"Yalla Habibi - Living with War in Aleppo"
How can people actually live in a war zone?
This question may have crossed your mind if you have seen the countless news images of the destruction in the city of Aleppo. I myself and the people around me have experienced living with that war in Aleppo first hand.
With the photobook „Yalla Habibi – Living with War in Aleppo“ I want to give recognition to people in Eastern Aleppo who have continued their everyday lives with resilience and inventiveness amidst perilous circumstances. The pictures from my hometown, taken between 2013 and 2015, capture moments of the conflicting and contrasting experiences and emotions of these people. Anger, joy, grieve, fear, adventurousness, desperation, determination, solidarity, defiance, fatigue, excitement – having to live with war all of these emotions can change in an instant. The book shows people balancing the horrors of war with a sense of normalcy and trying to retain their dignity.
Through your backing I intend to produce a high quality photobook that not only generates empathy but also provokes a reflection on justice, responsibility, and human dignity.
“Yalla Habibi” – “Come on my dear” as people would say in Arabic!
Who am I? And what is my motivation?
„The truth is the first victim of war. Hosam Katan refused to believe this, he simply did not accept it – not for the people in his hometown.“ (Frank-Walter Steinmeier, former Foreign Minister of Germany)
"Yalla Habibi" is also part of my own story. Growing up in Aleppo I could never have imagined that one day war would break out in my country. It was when I had just turned 17 in 2011 that I experienced the beginning of the protests against the Assad regime. I saw people with a genuine believe in a Syrian revolution to establish democracy and more freedom in their country. When the regime answered protests with brute force, I decided to pick up my camera. I felt the responsibility to document what was happening around me. I started to work at the newly founded Aleppo Media Center, a network of independent local media activists. As many international news organizations were pulling out of the country for security reasons, I realized the importance to not let the events and people in Aleppo go unseen. Security has also been an issue for my work and in May 2015 I almost ran out of luck. I was shot by a sniper of the regime. After treatment in Turkey, however, I returned to Aleppo and continued my life and work there until the end of 2015.
More than 1200 of my photographs have been distributed by the news agency Reuters from 2013. They have been published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Stern magazine, and numerous other media outlets. With this photobook I want to transcend the fleeting realm of daily news coverage and present a nuanced, multilayered and in-depth view on the conflict.
I am currently studying photojournalism at Hannover University in Germany to develop my craft as a photographer. I am committed to continue my work as a photojournalist, and I hope I will be able to return to Syria in the future.
Why is this book important now?
Hasn’t the fighting in Aleppo stopped since the end of 2016?
“Without me in power you will have no safety and no life.” The city of Aleppo has been divided between a Western part controlled by the regime and an Eastern part largely controlled by opposition forces between 2012 until the end of 2016. In the Eastern part of Aleppo the Assad regime made its message loud and clear by the means of snipers, incarcerations, torture, artillery shelling, bombings, as well as the deprivation of basic resources like food, medicine, electricity, or education.
Yet, men, women, and children in Eastern Aleppo refused to have their lives stripped away. That is what has impressed me the most. Most of them made the conscious decision to continue living in their home city no matter what the circumstances.
“So called ‚rebels’“, “terrorists“, “human shields“, “victims” or “civilians,” many labels have been applied to people in Eastern Aleppo. But who are the human beings behind these labels? Let’s put faces to these labels. Let’s reveal the human beings behind it. It is true that most people who are portrayed in my photographs do not or rather cannot live in Eastern Aleppo anymore. They have not vanished from the Earth though. They have been displaced from their homes as have many other Syrians.
The civil war in Syria demonstrates how the line between what is just and what is unjust is too often determined by those in power. The book, therefore, aims to be a testimony for those who neither possess effective political nor military power but who nonetheless exert incredible strength and do possess agency.
Although the news coverage of the conflict in Syria, and especially from Aleppo, has waned, it is important to keep up the dialogue because the conflict is far from being over. It cannot go unseen. People of Eastern Aleppo cannot go unseen.
The photobook & the current status
With 152 pages, this high quality photobook will include 85 carefully selected photographs with descriptions in English. For some photos background stories about the people portrayed or about specific living conditions and people’s strategies of dealing with them will be provided. The photographs will be further contextualized by an essay of German war correspondent Carsten Stormer (author of "Die Schatten des Morgenlandes: Die Gewalt im Nahen Osten und warum wir uns einmischen müssen") and an essay by myself about my life and work in Aleppo.
Most of “Yalla Habibi” has already been rendered into the final layout. I’m happy that I could win the renowned German publishing house Kehrer for my project. If this project reaches its funding goal the book will be off to the printer for proofing, and Kehrer has agreed to publish the book in October 2017. You will, therefore, not have to wait for long to hold a copy of the book in your hands.
