Photographer George Haddad asks, “Beirut, is that you?”

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A photo of Beirut at night, taken by photographer George Haddad, whose new exhibit "Beirut, is that you?" shows a different side of the Lebanese capital. George Haddad

By: Muhammad Hamdar

Published Thursday, November 13, 2014

Beirut, once more. The city both loved and hated is the center of a photo exhibition titled, “Beirut, is that you?” by artist George Haddad, who captures the city’s night from a different perspective.

On a sidewalk in Gemmayze Street, behind the glass window of Gallery 392Rmeil393, a large photo of Beirut at night is on display.

It is not a photo that shows the city’s famously loud, joyful, and colorful nights. None of its “lively” people are in it, nor does it display the city’s charming lights or any other aspects of the capital’s nocturnal visuals.

Rather, Beirut is deserted, dimly lit, except for large illuminated billboards lighting up the surroundings and neighboring buildings. As you gaze deeper into the image, you will see yourself within the photo of Beirut, because of the reflection in the glass.

The chaotic urban development and lack of planning only exacerbates the city’s ugliness, and the modern buildings also lose their gleam at night since most of them are vacant, their balconies and windows look drab and lifeless.

All these elements together depict Beirut as a city living in war or in fear, as if it was suffocating, its chest heavy due to the crowded buildings in close proximity to one another, only separated by a few streets, which George Haddad also depicts as deserted, except for the lights of cars that seem to be moving at lightning speed.

For more than a year and a half, Haddad took photos of the city at night, between 9:30 pm and midnight, using the high dynamic range (HDR) technique, which requires snapping the same photo up to five times, each time at a different speed of light, and then integrating the five photos into one.

He was pleased with the first result he got when he tested this technique. But he soon realized that the image was not entirely beautiful, for Beirut looked faded on the inside, especially when looking at certain parts of the city, from a medium distance, as in from outside its neighborhoods, not from outside Beirut. He decided to continue to observe from this angle in order to see the full picture from outside the houses, alleys, and streets.

This depiction of the city actually mirrors the state of its residents, Haddad told Al-Akhbar.

He explained that the chaos and the dull, lifeless urban sprawl represent the current state of the city’s residents, Haddad believes that if there is anything beautiful left inside this ugliness, surely with time, the city, along with its image, will only become even more repulsive.

George Haddad, born in 1974, began his career in photography and photojournalism eight years ago. He has worked with a number of publications and participated in many collective exhibitions in New York, Beirut, Athens, and Aleppo, and received many awards for his work.

“Beirut, is that you?” is Haddad’s first solo exhibition and it includes photos of different sizes shot using special techniques.

“Beirut, is that you?” will be on display until November 20 at Gallery 392Rmeil393, Gemmayze, Beirut. For more information call: 76/875936

(Al-Akhbar)

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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