Photos: A War-Torn City

I’ve been wanting to write about my trip to Jaffna for over a week now. Yet, as the days pass by, I find myself writing and rewriting draft after draft. That should come as no surprise. After all, 26 years of civil war is impossibly hard to describe, much less explain.

Jaffna was a city not to be seen, but rather to be felt. The human impact of the war can be found everywhere—from the unsettling emptiness that permeates the city to the ubiquitous physical destruction. Even in seemingly innocent conversations with people, one could read in between the lines and find vague references to the past.

It left me heavy with impressions, which I hope these photos can begin to convey.

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I didn’t have to travel very far to find this shot. In fact, every other plot of land in the city was either under construction, semi-destroyed, or completely flattened.

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During the war, fuel prices in Jaffna once surged up to 20x the national average. As a legacy of this past, there is still a much higher concentration of bicycles in the city.

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The following photos are from the old train station, which has yet to be rebuilt.

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In Sri Lanka, nothing is ever so black and white.

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2 responses to “Photos: A War-Torn City

  1. These photos are stunning and sobering. I’ve never been to Jaffna, but I feel like I have seen a bit of it through your eyes. Thank you for sharing.

    I’m curious: why did you decide to shoot in black and white?

    • TBH, I didn’t have any explicit reasons at the time of post-processing. I just looked at the image, tried it out in B&W, and felt that it delivered more powerful visual impact. If you really want to analyze it, B&W allows the viewer to focus more on pure elements like shapes, lines, texture, and light, all of which were in abundant supply in this series. It’s also more timeless and serious, which quite well suits the subject.

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