I also feel lucky that the maquette of my photobook has recently been awarded the PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris 2017 (category: Professional Book, Documentary - Silver).
- format: 240 x 320 mm (9.5 x 12.6 inch)
- hardcover with printed cover
- 152 pages
- 85 color photographs
- language: English
- retail price: 40 €
- essays: Carsten Stormer, Hosam Katan
If you have any questions don´t hesitate to send me a personal message to the following email-address: firstname.lastname@example.org
To see more of my work you can also refer to my website: www.hosamkatan.com
In the last 8 months, I have spent all my energy and money to release this project. Funding the actual production of the photobook (printing, binding, distribution) unfortunately exceeded my budget. That´s why I need your backing. Your entire funding will go to the production of the photobook. And I´m confident to finally release this project through your collective effort.
Beside your financial support I would also appreciate if you could spread the word about this campaign among your friends, family, colleagues and social media platforms.
Thank you so much for your support!
Rewards for your support
Every single of your contributions carries this project one step further on its way to finally materialize. In order to also materialize my gratitude and appreciation I have crafted reward packages for you containing items and experiences of which some are pictured below. They are designed to, first of all, share the finished book that you have helped to realize as well as single prints of the photographs. Some rewards give you exclusive insights into the development of the project and into my work.
But most importantly, I also see this campaign as a way to engage with you. This project is about creating a dialogue about the ongoing conflict in Syria and how people are dealing with it. So let’s keep up the dialogue together!
Due to the size and the weight of the book and the size of the larger prints I had to add a contribution to the shipping costs for orders from outside of Germany. I have kept this contribution as low as possible while making sure that you will receive your copies and the prints in an impeccable condition. Shipping inside Germany will be free.
You need credentials?
I am very grateful that a large number of photos that will be included in the book have been awarded several prizes, and that I had the opportunity to share and discuss my work at several exhibitions and presentations.
- Ian Parry Special Award 2014 & the Ian Parry Award 2015 (category: highly commended)
- annual Andrei Stenin International Press Photo Contest 2015
- grand price at the IAFOR Documentary Photography Award 2015
- Nannen Preis for journalism 2016 (category: special award)
- photography award at the University of Art and Design in Offenbach 2016
- PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris 2017 (category: Professional Book, Documentary - Silver & Professional Press, War - Bronze)
- Ian Parry Exhibition, 2015 (London, England)
- „Guerre en contraste“, 2016 (Aix-en-Provence, France)
- Museum of Modern Art, 2016 (Frankfurt, Germany)
- „Les enfants d’Alep“, 2016 (Marseille, France)
- „Humans of Syria: Stories of daily life and survival“, 2016 (California, USA)
- Ostrava Photo festival, 2017 (Ostrava, Czech Republic)
Presentations & Workshops (selection)
- Aix-Marseille University, 2016 (Aix-en-Provence, France)
- Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation, 2016 (Frankfurt, Germany)
- Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence, 2017 (Bielefeld, Germany)
- World Press Photo Exhibition, 2017 (Willy-Brandt-Haus Berlin, Germany)
- Workshop on smartphone photography, organized by the German Association for Photography, 2016 (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie e.V., Mannheim, Germany)
In the press
„gripping, vivid, personal“ (German Missions in the United States)
„With his feeling for the right moment, Hosam Katan creates impressive images from the perspective of an immediate observer that go beyond the pure documentation of events.“ (Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation)
„His pictures are oppressive, full of sympathy and devoid of facile voyeurism. (…) These photographs send out an appeal to all those involved in this process: shoulder your share of responsibility to finally put an end to the killing and the suffering in Syria! We owe that to people like Hosam Katan, the last photographer of Aleppo!” (Frank-Walter Steinmeier, former Foreign Minister of Germany)
"Amid Rubble, Reminders of Daily Life in Aleppo“ (Photo Journal, Wall Street Journal)
„Die Fotografien des Autodidakten zählen zu den eindringlichsten Zeugnissen des unerbittlichen Kampfes um Syriens einstige Wirtschaftsmetropole Aleppo.“ (Der Westen)
"Kriegsfotografie in Syrien. Von den Straßen Aleppos" (F.A.Z.)
„Véritables fenêtres ouvertes sur la Syrie, les clichés révèlent par leurs sujets et esthétiques une humanité partagée, universelle.“ (Guerre en contraste)
In this short German reportage filmed by the NDR you can see me preparing the book: NDR DAS! Hosam Katan - Kriegsfotograf aus Aleppo DAS!, Author: Marie Teresa Giese
Risks and challenges
Although everything is set to go, there might be a risk that the production of the book may be delayed for some unforseen reason. In this case I will send you a notification. Moreover, if for another unforeseen reason the book will not materialize, you will of course receive all your money back.
Thank you very much for your help!
Whether you have pledged or helped to spread the word, your support means a lot!
- (30 days)