His dream was to capture the humanity present in even the harshest moments. And in the midst of deepening hardship, Hadi Abo Rayyan has made that dream come true through “Photos from Saqba”: tender, gritty portraits of the lives persevering in his hometown.
Owning a camera was a long-held goal of Hadi’s, but his project began in earnest in early 2011 as protests unfolded across Syria and he was able to use a “small, accurate mobile phone [camera]…to document and record these moments that I was living.”
When he was arrested that spring, he recalls, “I wished that I had a camera there, even if it were small, to record those moments experienced by detainees.” Following his release, he was finally able to buy one and then began, as he puts it, “to take pictures of anything that passed in front of me.”
Channeling that impulse, he and his friend Abo Al-Huda Khaled created “Photos from Saqba” on Facebook, initially to document Saqba itself, a working-class suburb of Damascus in eastern Ghouta that has suffered heavy attacks and now a food blockade. But their work soon shifted to radiant portraits of locals–“children, women and elders”–in which “pain shines through the smiles of children,” Hadi says.
“For me, the images are part of the memory of Syria and the city of Saqba. I hope the world sees that in Syria, women and children are not only dying, but that despite all this suffering, smiles remain on the faces of this city’s people–and the parents say, ‘we also love life.’”
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