'I left Syria because i didn't want to work as a fixer between the detainee's family and the authority. I am only a barber.'
'First come, first served.'
Born Damascus (SY), 1979
That there’s a very fine line between artistry and activism is something Omar Imam knows all too well. His somewhat absurd, staged photographic works express an alienating mixture of humour and empathy, which transports viewers to the present-day reality of Syrians – refugees, prisoners of war, jihadists, and human beings. As such, Imam opposes typical media stereotypes of Syrians as either defenceless victims or heartless murderers, adding new images to that simplistic, dichotomous, and common representation.
Imam uses a fictional documentary approach that borders on the surreal, but often reveals the layered, contradictory identities of those portrayed and their situations, in much the same way that journalistic war photography does. In his most recent work, Imam focuses the camera on those in his personal environment, particularly his six-year-old daughter. But this does not remove the Syrian civil war from his work. On the contrary: by photographing his own private environment, Imam shows the continued day-to-day effect of the war in the lives of those who continue to build a new existence far away from their roots.