and we are quite often surprised at what we see
This image is part of an iphone photography collection I just posted as a separate page on this blog. I have been finding such great freedom in street photography making use of the iphone and finding new creative ways every day for capturing the world around me. Please visit the new page when you have time~ I will be updating it regularly
Somewhere in Shanghai
I was born in a small village in Lebanon’s north. I saw almost the same faces every day and I knew that nothing was meant to stir after nightfall when we and the village slept. As peaceful as this might sound, it irked me greatly and I longed for movement, for change, for a world that does not sleep, for an energy that is unstoppable. I found that in the big city. I spent my teenage planning my way to move to a big city and to live in the middle of the whirlwind of humanity. Since then I have lived in Beirut, New York City and now Shanghai with several other city stops in between. I feel alive in the big city, I love its people, I am driven by its energy and it inspires me.
The sun favors places like Tuscany. It floods it with its warmth and the locals just mirror that by coloring their homes in tribute to the sun.
~Curiosity thrives behind half open windows~
the girl in the pink window~ Kashgar
Behind her pink window, she sat, she looked, she watched, she felt safe, she followed me with her eyes, she questioned me with her mind, and she half smiled when I waved goodbye.
When the streets of the city are your home, when you are solely responsible for your own safety while other children are tucked safely at home, when your survival is depending entirely on the kindness of others…
These piercing eyes belong to one of the 300, 000 children that call the streets of the cities in Congo their home. “les enfants de la rue” ~ the children of the street, wild eyed, witty, emotionally fragile, hard shelled, untrusting… the sad product of a humanity gone wrong. But still the strength in them and the hope in their eyes could not be missed.
I met these children in a center in Kinshasa that offers them lessons, food, daytime shelter and guidance where needed. They sang to me, drew messages on the blackboard for me to photograph and sang me their national anthem in a most rhythmic excellence which I filmed and will share in a future post.
Each time I go back to Lebanon I find myself stunned again and again at the amount of talent, creativity and ‘ability to do’ that lives in the Lebanese people. These are people that love life so much that they can celebrate it in a million unique ways. But the greatest mystery of all and the most difficult thing to understand is how a country of bright minds can allow corruption to still rule the day. For example, in Lebanon today and since the end of the civil war in 1991, homes still have to tolerate unreasonable rationing and live without power for several hours every day. Those in charge blame it on the aftereffects of the war and people have no choice but to live with fabrications that not only rob them of their rights but also lock them into impossible situations that limit their capabilities to express their fountain of creativity. I know that corruption finds fertile ground in almsot all developing countries, but it hurts endlessly to see it infecting my beloved jewel of the middle east.
photo taken: small boy in window~ North Lebanon
It can safely be said that hospitality is an essence that lives and resonates strongly in Lebanese people and in their society. It is a place that a visitor is often invited to a meal several times a day by total strangers, and it is not a matter of speech, they really do mean it and they do receive great pleasure from feeding you. It is an open door policy, especially in villages and a warmth and generosity that is very difficult to say no to. In fact you must choose between getting fat during the holidays or upsetting quite a few people who cannot handle your rejection. In a world where anonymity is becoming the rule of day, returning to such openness and close contact with people is so heartwarming and refreshing.
I was often asked after leaving Lebanon for good: “if you love it so much, why did you leave it?”, “if it is that beautiful why aren’t you there?”
But when I remember what drove me out, it was not really the war, not the seeking of adventure, not my love for travel, no, it was something much simpler than that.
I could never be ‘me’ in my home country. It is a society that allows you to speak as long as what you say conforms to popular opinion. It lets you do as long as you do what is politically correct. What drove me out was my search for truth and my strong longing to be myself, to be true to who I am and to find out who I was. And who can do that except under the wings of freedom? How can you find yourself if you are imprisoned in dogma?
And still, years later, if you ask me where I wish to grow old, I would answer: ” Lebanon, where else?”
I have been writing in this series about the wonderful history, the enchanting memories, the great mysteries that live in my home country, but it would be an incomplete story if I were to skip the part of history that has printed itself on my soul the most, the life changing part.
I will start the story at the end of it. I remember moving to New York after I finished my university studies and after arriving in the buzzing metropolis that I was unable to sleep, not because it was too noisy, but because it was too quiet. The last years I spent in my beautiful Lebanon were filled with noises of war, with the shrill cries of bullets, of bombs, and with the ugly smell of death. Experiences like these print deep in you, they do not just fade away, the are always there under the surface threatening to haunt you. My reaction to those memories and experiences is the same as all Lebanese people, you run away from it if you can (which I did), and you love life even more. I do love life more after living the long years of war, I value it so much more and every morning is a new burst of inspiration and a phoenix of a new and fresh start.
The Lebanese recent war started in 1975 and only ended in 1991.