Within the framework of the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2010) a small group of young Syrian women has been provided with the opportunity to receive professional photography training through a workshop of two weeks, allowing them to develop basic knowledge in photography. At the same time, they were asked to look into their own living environments and those of the ‘other’. Through a publication and potential exhibitions in Germany/Switzerland of the photos realized during the workshop, these subjective perceptions of the realities of young Syrian women shall be made accessible to Western people, thus contributing to a better understanding and the rapprochement between European and Arab cultures.
This workshop provided the participating girls and young women with different cultural backgrounds and life projects some space to discuss and accept common grounds as well as differences. In doing so, the resources, perceptions and strengths of these young women represented the starting point, focus and orientation for a sustainable and demand-oriented discussion of subjects such as identity, perspectives and role allocation in Syria.
From the outside, the reality of Syrian women is often perceived differently and western photographers only have limited access to the realities of those women. Syrian women can best picture their worlds by their own. In a second step, the perceptions of their own life environments shall also be made accessible to people outside Syrian and thus contribute to the reduction of islamophobic tendencies.
In cooperation with the local partner organization, the workshop was carried out under direction of the photographer Anja Pietsch and Beatrice Winkler.
The Canon ProfiFoto prize winner Anja Pietsch studied photography with Sibylle Bergemann and Roger Melis amongst others. She currently lives and works as independent photographer with focus on portrait and documentary photography in Berlin. Within the framework of the ifa CrossCulture programme, Anja Pietsch spent the last months working for the Syrian magazine Syria Today.
Beatrice Winkler studied Translation, Applied Cultural Studies and International Humanitarian Aid in Zurich, Bilbao and Brussels. She was working more than two years for different local and international humanitarian organizations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross. Since her stay in Syria she lives in Berne and works on a freelance basis on different projects.
In Syria, Anja Pietsch and Beatrice Winkler have realized a reportage on German expatriates in Damascus. The article was published in October in the ifa-magazine on international perspectives Kulturaustausch.