Source: Al-Quds Al-Arabi Newspaper
By: Yara Badr
Published on: 12/07/2012
Homs, a city that has entered the history books as a disgraceful stain in the march of humanity in the beginning of 21st century. A city whose inhabitants were forced to abandon and its population slaughtered, while world politicians have been arranging the words in their statements, day after day, for more than a year.
Homs, the city where some residential areas have almost entirely been destroyed, had its field and even civic hospitals bombarded, its media centers shelled in order to eliminate the alleged ‘armed gangs’. The city, that by now, the entire world has become familiar with its neighborhoods, including ‘Baba Amr’, ‘Bab Al-Sbaa’, ‘Jouret Al-Shayyah’, ‘Al-Qarabis’, etc… . Homs, that rose to support ‘Daraa’, the first of the revolution’s cities, had its youth, men and children lined-up in rows, hands on shoulders, dancing and singing for freedom. Homs, that has endured death until it has become a synonymous to it in meaning and existence, is a city where whoever are left, are still trying to sing, look for humor, and produce images from the ruins for history and scholars after decades, on how thousands of civilians were killed while the world was watching, and how life is in times of war. From Homs, this city, a group of young people on the ground set off on an artistic project called ‘A young Homsi’s lens’ documenting through Photography, the city’s destroyed streets and the houses that have been restructured by the mortar shells and tank missiles, drawing a disfigured portrait of thousands of holes in their walls!…
‘A young Homsi’s lens’ is an artistic project that draws its strength from the cruelty of reality; from the image of an old house with a fountain in center of its yard and remnants of rocks piled in every corner in the neighborhood of ‘Bab Al-Draib’, and the image of the ancient archaeological house that is home to the Al-Ghassani Orthodox School for basic education, bombed on 06/09/2012. From the image of a dry tree branch on the ground, and the image of one of the oldest churches in the world ‘St. Mary Church of the Holy Belt (Um az-Zinnar Church)’ bombed on 03/06/2012, until we reach the image of a street corner, where the young men of Homs wrote “Beware! There is a sniper.”
Did the photographer arrange the scene for his picture, where a plastic cart and a football lay near the wall of a demolished house? Maybe, and maybe not… . Perhaps it is only what remains from the Mother’s housekeeping… . Was the mother martyred? or has she survived? What toys has her child taken with him, if he’d left his football, red car and bicycle at home? Was the child martyred too, or would his injury prevent him from playing again? These questions and many more are cast by ‘A young Homsi’s lens’ in our faces as the followers of ‘Facebook’, the social networking site, and ‘Facebook-ies’ that have become addicted to it, through each photo posted by the photographers of ‘A young Homsi’s lens’ every day.
That is Homs today, ever-present in all images by the word ‘now’. It is the most realistic theater, probably through the amazing adhesion between the idea of photography that is considered to ‘freeze-time’, and the theater, which imposes its play conducting condition of ‘now… and here’ on its audience. This is ‘Homs… now’; Homs that has been destroyed, where columns of smoke are rising; Homs that is ecstatic with a drop of rain; Homs that is abandoned, starting with the abandoned archaeological market, as documented by a photo on 21/05/2012, to the abandoned homes, streets and street corners. People rarely appear in the photos of ‘A young Homsi’s lens’, and if they do, it would be a UN observer, or an old woman at the door of her home looking at a spot of blood for the body that has been rolled to the edge of the cemetery, or a child looking at the world while it witnesses this life, both in silence. In the pictures of the abandoned city of Homs, there is lots of room to witness what is happening, witness the bombing and its effects, witness war and the destruction it leaves behind, witness the blood stains and shrapnel, and witness the absence of humanity and the presence of violence and brutality. There is lots of room to witness death versus life, and witness what passes uninterestingly in the news, to see how life is in Homs now. The young photographers of ‘A young Homsi’s lens’ group do not portray what they see as much as document the lives they are enduring. They operate beyond the assumed criticism space between the creator and his subject, between the eye behind the camera and the scene in front of it. They are stating to the world, Come with us NOW to Homs…
Their page slogan is ‘boldness in reporting events’, and they indeed are. They are the youth on the ground in Homs, and the youth on the street, who take photos under the shelling and raiding, and while facing snipers. They might not use the best and latest technologies in taking pictures, nor create the most beautiful images, but they photograph their reality, which is practiced by those who do not appear in the camera and yet the results of their actions are apparent. They might be searching in the dust for a pure snapshot, a clear image, or a light sneaking between the columns of smoke. They might also be seeking people who have not been subjected to forced displacement, arbitrary detention or ongoing death. On the pages of Facebook, they seek similar boldness that produces an action, that forms a vision of Homs and stops the deathly practices there, that returns the displaced and releases the detainees, and that establishes a burial befitting the martyrs whose blood was scattered above sidewalks and in narrow alleys. For, away from all the Facebook blabber, ‘A young Homsi’s lens’ tries to find a space for the real life being endured, within all the conflicting contexts of that virtual world, a space that through the strength of an image that dozens of Syrian young people paid for with their lives, states “This is Homs now”.
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