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United in opposition? With evocative pictures taken in Disneyland and Syria, Alexander Maria Lohmann shows the similarities between two worlds that, at a first glance, could not be more different. He spoke to us about the intention behind his unusual project, his admiration for the people of Syria, and the difference between sincere and artificially-created energy.

LFI: 'Screaming Silence' is a juxtaposition of war settings in Syria and the apparently perfect, fairytale world of Disneyland. How did you come up with the idea?
Alexander Maria Lohmann: I have always been interested in and affected by fractures, contrasts and limitations.  A larger, emotional contradiction than the one seen in Screaming Silence seems hard to imagine. All of life in industrial nations is virtually like a fairytale, which is something we often forget and take for granted. I travelled repeatedly to extreme areas and countries, which are as far as possible from that kind of reality. Many of our own problems – that are not really problems at all – are mostly put into perspective after such trips. I was deeply impressed by how the people in Syria are able to reorganise their lives when there are virtually no means left to do so. A quiet  and a power reign in the bombed areas that can give you so much energy. It's an energy that had a very long-lasting impact.
In the perfectly-staged setting of Disneyland it's different. Whatever you experience doesn't last for long. Maybe because it's not real, but rather a colourful and illusory world. Of course, it's all a lot of fun for children and also some adults – but none of it is real. I find it very exciting to show such different emotions with a simple pair of pictures.

Despite the strong contrasts, are there any commonalities between the two places, apart from the formal aspects?
Despite the superficial parallels, the depth of the contrasts between the situations is extremely obvious. However, instead of putting each other into perspective, the fundamentally different subjects reinforce each other. Too much - too loud - too violent. The absurdity of what people can do to each other shouts out from the photographs taken in both settings.

How long did you spend in each location, and how did it feel to be taking pictures there?
I spent two years preparing for the trip to Syria and spent two weeks in the country. Of course there were numerous, at times very dangerous situations. Modesty, politeness and a very great respect towards people have always helped me on my trips, and in my life in general; and so it was in Syria.  
The discreet Leica Q2 was ideal for this purpose, and also a kind of life insurance. A large amount of equipment would have been dangerous, conspicuous and intrusive in those kinds of places. And also, the whole project has a certain calmness as a result of the constant 28mm focal length.  
I spent two days in Disneyland... and those days were more exhausting than my time in Syria! Though I also must admit I had a lot of fun with my wife while I was taking pictures there. (Interview: Danilo Rößger)

All the pictures on this page: © Alexander Maria Lohmann
Equipment: Leica Q2, Summilux 1:1.7/28

The Screaming Silence exhibition runs from October 3, 2021 to March 2022, at Schloss Arensberg in Salzburg. Further information available at Leica Galerie Salzburg
© Leon Moore

Alexander Maria Lohmann

Alexander Maria Lohmann was born in Innsbruck in 1972 and currently lives in Obergurgl in Tirol. After studying Natural Sciences at high school, he studied photography from 1988 to 1992 in Hall in Tirol, and in Salzburg. His large-format photographs are compositions made up of remote countries and urban areas, or wild animals from Africa, which he often overlays with abstract oil paintings.

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