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Aleppo is the second largest city in Syria after Damascus, and, in addition to its great historical and cultural significance, has always been, above all, of economic importance. Divided and torn apart since 2012 between the government troops of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and a number of different rebel groups, Aleppo has been one of the country’s most dramatic war zones. Today large sections of the city are in ruins. A direct witness to the civil war, Katan has documented the suffering of the civil population in the eastern part of his hometown.

The photographs were taken between 2013 and 2015, and capture very immediate moments reflecting the divided and contradictory experiences and emotions of the people. How can normal everyday life even continue in a permanent state of emergency such as war? With Yalla Habibi, which in Arabic means something like “Let’s go, my dear”, the photographer presents the inhabitants’ will to survive, trying to endure and master the situation with perseverance and ingenuity. The images are direct and unsparing, showing victims of the war and the emotions of the surviving mourners. In parallel, the photo book presents youngsters bathing in bomb craters, a man looking after stray cats, and an improvised vegetable stand amid the ruins. Children at play, joy, sadness, despair live side by side and can change at any second, just like the situation in the beleaguered city.
With his pictures, the photographer aims to give visibility to the people trapped there. “I felt the responsibility to document what was happening around me. 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.” Financed through a kick-starter campaign, the book is dedicated to Anja Niedringhaus, the German photographer who was shot in Afghanistan in 2014 – her commitment to documenting daily life in war situations was both an example and an incentive for Hosam Katan. Ulrich Rüter

Hosam Katan: Yalla Habibi. Living with War in Aleppo
152 pages, 80 colour illustrations, English, 24 × 32 cm, Kehrer Verlag
A damaged street in the Saif al-Dawla neighborhood in the north of Aleppo, May, 2015 © Hosam Katan
© Hosam Katan
© Hosam Katan
© Hosam Katan
Hosam Katan: Yalla Habibi. Living with War in Aleppo

Hosam Katan

Hosam Katan (born 1994) was just 18 when he began working as a photographer for the Aleppo Media Center. A short while later his pictures were being distributed by Reuters and appeared in numerous international magazines. In 2015 he was seriously injured, leaving Syria via Turkey at the end of 2015, and coming to Germany where he now studies photo journalism at college in Hanover. His work has been recognised with the Ian Parry Special Award 2014 and the Ian Parry Award 2015, at the Andrei Stenin International Press Photo Contest 2015 with the Special Nannen Award – an award for photography granted by the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation –, the PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris 2017, and the Felix Schoeller Photo Award 2017.

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