Yusuke Suzuki has been awarded with the Berlin Foto Biennale Award 2016 as “Emerging Talent”. Two of his photo essays will be presented in a solo exhibition at Berlin Foto Biennale 2016, alongside 446 photographers and Steve McCurry:
ALEPPO – CITY OF CHAOS
Lesbos Island – Journey to a New Life
Berlin Foto Biennale 2016
4th Biennial of Fine Art & Documentary Photography
6 – 30 October 2016
The young, award-winning photographer Yusuke Suzuki aims to tell the stories that should be told and not be ignored. He is only 32 years old and has already managed to document the life of The Freedom Syrian Army in the battle of Aleppo, and later the immigrant crisis on the Island of Lesbos in Greece.
His approach to crisis and conflict documentation is unique since he lived the life of his subjects, gaining an intimate insight into their daily life and struggle, and understanding their feelings and fears, their sorrow and hopes, while especially focusing on the children’s’ fate. The results are images of complex, raw emotions captured into a single frame that can stop time.
Yusuke Suzuki about his photo essay “Aleppo, Syria – City of Chaos”
In 2013, I crossed the border from southern Turkey into Syria with a fixer, who is also a member of the Free Syrian Army. We instantly became friends, and I stayed at his house, where his uncle’s family, his fiancé’s family, and his cousin’s family all lived together. Some of them used to live in their own houses in town, but as the battle became more intense, their neighborhood became a target of shelling. They had to give up their houses to protect their children. I always ate lunch and dinner with them, chatted with them, and laughed with them. In these turbulent times I was amazed to witness such incredible hospitality.
As soon as I arrived in Aleppo, the second largest city of Syria, I realized that there was no water, electricity, food, medicine, gas, jobs, school, or even milk for babies. They had lost everything. Those, who used to be normal citizens of Aleppo, took to the guns and joined the Free Syrian Army in order to achieve victory against President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has held presidency since 1971. But as the battle over Aleppo became more fierce and time passed, people also became more anxious about the future of their country and their daily life. In many areas, it was unsafe to go to the bakery or a grocery store, or even to visit friends, because of Syrian army snipers waiting to shoot whomever made an attempt to cross the streets.
The sound of indiscriminate shelling and gun battles could be heard even at midnight. Most witnessed deaths of friends or somebody they knew every day. The people of Aleppo no longer hoped for aid from western countries. They felt like they had been forgotten and isolated from the international community because no help had arrived, even though they had been calling for help. They seemed increasingly pessimistic and could no longer stand the conditions of their daily life.
On the other hand, the soldiers of the Free Syrian Army were still optimistic and believed that they will eventually win. I often drank tea with them, and we laughed together. They sometimes asked me about the soccer teams I preferred in the Spanish league or the music I enjoyed. Even at the front line, they were still laughing and joking until bullets ripped the air and the government forces began shelling them.
I cannot forget their frightened faces when one of their soldiers was shot. I cannot forget their anxious faces when we escaped and hid from the shelling. I realized that they were just like me in many ways. No one wants to die, even if they are willing to sacrifice their lives to protect their town and people.
The soldiers in the Free Syrian Army used to be students, teachers, engineers, farmers, and taxi drivers. They are someone’s father, someone’s son, or someone’s lover. None of them knows what is going to happen if they defeat Bashar al-Assad and his forces. One soldier said, “We really don’t have enough time or room to think about life after Bashar. We only have time to think about how we can win the battle. That’s it.”
Syria had plunged into the chaos of war.
USK, also known as Yusuke Suzuki is award-winning New York-based freelance photographer, originally born and raised in Chiba, Japan. He studied the guitar when he was in Japan, but once he went to the Philippines on his summer break with his friends and witnessed the tragic situation of the lifestyle there, he started to reassess his own life. In 2006, out of curiosity, he set off to Afghanistan to see what was going on that side of the world. During his first stay, he met photographers and journalists that ended up changing his life. Realizing that photography has the power to make a change, he decided to study Photojournalism more seriously, and to move to the United States to switch his guitar for a camera.
Having graduated from the New England School of Photography in 2011, he is trying to find the world and himself through the lens now – and of course still loves music. In January 2013 he went for the first time to Syria and stayed with the Free Syrian Army for three weeks, documenting their battle and the lives of families and children in war-torn Aleppo. In August 2015 he documented the refugee crisis on the Greek island Lesbos.
His works have been published on CNN, The Washington Post, Reuters, Al Jazeera, Boston Globe, NHK (Japan), Journalism (Japan), The Page (Japan), Internazionale (Italy), Haaretz (Israel), Toronto Sun (Canada), Estadao (Brazil), Rianovosti (Russia), Hindustan Times (India), Metro Boston, Tu Boston, Salem Radio Network News, ZEKE Magazine and MIPJ. He was chosen as an Emerging Talent after having won the annual Jacob Riis Editorial Award.
ALEPPO, Syria – CITY OF CHAOS
Lesbos Island – Journey to a New Life
You can find all press releases about the Berlin Foto Biennale 2016 here.