Culture

Beirut blast photos compete for gold

BEIRUT: For its 26th year, the International Festival of Photojournalism has once again selected more than 35 photographers to participate in its news and feature reporting competition. Organized by Visa pour l’Image-Perpignan, the festival has, for his second consecutive year, selected The Daily Star’s Hasan Shaaban to participate in the competition.

Shaaban will exhibit five photos he took of an Aug. 15, 2013, car bomb that exploded in Beirut’s southern suburbs, killing at least 21 people.

In the 2013 edition of the Perpignan contest, the Lebanese photographer had shown pictures he’d taken of an October 2012 bombing in Ashrafieh that had successfully targeted a security official and also killed at least three bystanders.

“People [in France] were surprised by the damage and fear,” Shaaban said, recollecting the audience response to his 2012 photos, “and about all the emotions in the pictures.”

In the 2012 edition of the IFP, Shaaban was the sole Lebanese photographer in the competition. This time around he’ll be accompanied by other photographers from Lebanon and the region.

Among the contestants is Marwan Tahtah, from Al-Akhbar newspaper, who will display his photos of Syrian refugee tents made out of advertising panels. Lebanon’s L’Orient Le Jour will also participate, as will another photographer from Turkey’s Zaman Daily Newspaper.

Shaaban’s photographs were chosen because they are in complete harmony with the editorial [criteria] of the daily press Visa D’Or

The identities of the IFP jury members will not be announced until the day before contest results are announced.

“Shaaban’s photographs were chosen because they are in complete harmony with the editorial [criteria] of the daily press Visa D’Or,” said Marie Portaluri, a member of the event’s organizing committee.

This year’s IFP festival has scheduled several exhibitions on such themes as the Vietnam War, football and typhoons in the Philippines. A special platform will be given to several prominent photographers via solo exhibitions.

Bruno Amsellem will show his photographs of Myanmar’s Rohingyas minority. Mary F. Calvert’s visual testimonies of sexual aggression in the U.S. armed forces are on display, as are William Daniels’ photographs of Baikal-Amur Mainline railway and Central Africa.

Six evenings will be dedicated to the Visa Pour l’Image, where screenings will retrace important events all around the world, which will be followed by discussions on conflicts, important subjects and situations happening worldwide.

The winner of the daily press Visa D’Or will be announced on Sept. 3 with a prize of 8,000 euros.

Shaaban is no novice in photojournalism competitions. In January of this year, his October 2012 photographs won second prize at Sharjah Press Award.

Among the more difficult tasks involved in covering news, the photographer explained, is simply getting to the site on time. Everything is about speed. It seems he’s known for being among the first to arrive at blast sites – or whatever other incident requires documenting – since many people call him expressly to see if he’s there yet.

It takes great calm to frame a photograph and Shaaban’s pictures are noteworthy because – like so many news photographers – they portray the distress of situations Lebanese residents experience all too often.

He has shot the core of bomb blasts, burning cars, and the responses of gathering bystanders. Fear, panic and despair feature prominently in these tableaux, and suggest something of Shabaan’s skill in controlling his emotions in situations others would find terrifying.

These photos will provide Perpignan’s photography lovers with selected slices of the Lebanese condition. Western audiences don’t always have the most accurate image of this country. Shaaban’s pictures will show with accuracy and depth the risks some photographers take to bring the image to the public.

Hasan Shaaban’s photographs will be on show in Perpignan’s International Festival of Photojournalism from Aug. 30 until Sept. 14. For more information, please visit www.visapourlimage.com.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 01, 2014, on page 16.

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