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Places That Shaped Today's Middle East Enlarge

About the Work

This military museum near the centre of Damascus, once the Takiyyeh as-Sulaymaniyyeh Mosque was built in 1553 to an elegant design by the great architect Sinan. Many of the subsequent Ottoman Sultans, including the last, are buried in its grounds.
Today, displayed incongrously in its dishevelled courtyard are MIG fighters used in the 1967 Six Day War with Israel. There is also a Soviet space capsule which carried a Syrian cosmonaut in 1987. In the foreground are the remains of Israeli weaponry from the Battle for the Golan Heights in 1967. Syria lost the Six Day War but any ignorant visitor to this museum would think otherwise.

As I was setting up my tripod and sketching the scene, a small group gathered. I did not notice them at first. The woman in the photograph then interrupted me by saying in good English that she was a photography student from a college nearby. She said that her group was surprised to see me sketch before I took photographs and wanted to know how I worked. I explained. I then included the woman and a boy in the picture. When I had finished the photography students invited me to their college to give an impromptu talk and I was pleased to oblige.

Places That Shaped Today's Middle East

The news coming to us daily from the Middle East give us the impression of a battle zone continuously erupting with violence and mayhem. The photojournalist or news broadcaster's job is to seek out the news-worthy event. Rarely do they focus on the quiet before the storm - the moments between events when ordinary life continues.

While travelling through Lebanon and Syria in 2006 - it struck me that the day-to-day reality of people living under those conditions differed greatly from the news-worthy images sent to us via our media. Most of the time very little was happening. What was of the real interest was how the people there lived out their ordinary lives in a landscape scarred with traces of its violent past and present.

It was the ordinary sitting side-by side with the extraordinary that became the subject of Places That Shaped Today's Middle East. Delving into the regions more distant past I tried to trace that legacy through to the present day - excavating the present situation for evidence of a place's historical resonance while somehow capturing the stillness of the quiet before the storm

About Vaughan Grylls

Born 10th December 1943 in Newark, Nottinghamshire and attended art schools at Nottingham, Wolverhampton, Goldsmiths' and the Slade. He has taught at several art schools in the UK and the US.

From 1996 to 2005 he was Director of the Kent Institute of Art and Design. In 2005 he resigned to concentrate full-time on his own work after joining the Kent and the Surrey Institutes of Art and Design to make the University for the Creative Arts.

″I still use the same approach to my work: I get an idea, think of the title and then make the work. So not much has changed since 1964″

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