by Eva Bartlett
Twenty-six distinct photos, in black and white. Scenes of a ravaged city and the human beings within struggling to exist, let alone to find hope for the future. Gravestones of rubble. Homes looted, trashed. Civilians defending their country. Children aged beyond their years by the horrors they’ve lived.
Hagop Vanesian, a 44 year old Syrian-Armenian photographer from Syria’s second-largest city, Aleppo (Halab), was meticulous in his choice of photographs for the exhibition, “My Homeland,” which opened at the United Nations Headquarters on January 8 and runs until January 16.
“I chose the photographs showing the destruction, and children. I have many photographs of children, maybe 25-30 percent are of children, these little angels suffering. They are innocent, they don’t understand about politics, they suffer a lot.”
Vanesian, a silversmith by trade, started taking photos twelve years ago, and very early on started documenting his city, building by building.
“Before the war, I was doing documentary photography all over Aleppo. Everyday, I took my camera and photographed people, how they were living,” Vanesian said. “When the war started, I decided to document it. It was very hard at first. For the first couple of days, I couldn’t take a single photograph. This was my birth place, where I grew up. I have memories there, but even my memories were destroyed, especially in Old Aleppo.”
Iman Tahan, from Aleppo, spoke of her feelings after seeing the photos. “These photos, I wish they weren’t real, I wish nothing like this had happened to my country. I remember every street in these photos. I feel so sad, a lot of memories there.”
One of the memories she spoke of was the murder of her father, in his home, by terrorists.
“We have a well in our house, and since there’s no water—because the ‘rebels’ broke the pipes—my father was giving water to neighbours. He was in his house when a sniper entered the garden and shot him, killed him. Those ‘rebels’ don’t represent the Syrian people. Syrian soldiers aren’t fighting against normal people, they’re fighting against people equipped with the most advanced weapons and trained just to come to Syria. They destroy our homes, churches, mosques. But what makes me happy, our people, because they love Syria so much, decided not to leave. Even my dad, he knew he lived in a very dangerous area, but he decided not to leave, and he paid for it with his life.”