I used to photograph political subjects, but now all I cover is the Syrian war and humanitarian crisis.
My father was a carpenter, but he was very fond of photography and used to take pictures in his spare time. When I remember my father, I remember his camera and the pictures he showed me of his travels in Europe. I became interested in photography myself because I loved the idea of capturing a moment, and when I started shooting pictures the image of my father with his camera never left my mind.
When I was 18 I got a Russian Zenith camera and began photography as a hobby. At the same time I started to attend college to study tourism, and then I went to do my military service for two and a half years. During that time, I was totally cut off from everything I was interested in, except my passion for photography, which never left me.
When I returned from military service I started reading books about photography for beginners and registered with an institute where I learnt the technical side of taking pictures. I wanted to be a photographer – a good one!
In 2006 I went to Rome during a meeting of countries from the Mediterranean coast and I was the only one from Syria. I think that was the trigger that made me sure I wanted to immerse myself in photography. I then came back to Damascus and started working for Al-Watan newspaper.
Although I had covered other stories before, I feel my first real assignment started on the first day of the Syrian revolution. It was March 25, 2011, and I heard the protests in al-Amawi mosque so I rushed there immediately with my camera. It was new for me to capture moments that will make history.
I sent my first pictures of the Syrian Revolution into the Associated Press, the news agency I was working for at the time, and they went around the world. It was forbidden, however, to publish them in the Alwatan newspaper where I was director of photography because the paper was pro-government.
Going to Aleppo left a huge impact on me. It is the second largest city in Syria, and I think there are more battles going on around there now than any other place in Syria. I didn’t get any encouragement from my wife or family to go and my friends were telling me to stay away from Aleppo because I might never come back. I went anyway and it is something that I will never forget. What is happening there is really sad.
All stories related to human beings excite me, whether they’re happy or sad. Through my pictures I want to show the world what people are struggling for and what they’re going through.
When I take pictures I have the image of my father in front of me, the image of him holding his camera. I feel a connection with him when I shoot, I feel he is always around me. He is my audience; everything I do is for him.