“Jason Hamacher first traveled to Syria in search of classical beauty: liturgical music of the numerous sects that coexisted there. During several trips that lasted a cumulative many months, the D.C. drummer and photographer also documented the contemporary charms of Aleppo, Syria, where everyday life bustled amid ancient and medieval edifices. Hamacher didn’t know that the places he came to love were about to be lost to history.
“1,001 Syrian Nights: Forgotten Sunsets & Night Scenes From Pre-War Aleppo,” Hamacher’s first show at his own Lost Origins Gallery, comprises 15 previously unseen large-format, mostly panoramic photos. Shot under black or orange skies, the pictures tend to be grand in scope, although one depicts a modest, unmanned espresso stand that seems to have almost as many tiny white cups as the city’s Great Mosque had mosaics.
The pictures were made between 2007 and 2010, and Hamacher hasn’t returned to Aleppo since war began. But the photographer has followed the city’s fate, and knows that many of the sites he chronicled no longer exist. A picturesque tunnel that burrowed under buildings, the location of an evocative nighttime vignette, was destroyed in 2013. The devastation gives these immediate scenes a lingering poignancy.
Hamacher shot most of the photos with a tripod and long exposures, so that multiple light sources twinkle and objects in motion have a softness that suggests oil painting. People are mainly absent, as the photographer worked late at night or on Friday, the eve of the holy day, so as to capture urban sweep and detail without visual competition from the usual throngs. Yet these unpopulated pictures convey that Aleppo was a living city, as vital as it was venerable.” – Mark Jenkins