Two Portraits of the War in Syria

The bloodied face of a Syrian boy, Omran Daqneesh, seated on the back of an ambulance has disrupted the news cycle and caused people to pause. He is a victim of a Russian airstrike targeted at the Syrian city of Aleppo on Tuesday, August 14. The Syrian Refugee Crisis has arguably lost its lustre in the media, compared to the cutthroat battle between Trump and Clinton for the American presidency, but this face demands attention. He reminds people that the war rages on, and there are real people suffering the injuries. With half of his face covered in blood, he stares straight ahead, but not into the camera. His eyes are not full of despair, but rather, full of numbness, as ruin lay before him and his future is unknown. His small, limp body, monochrome grey from the soot and smoke, stands out against the orange ambulance chair in a bleak contrast, representative of the dark mark that war and violence leaves on Syria. This image is a violent one, eliciting strong emotion and righteous anger regarding the innocent children who quite literally get caught in the crossfire. 

But Christine Spring's HOPE: In the Hands of Fatima offers a glimpse into the courage and vitality that persists amidst the war and poses the question: 'what happens to people once they are out of immediate danger?' She captures the unforgettable faces of the Syrian refugees living in designated "safe-spaces" in Lebanon, thus highlighting the ongoing issues and stamina required to meet them, once the adrenalin and acute horror of the warzone have been left behind. Spring features scenes of children playing football, receiving medical treatment, and reading their personal stories aloud to groups of fellow refugees. In this way, she conveys the essence and multi-faceted nature of daily life in the camps. 

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There is an inevitable disconnect between viewer and subject. But Spring invites the viewer to come close, to gaze into the eyes of Fatima, rather than living comfortably removed. The public needs to be pulled out of the apathy that permeates a society seemingly separated from the despair of the war in Syria, and together, Omran and HOPE offer a fuller understanding.