Photographer holds festival of hope amid Aleppo fighting
By Catriona Davies, CNN
October 5, 2012 — Updated 1041 GMT (1841 HKT)
(CNN) — These pictures were taken within one week of each other in the center of Aleppo and show the incredible resilience of some of its residents in the face of Syria’s bloody civil war.
Photographer Issa Touma’s home in the historic area of Aleppo has been badly damaged by gunfire. Yet, amid the crossfire between opposition and government forces, Touma is still organizing the international photography festival he holds every year.
Touma, who owns a gallery in Aleppo, has been running the exhibition for 11 years and was determined that the show would continue despite fighting reaching the center of the city on August 19. The festival was due to open on September 15.
Aleppo Photo Festival Holds “Symbolic Opening” in War Zone
by Holly Hughes
September 21, 2012
On September 15, the day the 11th annual Aleppo International Photo Festival was scheduled to open in the war-torn city of Aleppo, Syria, founder and organizer Issa Touma held a “symbolic opening” at his gallery. Weeks after PDN first tried to reach him, Touma emailed PDN and posted a statement on the festival’s Facebook page announcing that he had held a small opening in his gallery, LePont, to send a “message” about the survival of “civil society” in Aleppo. The northern Syria city has faced constant shelling by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and pitched street battles between the Syrian Army and rebel fighters, forcing thousands to flee their homes. Touma writes, “Today the festival give[s] a message to all, which is: whatever happened in Syria, the photo festival will not stop.”
This year’s festival was supposed to exhibit 870 works by almost 50 international photographers, including Amanda Rivkin, James Whitlow Delano, Sean McAllister, Corinne Dufka, Khaled Hasan and Liu Jinxun. Instead, Touma says, he showed 40 images in his gallery. People who attended were “relaxed and happy,” he says. He adds that if the fighting in Aleppo wanes, “I still hope to show the festival all in big opening, but its seem[s] hard for the moment.”