Syrian city of Homs) took up residence at a kindergarten called Solnyshka (Sunshine), in the nearby town of Khasavyurt. Lying on the border between Chechnya and the neighboring Russian republic of Dagestan, this town of 130,000 suffered relatively little damage during the war, so journalists, as well as some of the Chechen rebels, used it as a place to rest and resupply before heading back into the war zone.

(For daily coverage of the 2012 Games, visit TIME’s Olympics blog)

In June, Kozyrev returned to Khasavyurt to photograph how the town—and its conflict—have evolved. Although heavy fighting ended with the Russian conquest of Chechnya in 2000, the war left behind an Islamist insurgency that Russia still struggles to quell. On an almost daily basis, rebels inspired by a radical sect of Sunni Islam called Salafism continue to clash with security forces in the region, costing hundreds of lives every year. In Khasavyurt, the Russian effort to counter their influence still scars the unpaved streets. In most neighborhoods, gutted homes mark the sites of “special operations,”the commando raids that use heavy artillery to flush out suspected insurgents. But the town has also been shaped by the central element of Russian soft power in the region: the development of wrestling schools. Much like soccer in the favelas of Sao Paolo and basketball in Harlem, wrestling in Khasavyurt is meant to serve as an inoculation against violence, or at least a distraction from it, by offering the local boys an outlet for their frustrations that does not involve ”going to the woods,” the Russian slang for joining the insurgency.

Every year, Moscow pumps roughly a million dollars into Khasavyurt’s five wrestling academies, which have produced an impressive crop of champions. In the past four Olympic cycles, freestyle wrestlers from Khasavyurt have brought home a total of eight gold medals, along with at least 12 world championship titles and countless trophies in national and European tournaments. At the Olympic Games in London, at least two wrestlers from Khasavyurt will compete to affirm the town’s nickname—The Foundry of Champions—which is scrawled on green signs near the central bazaar, showing the legendary Buvaysar Saytiev in the middle of a grapple.

During his visit in June, Kozyrev’s photography focused on Saytiev and his younger brother Adam, who have won four Olympic gold medals in freestyle wrestling between them. For more than a decade, the Saytiev brothers, who are ethnic Chechens, have served as somewhat reluctant poster boys for the notion of pacification through sport. Their wrestling schools have inspired thousands of young men from Khasavyurt to channel their strength into wrestling rather than rebellion, and Kozyrev spent much of his time photographing them train for the London Olympics. But away from the gyms, members of the Khasavyurt wrestling community revealed that the idea of sport as an antidote to extremism is not quite working out as planned. Some of the town’s leading athletes have started “going to the woods” in recent years, and an alarming number of them have been killed as insurgents during shootouts with police. No longer a haven from conflict, the wrestling schools of Khasavyurt, whose students are often as young as 8, have become recruiting ground for Islamists. As Kozyrev concluded after his visit: “This is a town that remains at war.”

Read more about the Chechen wrestlers of Khasavyurt on TIME.com

Simon Shuster is TIME’s Moscow reporter.

Yuri Kozyrev is a contract photographer for TIME and was named the 2011 Photographer of the Year in the Pictures of the Year International competition.