“Art can be more human” – an interview with Samara Sallam

Samara Sallam, a young Palestinian refugee, from Syria won the first prize of the Mediterranean Women’s Fund’s photo contest in 2012.  The photographer and  journalist had been invited to a one month artist’s residency in Norway by the Fjord Summer Festival. At the Førde Festival, she, among others,  exposed her work at the photo exhibition, ‘What’s the point of revolution, if I cannot dance?’. There was also a debate about the situation for female artists in countries in the “Arab spring”, together with Dorsaf Hamdani (Tunisian singer) and Fawzia Baba-Aissa (of the Mediterranean Women’s fund).  News and Noise was at the festival and after the debate we asked Sallam some questions (in English).

Hanging, photo: Samara Sallam

by Charlie Crooijmans

Who is Samara Sallam?

“I am Palestinian and I was  born in Syria. After the revolution I moved to Algeria, because it’s very dangerous in Syria (Sallam is studying at the Ecole Supérieure des Baux-Arts in Algerie, CC). I make conceptual photography. The three photos that were in the competition, come from a project called ’52 weeks’. That was in 2011. Every week I made a photo and shared it on social media. Every week I tried to express something new, something I felt or experienced. “

My photography expresses my vision of the world , my obsessions , fears , insanity and lightness  blog 52 week photography).

How did the Syrian revolution had an effect on you?

“The revolution made me rethink about a lot of things. The change of the revolution effects my mind. I think that I became more strong. I can express a lot of things and I also discovered a lot of things in myself. I make photos, I have my blog,  and I met a lot of people like me, because of the revolution.”

Do you think you are growing because of the revolution?

“Yes, I think so. After I left Syria, I spend the last months in Algeria. That is also a different experience. I live with my family there. A friend in Algeria helped us a lot. She found a place, so we could start a normal life. Until now it is not normal, but you can learn a lot from the revolution about power, and about being afraid in your mind.”

It’s for the second time your family had to flee.

“Yes, I was born in a camp at the country side of Damascus.  I discovered very early that I am a refugee in Syria and that I am a Palestinian. I discovered what it means to be a refugee and what is the meaning of freedom, what is the meaning of exile in other countries. Actually this made me, and other young people, my friends,  growing up early.  Because we are growing up thinking about politics, about countries, about freedom, all those big words. And of course that effected us.  It also effects our experience of the civil revolution.”

When did you start with photography?
“I started to take normal pictures. All of my family are artists, my father, mother and brother are sculptures. They encouraged me a lot, but I started to study journalism, because I thought it was more important. Then I found myself continuing with photography. Because I found that art can express more about people than journalism. It can be more human and more real.”

Photo: Samara Sallam

There on the cross, Homs is still smiling, today Damascus under sky of blood and ashes.
The world did not know that the area on the outskirts of Damascus was bombed with 24 rockets and completely filled in.
Simply because all of Damascus was bombed… Did not distinguish between the time a bullet that penetrates the body and the blood that fills the lung in other areas.
17-7 – 2012 when Aldeabih was bombed  in Damascus  and didn’t count a number of martyrs,
It was wrenching bombing that remains of it in the next two days.

(Samara’s blog)

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