BEIRUT: “Lebanon is a small country in terms of size,” Philippe Heullant said Thursday, “but it is large in terms of talent.” The president of the PhotoMed Festival of Mediterranean Photography, Heullent spoke at a news conference marking the launch of the Beirut iteration of the France-based festival, the fourth edition of which is set to take place in Sanary-sur-Mer later this year.
The festival showcases the work of photographers from countries bordering the Mediterranean, Heullant explained, with the aim of highlighting the cultural ties between countries with no clear political or economic unity. Last year’s festival featured a number of young photographers from Lebanon, which was selected as the “guest of honor.”
The Beirut edition of PhotoMed, which opens Friday and continues until Feb. 16, features the work of these Lebanese photographers, as well as several prominent European guests, among them celebrated Italian photographer Nino Migliori and Greek filmmaker Costa-Gavras.
Organized to mirror the diffuse setup of the French festival, PhotoMed Beirut is comprised of 10 different exhibitions staged in venues across the capital, encouraging viewers to traverse the city as they travel among them. In line with the organizers’ vision for the festival, the photographers will attend the opening night of their shows, allowing viewers to meet and interact with them. Costa-Gavras will not attend, having been forced to cancel his trip at the last minute.
The festival officially opens with an exhibition of around 100 photographs by Miglioni at the Byblos Bank headquarters in Ashrafieh, curated by Alessandra Amuro and Simon Edwards. Miglioni, who has been working as a photographer since the 1940s, is known for his experimental approach, and the exhibition will display work in a broad range of styles tackling diverse subject matters in black-and-white and color.
Saturday will see the launch of three exhibitions at Beirut’s Jewelers’ Souk.
Costa-Gavras (short for Constantinos Gavras) is best known for his politically themed thrillers. He has always refused to show this photographic work but agreed to open up his archives for the first time last year for the French version of PhotoMed. His exhibition is comprised of portrait series, capturing many of his celebrity friends and fellow artists – among them actress Simone Signoret, actor and singer Yves Montand and academic Regis Debray.
Another selection of black-and-white portraits taken between 1981 and 1985 by well-known Lebanese photographer Tony Hage features images of such celebrities as Clint Eastwood, Juliette Binoche Jean-Luc Godard and Youssef Chahine.
These two of portrait exhibitions will be accompanied by a selection of work by Greek photographer Stratis Vogiatzis, whose photos focus on the vanishing way of life of Mediterranean fishermen. These deeply atmospheric, sometimes blurred shots of weatherworn faces and blankly staring fish, often at taken at night, evoke the movement of ships at sea and the slippery textures of a bloody catch.
Saturday also marks the opening of three exhibitions in Saifi Village.
One features work by veteran Paris-based Lebanese photographer Fouad Elkoury, known for his haunting vignettes of Lebanon’s Civil War and the postwar ruins of Downtown. A second exhibition will display work by Greek photographer Katerina Kaloudi, whose black-and-white images chart a personal journey and are inspired by fairy tales, childhood experiences, Greece’s beautiful natural landscape, loneliness and fear of death.
Curated by Tony Hage, a third exhibition, “Nascent Lebanese Photography,” showcases work by a generation of Lebanese photographers deemed young in terms of attitude, if not age. Most are active on the local scene and will be familiar to Lebanese audiences. The seven photographers chosen to participate are Tanya Traboulsi, Emile Issa, Mazen Jannoun, Ghadi Smat and Lara Zankoul, as well as Caroline Tabet and Joanna Andraos, who often work together under the heading the Engram Collective.
This “young, pessimistic and critical generation,” as Hage describes them, are united by an approach to Lebanon’s postwar society that exposes the enduring traces of the conflict on the national psyche while sowing seeds of hope for a stable future built around a cohesive national identity.
Finally, an exhibition of short video works by Marie Bovo, Mihai Grecu, Alain Kantarjian and Ali Kazma opens Saturday at Jisr al-Wati’s multipurpose venue STATION.
An exhibition of work by a pair of French photographers, featuring Jacques Filiu’s nostalgic, understated photographs of his hometown, Marseille, and historian and critic Guy Mandery’s series of black-and-white shots of Tunisia, Greece, Sicily and Lebanon, opens Monday at the French Cultural Center.
PhotoMed’s program also includes several workshops.
On Friday and Saturday, local amateur and professional photographers looking for feedback and advice are invited to present a portfolio of work to experts at Le Gray Hotel. On Jan. 24 and 25, Lebanese art and fashion photographer Roger Moukarzel will hold two photography workshops, which consist of a lecture followed by shooting practice and constructive criticism, at the French Cultural Center. Tony Hage will lead a second workshop at the same location on Jan. 30.
PhotoMed is being staged at venues across the city until Feb. 16. For more information, visit festivalphotomed.com. Those wanting to sign up for workshops should email email@example.com.