GIFs Capture Syria's Neighbors Surviving the Civil War

The Red Cross designed an interactive webpage filled with cinemagraphs to look in-depth at the residents of Tripoli called Syria Street.

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Jan 17 2017, 3:30pm

Syria Street. All images courtesy of Brandon Tauszik and the ICRC

About an hour away from the Syrian border lies Tripoli, one of the largest cities on the Lebanese coast. Despite the physical distance from the Syrian conflict, the city has been affected by the spillover of the Syrian Civil War, and a Tripoli street nicknamed “Syria Street” has attracted the brunt of the violence. In an effort to understand and bring awareness to the story of these citizens, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in collaboration with photographer Brandon Tauszik have created Syria Street, an interactive web experience detailing the lives of Syria Street residents.

The parallax-scrolling webpage fuses historical information, local anecdotes, and immersive sound-bytes within its HTML confines and an increasingly eclectic survey of the locals of Syria Street comes through as you stroll down the page. Some are brief excerpts, like the words of Zaynab, a pre-teen girl who explains that she is scared to sleep in her own bedroom because of the scattered bullet holes marking the walls. Most are long, detailed retellings of what life used to be like before conflict erupted and how drastically things have changed now, as told by shopkeepers, ex-car dealers turned into chefs for the kitchens of local NGOs, and everyday people struggling to hold on with their families.

The project’s inspiration comes from the sheer complexity of Syria Street, which serves as a divider of two hostile groups. “In Tripoli, you have these two communities (Bab al-Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen) and they’re both separated and united by this one street,” explains Ariel Rubin, the head of digital content at the ICRC. “It’s where they live side by side, do business, go to school, and when conflict breaks out, where they fight.”

Surrounding the textual excerpts from the Lebanese citizens are a series of looping GIF portraits of the same residents, taken by Tauszik in a style he first championed in his compelling Tapered Throne series. Although static portraits have the capacity to be moving and journalistically compelling, there is a certain quality about Tauszik’s slightly moving GIFs that feels unattainable in a still image.

Traces of humanity come out in the slight movements, but the movement ceases just as quickly as it starts, leaving the viewer with a desire, but ultimate inability to interact with the individuals. This sensation seems to be exactly what the photographer was going for when creating the works. “I find that GIFs (or the loop), can act as a beautiful hybrid between filmmaking and photography, incorporating aspects of both,” Tauszik tells The Creators Project.

“In the case of Syria Street, I was tasked with synthesizing a complex and little-known story for a largely Western audience that is quick to typecast people from this region,” the photographer adds. “In using GIFs for portraiture, I’m able to capture added nuance that allows for a stronger sense of human connection.”

Syria Street is available for viewing here. More of Brandon Tauszik’s photography can be seen on his website.

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