Studio Aleppo

The war in Syria has demolished many parts of the city of Aleppo. Public buildings, apartment blocks and shops were bombed and looted, sometimes leaving personal belongings scattered through the streets.

One morning, Syrian photographer Issa Touma found the remains of a collection of glass plates, negatives and prints from a photo studio in Bawabet Al Qasab street, made between the 20s and 70s. Studio Aleppo presents these images from the past today, in order to honour the lost people of Aleppo.

In addition, Studio Aleppo is a pop-up photo studio, where citizens of the city where the project is launched are invited to have their portrait taken by a prominent local photographer. Refugees who have arrived in this city are invited to do the same. As a welcoming gesture, citizens of the city pay for two portraits: their own and a refugees’ portrait.

All participants share some of their interests and background in a short interview. The photos are added to an evolving collection, to be displayed side by side in a portrait gallery and online on this website. Through photographing the newcomers and residents and including them in a collection of portraits, the project aims to stimulate a feeling of recognition and inclusion. Studio Aleppo wants to contribute to a change in the image of newcomers.

The second Studio Aleppo was established in Helsinki, at the National Museum of Finland, in August 2017. During one weekend, photographer Juuso Westerlund shot 48 portraits. An impressive round structure was build in the entrance hall of the museum, as the base for a monumental portrait gallery. Visitors who entered the structure found themselves surrounded by the portraits of 48 ‘old’ and ‘new’ residents from the Helsinki area.

Studio Aleppo website