Photobook of Syria, year 2000  
 
7 August 2017

Dedicated to my loving wife, Lila



In this haunting and evocative exploration of Syria, one is inevitably struck by the tragedy of the civil war that has been raging in that country: the images of  monuments to a glorious past of which this invaluable photographic study by Günther Komnick is a lasting testament.
     Filled with colour, intimacy, we see the day-to-day activities of a vibrant and seemingly prosperous society, of a highly evolved and ancient civilization absorbing and modifying the modern era in its own distinctive way. The images were taken in 2000, well before the present war broke out, adding thus a heart-breaking poignancy to the images, the smiles, the carefree and busy atmosphere conveyed in the photographs. Alley-ways, castles, fortresses, shepherds, dazzling images of woven textiles, bustling cities (complete with collectible cars, including bright yellow Mercedes Benz 190 taxis from the 1950s and 1960s), all combine to illustrate the vibrant life that once characterized Syria.
     The urban scenes are contrasted with timeless rural scenes, that bespeak a peace and harmony which we now know from newsreels and the Internet to be all but gone… Cities, temples dating back millennia… are they still there? What has happened to the laughter of children and the buxom grandmothers and wizened grandfathers who gaze into the soul of the viewer?
     One cannot view this book without these thoughts, and one is filled with a sense of gratitude that this volume exists. A deep love of the subject matter permeates the book, in what is, without a hint of self-consciousness, what amounts to visual poetry.
     As with Günther’s other titles, (such as his work on Cape Town in the 1960s) which concentrate on people - as opposed to nature - the historical and social context lives through the image: of life experienced, perhaps haphazardly, but intensely. Indeed, the cyclical drama of people’s lives as illustrated here, urges one to view the world with empathy - as Günther has done in this tribute to a land, a home that to many is no more.
Dr Wilhelm Snyman, Cape Town, 2017