Damascus-Beirut, December 19, 2016
• Syria – documenting incomprehensible violence and suffering
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Dear friend of art photography and other art
The photo above is a digital gift – a moment for reflection – to you from Oberg PhotoGraphics.
Welcome to new recipients. Here is the preceding shoot.
shoot wings into your mailbox now and then. Sometimes I shoot just a single image your way. Exclusively for shoot recipients.
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This shoot is very different from what I normally send you. I can hold no Christmas exhibition or send you Christmas offers this year.
I went to Damascus, Syria, as peace and conflict researcher, to do fact-finding, interviews, gathering impressions and think about roads to peace.
As you may know that is the other side of my life. I have just come out, writing to you from Beirut.
I was in Aleppo, bombs falling day and night, when you heard that it was liberated or fell depending on media and perspective. The photo above is from the Jibrin Reception Centre in Western Aleppo where about 100.000 people from Eastern Aleppo get humanitarian assistance by the Syrian government.
They have come out after four years of hell under the occupation of the Western-supported fighters/rebels/opposition/terrorists – again variable terminology.
It’s all extremely complicated. But what is not complicated is to feel deep sympathy with the real victims in every war: the innocent civilians who are always hit by those who speak the language of weapons.
As a peace and conflict researcher having worked in Yugoslavia, Georgia, Abkhazia, Iraq and Burundi, I have never ever seen anything like the destruction of Aleppo.
It’s a wasteland of dozens upon dozens of square kilometres. Endless, systematic destruction of culture, history, mosques, basars, industrial areas etc. Human suffering beyond words. And how many dead?
Look at the footwear of those on this photo. Aleppo will not be rebuilt before these children are 30 or 40. It used to be one of the biggest industrial centres in the Middle East.
Eastern Aleppo, Syria © Jan Oberg 2016
Eastern Aleppo, Syria © Jan Oberg 2016
These photos are unique. I was among the first ten to get there.
I’m no war photographer or reporter. But my work compels me to share a bit of what I have seen. I’m afraid most of us in Europe have been misinformed by media to such an extent that we do not comprehend the death and destruction. I was reminded of images from World War II.
Let me end with this little girl whose eyes and gesture touched me so deeply.
She is the victim of international politics, the weapons of the Syrian side, the terrorist side, the US and NATO side and Russian side. A piece of bread made her feel hope.
When will we ever learn?
Child from Eastern Aleppo, Syria
© Jan Oberg 2016
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Until next: Remember
– that it is the arts more than anything else that keep us human and, given the state of the world right now, therefore more needed than ever.
And during the coming holidays I try to understand what Aleppo is and what it will mean in world history. In the best of cases we may see yet another example of that enigmatic human will to survive and move on.
Time will tell.
My best – and Merry Christmas to those among my recipients who celebrate Christmas