Belfast Photo Festival – Off Theme

St. Annes Square – A  journey through Assad’s Syria

Syria, January 2017 – Destroyed street alley in East Aleppo. Residents who have returned to the streets. A child and his mother search a beauty shop for nail polish. ©Christian Werner

Christan Werner’s ‘A journey through Assad’s Syria’ was for me the most hard hitting work I saw throughout the whole Photo Festival. There were only six images by Werner, a German photojournalist and filmmaker, but all were gripping and at the same time full of dread. Making work in Syria’s second city Allepo, his camera offers us a glimpse into the true terror for ordinary citizens trying to find a way through the hell they must have experienced. What struck me most was that he used signifiers that in someway were so mundane but in the context of the terrible conditions for the people of Allepo these simple signifiers take on true terror as the signified.

His portrayal of people trying to go about a life that in anything but normal created a sense of helplessness to my western sensibilities. Reading about Werner after seeing the six   20×16 images he had on display in St. Annes Square, I learned that he had at an early age been influenced by the conflict photographer James Natchwey. Quoting Natchwey in the video clip referenced below, Werner describes his desire , like Natchwey to ‘tell stories that otherwise wouldn’t be heard. This work at Belfast Photo Festival certainly achieves that goal.

Werners images for this exhibit were taken from a wider set of work called Rubble and Delusion. These can be seen here:

http://www.werner-photography.com/albums/rubble-and-delusion/

References

Christian Werner – World Press Photo Interview – Found at: http://www.worldpressphoto.org/people/christian-werner (Accessed June 2017)

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