In March 2015, I visited Kobane, which was leveled to about 60 per cent in five months of intensive fighting between the Islamic State and Kurdish militia, the latter heavily supported by the American Air Force. Again my aim is to show the aftermath of the fighting – livelyhoods are destroyed in milliseconds, to rebuild them takes years. The fate of Kobane stands as an example for other Syrian cities like Aleppo or Homs. The strategic value of Kobane is zero. It fell into ruins because it became a symbol – the fight between Good against Evil. Nevertheless, stumbling through the debris and human remains for 12 days makes these notions fade away. Only a big disbelief stays about what human beings are capable of – not difficult to imagine what a lot of European cities looked after WWII. The ignorance about the conflict in Syria starts to disappear after dead refugees are washed up on our shores – decisive political action by the international community with a clear threat of military force is badly needed to bring the conflict at least to a standstill.
Sundus Hawarna, 11 lost her eye and her whole family in a barrel bomb explosion in Jasim southern Syria. She one of more than one million Syrians who were wounded in the Syrian civil war which started in spring 2011.
Kai Wiedenhöfer took portraits of forty Syrian war wounded in towns, villages and refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon between spring 2014 and 2015. By showing the genuine aftermath of this war it is his intention to raise support for people who are really in need. The media are often bashing out the numbers of the dead on a daily base but mostly forget about the injured. For them the war will never end. They will have to endure their injuries till the end of theirs lifes.
Looking back retrospectively in the cold light of the day the horrors of war become more evident. The reality is so gruesome that the media tries to prevent us from seeing it on so called ethical reasons. But what and whose ethics are these? Instead of preventing war and suffering, what this actually does is help to unleash the next war by making it more palatable to an unknowing public.
This project aims to show the suffering of the civilian population in a modern war. The defiance of international law has become a petty offense. The international community is slow to react and the benefits which resulted from WWII in the form of the United Nations and the Geneva Conventions are continuously weakened.
For more than 20 years Kai Wiedenhöfer has been taking photographs in the Middle East, a place where many journalists and photographers have covered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet Wiedenhöfer is unique in that he concentrates exclusively on Gaza, and often remains there for extended time to take photos long after the media has moved onto more ‘pressing’ news stories. Even in 2009 after the offensive of the Israeli army, Wiedenhöfer was in Gaza. During this time he took disturbingly quiet, almost repetitive pictures of the bleak aftermath of the war that form The Book of Destruction. Wiedenhöfer´s images of crumbling ruins and maimed civilians are a powerful landscape of disquiet and destruction.
For more than ten years, from 1990 to 2001, Kai Wiedenhöfer lived and photographed
in the Israeli-occupied territories. He has learnt the Arabic language, taken a close look at the Middle East, and thoroughly tried to understand the mentality of its inhabitants.
It wasn‘t long before the Palestinians called him Habib al-Schaab, friend of the people. They opened up toward him, and allowed him to gain an insight into a world, which generally is reported about in stereotypes.
Kai Wiedenhöfer‘s photographs live on his closeness toward the human beings depicted. They are telling about the everyday life of children, women and men, the victims and warriors of the Intifada, the dogged fight against the occupation. Perfect Peace expresses the hopes and disappointments in a region which only will be finding peace through mutual understanding.
“Over a nine meter wall you cannot shake hands,” said a Palestinian pensioner who lives in the shadow of the Separation Barrier currently being built by Israel.
Since October 2003, photographer Kai Wiedenhöfer, who has been documenting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for more than a decade, has been meeting with inhabitants of the Occupied Palestinian Territories living in the path of the barrier. Every six months, he returned to the territories to document the construction of the 650 kilometers of walls, fences, ditches and earth mounds, which form the border between the State of Israel and a future Palestinian entity.
This time, he has chosen to portray the conflict with a 6 x 17 cm panoramic camera, producing a series of color and black and white photographs which depict the wall and fragments of life in its shadow.
In 1989, the Berlin-based photographer documented the fall of the wall in his own city. Recent German history has convinced Wiedenhöfer that separation barriers offer no solutions to political conflict.