The New York Review of Books featured Bubriski’s book in the February 23rd review “Syria’s Monumental Loss” by Muhammad Idrees Ahmad. Ahmad writes, “But even as the revolution was revealing what Saleh calls the “stifled richness of Syria,” the country’s past was being erased. Shortly after ISIS arrived in Palmyra, the regime launched air strikes on the city, heedless of its ancient monuments. Soon after, ISIS took its own bludgeon to the ruins, destroying the Temple of Bel, the Temple of Baalshamin, and the Monumental Arch.
A decade earlier, in 2003, the photographer Kevin Bubriski was in Palmyra, viewing the same sites through his Hasselblad lens. As if anticipating their fate, Bubriski preserved the beauty and grandeur of its various sites—including the Temple of Allat, the Valley of the Tombs, and the Monumental Arch—in exquisite black-and-white photographs that appear together for the first time in Legacy in Stone: Syria Before War. The book is a collection of arresting—and at times, haunting—photographs from three of Syria’s six UNESCO-designated world heritage sites. Five of these, including two captured in this volume, have since been partially or completely destroyed.
The erasure of the past is more than just a material loss, it is also a psychic wound. Totalitarian rule relies on such erasure. It abhors history, which resides in time, and replaces it with myth, which is eternal. Baathists and ISIS have both tried to erase history to create subjects whose submission is absolute, unmoderated by external attachments.
Bubriski will be giving a public lecture Wednesday April 3, 2019 at 7 p.m. at Williams College. The lecture is sponsored by the Williams College Department in Arabic Studies.