12 portraits and 12 testimonies. Simple pictures and thrilling words. Filip Ćwik in his album 12 Faces depicts the victims of the Syrian civil war.
The founder and member of Napo Image Agency met with the Syrians at the refugee camp in Islahiye in Turkey in late August and early September. Michał Kacewicz recorded the words of those portrayed. All photos were taken in an improvised studio with a large format camera from the World War II era. Every photographed person looks straight into the lens. Nobody is smiling. The black background focuses our attention on their faces.
We tried to tell the world what was happening in Syria even before the start of the war but somehow nobody cared for us. We did not have crude oil so why was anybody supposed to be interested in Syria? Than again, everybody in Europe thought that al-Assad is such a civilised dictator. He used to wear chic suits, he was not as eccentric as Gaddafi or as aggressive as Saddam Hussain – says Adb Alla Ahmi, one of the refugees.
Almost every day we hear about another victim of the conflict - they give the death toll on the news. Victims’ photos are given awards in photography contests but for the average man, these interminable Middle Eastern conflicts can easily merge into one. 12 Faces by Filip Ćwik forces us to look straight into Syrian victims' eyes and face their stories.
I have seen officers pulling out captured insurgent’s larynx with his bare hands and laughing that this is Rambo’s style. I have seen them ordering soldiers to crush captives lying on the ground under a tank. Leaving wounded soldiers or finishing them off is an everyday reality – says Muhammad Anwat, who deserted from the government army and joined the rebels.
The album is coverless and almost 50 cm long. It is packed in a grey, sealed sack, a signal that this is a consignment from afar.
12 Faces is a significant work. The war in Syria is also a propaganda war. It is worth knowing why it broke out and what they are fighting for. The album doesn't answer all of these questions but relies on individual testimonies, which can't be put into perspective. Filip Ćwiek substituted the figures flashing in the evening news with people whose stare we have to endure.
I just had to do this album for them, for myself, for my sons. From fear, helplessness, but also from gratefulness that I can walk my boys to school – says Filip Ćwiek.
Author: Dariusz Bochenek. Translated by W.O., 13.02.2013Dariusz Bochenek