I was supposed to go to Aleppo this week. I cancelled the trip at the last minute, my internal risk meter was jumping off the charts. While it was always bad there, it has gotten much worse for photographers, journalists, and aid workers during the last few months, and has even ratcheted up drastically in the last week or so. I listened to my gut, and did not go. I am glad, I made the right decision. Going back into a war zone is dangerous in any case. But in the current environment it felt like suicide.
But one of the reasons we go back to places like Aleppo is not just for the opportunity to photograph people and situations that you do not encounter in regular life. We go back because we make connections with and form relationships with people on the ground there; people who live there. Our fixers and drivers and their families and friends. The fighters and activists who work to protect us and to show us what we need to see. When you face danger and see the horrors of war with people, you bond with them quickly. And then you leave them behind when you go, so there’s a little bit of guilt that you carry.
In canceling my trip I knew I was doing what was best for me and my family. And I knew that my friends in Syria would understand. They either stay because they are committed to victory, or because they cannot leave. But I missed those people anyway. So I went back through my archive and pulled some unpublished photos up.
People ask me why I went there in the first place. The answer is because I am curious. As a photographer I am trying to make photographs that document the person on the other side of the lens. I was intensely interested in how people could live in the midst of this conflict. When you are there things happen around you. I have seen some of the most horrible things I think I could ever see. But I have also seen some pretty amazing things. I have sat in a barber’s chair and got a straight razor shave while I could hear shelling. The people there have to live with it all the time. They have to do all the things that you and I have to do on a regular basis: Go to work, find food, go home and sleep, take care of their kids, and go shopping. They just do it with a fatalism that they will end the day alive if god wills it.
I hope you enjoy these photos. No one has ever seen them before.