Many photographers, journalists and photography enthusiasts attended the opening press conference that took place on the 18th of January. The organizers have stressed the cultural significance of Photomed, notably its role in showcasing appraised photography and bringing together Lebanese and international artists.
In his conversation with Orient Palms, Serge Akl, the Vice-President of Photomed Lebanon and Director of the Lebanese Tourism Office in Paris, notes that “through Photomed, we want to show that even though Lebanon is a small country geographically, it is much larger in terms of its artistic and cultural influence. Lebanon has something positive to say when it comes to arts, universalism and humanism, as our photographers are very dynamic and creative.”
The Themes and Artists
It also encompasses four main themes: Italian cinema, the city of Beirut, the poetry of ruins and the 70s’. “I don’t really like the word ‘ruins.’ I prefer ‘the stones, the history’”, comments Philippe Heullant, the President of Photomed. “We can trace the marks of history in all Mediterranean countries, so we were able to extract a series of photographs [to reflect this theme].” Heullant explains that they don’t limit themselves to specific themes from the beginning, but rather meet different artists and examine potential emerging themes.
The photo exhibitions take place at Le Gray hotel, Byblos Bank Headquarters, D Beirut, Institut Francais du Liban and Station. They showcase the work of miscellaneous artists: Nicole Herzog-Verrey, Alain Fleischer, Richard Dumas, Sergio Strizzi, Wassim Ghozlani, Ferran Freixa, Nick Hannes, Danielle Arbid, Christine Alaoui, Marc Riboud, George Awde, Giulio Rimondi, Lara Tabet and Bilal Tarabey.
Heullant praises the cultural union of the Mediterranean region, reflected through Photomed. “The Mediterranean Union is a big project that has never been able to exist neither economically nor politically. It is only present on the cultural level, as culture unites everyone and remains an important barrier against the rise of extremism,” he clarifies.
Photomed Lebanon has evolved from being partners with Photomed France to being an independent festival in itself. As mentioned by Akl, Mediterranean countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, and Spain have tried to follow this path but only Lebanon was “able to undertake this adventure.”
As Photomed has launched today its fourth edition, Akl confirms that people have increasingly responded to it throughout the years, because “they have seen its quality and have become more familiar with it.”
Furthermore, this is the second consecutive year organizers invite Lebanese galleries to participate in the festival. The following galleries respectively showcase the work of these photographers: Galerie Agial with Clara Abi Nader, Galerie Alice Mogabgab with Maria Chakhtoura, Galerie Janine Rubeiz with Rania Matar and François Sargologo, Galerie Tanit with Gilbert Hage and last but not least, The Alternative with Michel Zoghzoghi.
Akl stresses the importance of this international artistic fusion. “Bringing exhibitions from abroad and mixing them with Lebanese ones gives quality and strength to our festival.”
Serge Akl links the success of Photomed to the support of public and private institutions. Co-organized by the Lebanese Tourism Office in Paris, Photomed Lebanon has several public partners — such as the ministries of culture, of tourism, European embassies etc. — and private ones, mainly Byblos Bank.
“Byblos Bank believes that art is a key contributor to cultural cohesion and thus national stability,” states Nada Tawil, the Head of Group Communication Department at Byblos Bank. “As we consider that photography is a form of art that is not being sufficiently encouraged in Lebanon, we became Photomed’s main partner, four years ago.” Tawil thinks that Photomed allows emerging Lebanese artists to find out more about international photography without having to travel.
The Portfolios’ Reading Session
Within the activities of Photomed Lebanon, a panel of experts will evaluate the portfolios of several candidates and choose their favorite one. During the conference, the European Union Prize for Portfolio Readings within Photomed 2016 was handed to photographer Cyrille Karam.
As the laureate candidate of last year’s edition, Karam was awarded with the publication of her portfolio in a book titled “The Blind Hunt.” “It tells the story of a man who takes different forms: he is sometimes a vegetal or a mineral figure, himself other times and a menacing animal at some points,” explains Karam. “It’s fictional, very poetic and focuses on the dream, the metamorphosis.”
In Defiance of Stone Exhibition
The conference was followed by the opening of Nicole Herzog Verrey’s exhibition, “In Defiance of Stone”. Passionate about the mountains of her native Switzerland, the mineral world has captured her full attention. “What attracted me and also shocked me was the presence of so many ancient cultural monuments in the mountains of Lebanon.” In many of her photographs, the modern world stands next to the relics. “In certain places, it works really well. But in others, it’s a little sad to see modern constructions confining the ruins and stripping them from their majesty.”
“Keep up the marvelous work!” says Heullant to young photographers. “Our mission is to provide you with the right exposure. So you have to keep on producing memorable work that can shape the future.”
Participants to the press conference also included the Swiss ambassador, His Excellency Francois Barras, the Director of the Institut français du Liban, Véronique Aulagnon, the Cultural Attaché and Director of the Italian Cultural Institute in Lebanon, Edoardo Crisafulli, the Founder and Chairman of Campbell Gray Hotels, Gordon Campbell Gray, the Treasurer of Photomed Lebanon, Tony El Hage and the Artistic Director of Photomed Lebanon, Guillaume de Sardes.