Director: Issa Touma
Feed Back  
 
  Nouh-Ammar Hammami / Participating Photographer  
  Syria
  “The Sixth International Photogarphy Gathering in Aleppo has established itself and created a presence and proven effectiveness on both local and international levels. Of course, it is the most important photography gathering in the Middle East. However, we hope that in the coming years the international and the local mass media will cover the activities of the festival on a larger scale, to expand international awareness of this very valuable cultural event. Promotion of The Photography Gathering should be maximized to raise awareness of this annual event and introduce all of the artists especially the Syrian artists to the whole world”.
 
 
  Nihad Series / Best Selling Author  
  Syria
  “Issa Touma is one of the best known photographers in Syria. His photos are distinguished by their environmental immediacy and humanity. His main concern is to express this duality in all his works. In most of his exhibited photos, the human being is revealed in close relationship with their condition. Thus, his work asserts that the envirnonment is meaningless without the human inhabitants. The later is the son of the environment and the son of his age.

Issa Touma also has maintained a persistent search for the best and most interesting locations to show art. He discovered a number of defunct historic locations which he turned into public spaces that would later amaze visitors. His first effort was the unearthing Khan Ass’ad Basha in Damascus which he found in a dormant condition. Issa set to work and transformed it into a public gallery for all manner of artistic and cultural activities serving the public and showcasing Syrian artists in a lovely location.

Next, Issa explored the ancient archeologically significant Shibani Church in Aleppo. Historically it was used as an economic administration building and later served as a school. Eventually the Shibani fell into disuse. Issa then organized a group of volunteers including university students and foreigners, who reside in Aleppo and turned the Shibani into a public exposition space. They set work cleaning up all the accumulated dust and debris and opened there with the Second International Photography Gathering in 1998. Holding the Photography Gatherings in this archeological site, redolent with the feel and smell of history proved to be a revelation and surprise to the public accustomed to art exhibitions in modern galleries. Visitors to the shows examined the images on display but also were forced to think about the building from a different perspective.

Later Issa Touma continued his search for more interesting locations His aim was to find new places, which showcase the work of many photographers that are brought from all over the world to participate in the Photography Gatherings. Eventually he found The Old Electricity Building, a long abandoned industerial space from the twenties. Once again he set to cleaning up the space by eliminating the old engines, the damaged pinions, and cleaning away the many years of accumulated grease from the floor and the walls. But the result was really remarkable. All those who entered the Sixth International Photogarphy Gathering’s showplace felt that although the building belongs to a past age, it was still expressive and close to their hearts.

Issa Touma, by organizing all these Gatherings and by transforming all these interesting locations to museums, aims to serve humanity and to share artistic experiences and visions”.
 
 
  Veronika Zapletalova / Participating Photographer  
  Czech Republic
  “Between 11th of September and 30th of September I had a wonderful opportunity to participate The 6th International Photography Gathering in Aleppo, 2002. This festival took a place in an unusual place, The Old Electricity Building in Aleppo. It is one of the most important cultural events in Syria.

Organizers of this event, (my special thanks to Mr. Issa Touma), chose this old and very interesting industrial place for the meeting of artists from different countries and different cultures. The main part of the exhibition was photography, but also very important was the series of activities, for example, workshops by artists, who discussed their work with the public, concerts of all the kinds (modern and classic), dance and the other performances.

The artists were given the opportunity to show their work in the Old Electricity Building, but also everyone was supplied with the any equipment they needed for installations. The organizers printed, in English and Arabic, a catalogue with a profile of each artist, a package made up of a collection of colourful picture postcards with a copy of a sample of each artists work, invitations, posters of two sizes and the other assorted materials. All the artists stayed for five days in the fine Amir Hotel.

There was also a great deal of information about this festival running in newspapers, television and other media. Many performances and lectures were also shown on television.

For my personal development all this was very important. I was well informed beforehand on how the festival was planned. The Photo Gathering was a great opportunity for me to discover the differences in thinking between two (or several) cultures and the similarities. In my opinion this was an important aspect for the all people participating this festival, artists and public alike.

As everyone works on his or her own subject, which can be very different from the ideas of other artists, there is a certain line of human ideas and feelings, which are finally similar for all. This is good to discover again and again especially when the world is becoming so complicated and sometimes difficult place. Culture is one of the strongest languages which helps people to understand one another.

I am very happy I have met all the interesting and creative people and be able to share with them my ideas and opinions. I would like to thank again the organizers of this big cultural event, for myself and for the other people who were able to participate.”
 
 
  Abbas Kowsari / Participating Photo-journalist  
  Iran
  “I think holding the photo exhibition in the new exhibition place was a very innovative idea, and the fact that each year the exhibition was held in different locations is one of the positive points in your work. Also the fact that all the photographers invited to participate come from different countries provides the opportunity for photographers to meet each other in a professional atmosphere. My question is about the way the photographers are chosen, since I think they are not very harmonious. Anyhow your effort to shoulder the responsibility of holding such an exhibition all alone is a very positive point. Hoping to witness your success in future years with a more planning. Meanwhile thank you so much for all the trouble you went through during our stay in Aleppo”.
 
 
  Samuel Fosso / Participating Photographer  
  Central African Republic
  ”I really appreciated the organization and enjoyed discovering the city of Aleppo. The venue was perfect, and not the least bit disturbing to find that the exhibition place is an old electric plant! Obviously it was a huge task to change this greasy place into an exhibition hall. But you succeeded! The organization was cool and efficient, no special problems to mention.

Regarding the public response, the opening was a success, with many people much interested in the work and the artists. We noticed that this manifestation was well publicized to the population and that the public desire to see the show was very real.
As for my personal development as an artist, I am always keen to exhibit in new places. It was my first time to show in the Middle East and it clearly helped me to focus on the necessity to further pursue interaction with other cultures and attitudes.
Another benefit of the Photography Gathering was the demonstrated strong will of the
organizers to develop new audiences in the region and introduce African artists.”
 
 
  Embassy of the United States of America  
  Syria
  On Behalf of the American Cultural Center and the Americna Embassy in Damascus I would like to extend our thanks to you for your unsparing efforts to successfully present the photography exhibition of the American photographer Mel Rosenthal as part of The Photography Gathering in Aleppo. The American Cultural Center was very pleased to participate in this cultural event, presented with the the patronage of the Prime Minister Dr. Muhammad Mustafa Miro. We appreciate your efforts very much and convey our gratitude’s to you, to the organizing committee and especially to the Engineer Wahid Adel.

We look forward to similar photography gatherings in Aleppo in the future I extend to you the best wishes from all the employees in the American Embassy in Damascus, and the warmest regards from the American Cultural Center.

Theodore Kattouf
The Ambassador of the United States of America, Damascus
 
 
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