Paul Lowe

Paul Lowe—Magnum

Paul Lowe—Magnum

June 1992. Sarajevo.

“Sarajevo during the siege was like a giant experiment in human nature, in what happens to civilization when it is attacked from every side. Sarajevo was (and still is) a cosmopolitan, sophisticated European city. In covering this long, drawn out conflict, I was fascinated by what happens to people like us when their lives are transported back into a medieval siege, with no water, electricity, gas, power and little food, and constant shelling and sniping from the enemy in the hills above.

What happened is that people hung on to their civic values, and indeed celebrated them, as a form of resistance against the violence of the aggression. What happened is that people were incredibly inventive, coming up with all sorts of amazing ways to survive and even to prosper in such adversity. What happened is that people kept on making art, performing plays, holding classical music recitals, filming movies and, above all, kept on identifying themselves with the city and its spirit as acenter for democratic, artistic and cultural life. Nothing symbolized this more for me than this intersection, on the notorious ‘Sniper’s Alley.’ This stretch of open ground marked a transition point between the suburbs and the heart of the city. So every day, hundreds of civilians risked their lives by sprinting across this street, under sniper fire from the gunmen in the hills above. And they risked their lives to come into the city, to be part of its life, to identify themselves as civilized humans against the barbarity of the violence being rained down upon them.”

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