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Places That Shaped Today's Middle East Enlarge

About the Work

Not far from the Beirut to Damascus road, concealed by tall trees, lies the founder of modern Syria, Youssef Azmi.
The Syrians were promised independence if they joined the Allies and fought the Turks in the First World War. The Allies reneged and Syria was ceded to France.
The Battle of Maysaloun between France and Syria took place here on 24 July 1920. Youssef Azmi charged his cavalry against the French mechanised armour. When the Syrians capitulated, the French killed as many Syrians as they could find. Azmi and his officers were tied to telegraph poles and shot.
Three men, a gardener, a caretaker and my driver, suggested they stand as a guard of honour behind Azmi's tomb.
As we left my driver said that I was the only foreigner he had ever taken to this place. I said that Azmi and what happened here is largely unknown in the West.
He looked me in the eye as in the photograph and said: 'Mais c'est le lieu plus important de notre pays parce que ceci est notre fin et notre début.'

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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