Issa Touma, Syrian photographer
Born in Aleppo, Syria
Lives and works in Aleppo, Syria
Issa Touma is a photographer, an art curator and a cultural animator based in Aleppo, Syria. His photographic work can be found in international collections, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
Finding himself isolated from the international art community in his own country, Touma established the Black and White Gallery, the first photography gallery in the Middle East, in 1992. After its closure in 1996, Touma founded Le Pont Gallery, an independent art organisation and gallery that promotes freedom of expression and stimulates the local art scene through international events. In 1997, he started the International Photography Festival Aleppo, which despite the horrors and uncertainties of the conflict, continues to take place every year. In 2012, shortly after the war broke out, he initiated Art Camping. A collaborative program in the form of workshops, it attempts to counter the violence of the conflict by encouraging young people from various religious and ethnic backgrounds to express themselves through art and culture.
His recent photographic series Women We Have Not Lost Yet and Other Stories from Aleppo are cries for freedom from the women Syria has not lost yet – to death, exile or oppression.
Woman We Have Not Lost Yet tells the stories of those who lived through the crisis in Syria. On 26 April 2015, the radical Islamic opposition announced the ‘Great Attack’ on Aleppo. Young people from various ethnicities and religions, former participants of the artist collective Art Camping, gathered in Le Pont gallery. In this artistic and intellectual safe haven, they could find comfort in each other. The fighting lasted an entire week. Trapped and frightened, a group of women shared their hopes and fears. Dressed in their customary clothing they decided to hold a photography session, almost like a final message.