Since the first photograph was successfully taken, in around the year 1816, cameras have become a central element of our lives. In just over 200 years, we have come to depend so heavily on photographic images that they dominate our waking hours, whether on our phones, on the internet, on the billboards we pass in the streets, or in our homes, where we frame the likenesses of those we love.
The fourth edition of Photomed Lebanon, the Festival of Mediterranean Photography, demonstrates something of the sheer diversity and potential of a medium that has become increasingly democratised. These days we are all image makers. But few of us display the talent of the 20 photographers participating in this year’s Photomed, all of whom have the rare ability to share their own unique visions though their work, offering viewers a chance to see the world anew.
French photographer Marc Riboud’s quiet, atmospheric images, taken while travelling around the Mediterranean region from the 1950s onwards, lend everyday moments a gravity and dignity that transforms the mundane into the profound. The photographer, who died last August, is being honoured with an exhibition at the French Institute, where his work is exhibited alongside that of Christine Alaoui. Alaoui’s daughter, French-Moroccan photographer Leila Alaoui, was killed in a terrorist attack in Burkina Faso in January 2016. Christine is exhibiting a series of images selected and retouched by Leila prior to her death. Taken in the 1970s in Morocco and American, they are beautifully framed, radiant images filled with understated drama.
This year’s edition of Photomed—which runs at the headquarters of Byblos Bank, the French Institute, Le Grey Beirut, STATION and D Beirut until February 8—has three central themes: the cinema, the city of Beirut and the poetry of ruins. But additional themes appear to have crept in of their own accord. The richness of travel is at the heart of many of these images, as is the idea of revisiting the sights we often take for granted; celebrating the beauty of the quotidian.
In Gilbert Hage’s playful, provocative photographs of people sticking their tongues out, he encourages viewers to set aside the meaning of the gesture, along with its simultaneously childish and erotic undertones, and instead focus on the aesthetics of the lips and tongue and their metaphorical weight. On show at D Beirut courtesy of Galerie Tanit, I Hated You Already Because Of The Lies I Had Told You is a fascinating series. Who knew that tongues came in so many shapes, sizes and colours? Why do we not pay more attention to this versatile organ that gives us everything from taste, to the power of speech?
Also at D Beirut, Wassim Ghozlani’s series Postcards from Tunisia plays with convention. Ghozlani avoids all of Tunisia’s famous tourist attractions in favour of capturing subdued, faded images of nondescript everyday scenes, rendered beautiful by their very normality.
Over at the headquarters of Byblos Bank, renowned French photographers Alain Fleisher and Richard Dumas and Italian photographer Sergio Strizzi are sharing images inspired by the glamour of cinema. Dumas’ dramatic black-and-white portraits capture film stars at moments when they appear shockingly, reassuringly human. Rather than smiling out from a red carpet, they are immortalised in moments of pensiveness, sleepiness, even frailty, proving that they are no different from the rest of us at the core. By contrast, Strizzi’s photographs celebrate the aesthetics of cinema and of actors in character, capturing moments during the filming of masterpieces by director Michelangelo Antonioni.
Diverse and thought-provoking, Photomed Lebanon is a worthy way to while away an afternoon or five.