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The Seasoned and the Dead

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In 2012, photographer Tom Daams flipped on CNN and came face-to-face with desperate citizens in Aleppo pleading for the world to help them. Daams was shocked by what he saw and finding himself unable to be a mere "bystander any longer," walked across the Turkish border into Syria that summer with camera in hand. He adopted the moniker of the "Unknown Photographer" -- a name that held a dual meaning for him: he first worked anonymously and he dedicated himself to telling the stories of people unknown to the world.

While Daams wanted to share the raw images of war to raise awareness of the conflict, he also found himself deeply affected by citizens caught in the fray who, though they live along the frontlines so close to the fighting, violence, and death, still manage to maintain a sense of kindness and humor. "These are men, women, and children," he says, "who live every day without knowing if they will see the next sunrise -- and yet still manage to show the kind of open-hearted hospitality to a stranger."

Syria is a devastated nation, with some 100,000 killed in more than two years of civil war. But over three separate trips to the country during 2012 and 2013, Daams says he sees hope even as the battle rages. "The Syrian people," he says, "are continuing their relentless struggle for freedom."

Daams returned to Aleppo in January 2013, and encountered a group of fighters belonging to Jabhat al-Nusra, which has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States. The man who would act as his guide (seen on the right) succeeded in allaying their nervousness about the presence of a photographer.

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A fighter demonstrates how the Syrian rebels shoot at helicopters from the ground.

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A rebel fighter guards a stretch of the front line in Aleppo. He has found an innovative use for a flag post, using it to stabilize his weapon.

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Heavy fighting still regularly takes place in the old city of Aleppo, a centuries-old UNESCO world heritage site that has been severely damaged during the war. Here, rebel fighters gather in their hideout in the old city, drinking soda and eating kebab. 

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The fighter on the right was one of the youngest of a group of rebels near the Aleppo front lines. Almost one year after joining the fight, he remains the last of the group still alive.

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A fighter sits amid a cluttered apartment near the front lines in Aleppo. This used to be his brother's house; now it is one of the many rebel hideouts in the northern Syrian city.

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Daams wore this helmet when he was near the front lines in January. "Syrians," he says, "loved it."

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A group of rebels pose with their weapons near the front line in Aleppo. The rebel on the far right, a friendly man who was quick with a joke, died the day after this photograph was taken.

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