Collective photos document urban life

BEIRUT: Since 2013, Beirut’s residents and visitors have gotten the chance to get deeply engaged in the city and its various neighborhoods through the medium of documentary photography as promoted by FRAME. The Beirut-based not-for-profit organization was established by a group of committed activists for democratization and peace-building in Lebanon. “We believe that observation and documentation through photography is important for self-expression and is a right,” Maroun Sfeir, FRAME cofounder told The Daily Star.

FRAME is known for its Beirut Photo Marathon, an event during which amateur and professional photographers used to be mobilized to participate in a collective photo documentation project around Beirut.

After two and a half years of building on the original Beirut Photo Marathon model, FRAME has just launched its online collective documentation platform,

“Collective photo documentary is a creative way to get people involved in an issue and to see how different groups and individuals perceive a theme. It is also an opportunity for participants to learn about issues they care about,” Sfeir added.

The collective documentary model mobilizes groups to inform, document, and then publish work through the collective eye “providing viewers with an outlook of issues and places through the eyes of those that live there.”

FRAME is planning its first collective photo action, Documenting Urban Life, for June 26 and 27. It uses this created content to shed light on local or regional issues.

Its first photo action will tackle urban life in Beirut – public space, mobility and urban development – and is the first in a series of collective photo actions that hopes to get people engaged in timely and important socio-economic and cultural issues.

“We decided in partnership with our three NGO partners, NAHNOO, Train/Train and Public Works, to focus the first collective photo action on urban development in Beirut, where the speed of change can sometimes be bewildering and where citizens rarely get a say in how their communities are being developed,” said Frame cofounder Ali Sayed Ali

Participation is free and open to anyone over 18. Participants must attend the talks, held at Minus 1 venue in Tabaris, on the evening of June 26 when the three NGOs will deliver keynote presentations to the audience of photographers to inform them of the theme. Internationally acclaimed photojournalist Donna Ferrato will be also be sharing her work experience over a Skype chat. The next day, participants must photograph eight theme-specific photos and upload them on their public profiles created on the FRAME website or submit them in person by 10 p.m. at the FRAME station at Minus 1.

A jury will then review the work and two winners, awarded cash prizes, will be announced in August when the first issue of FRAME’s Life magazine will come out.

“The magazine will also feature articles by journalists tackling the issue we are collectively documenting along with the best of the user-generated photos,” Ali said. “The winners also earn special coverage.”

All participants benefit from the exposure of their public profiles, which “will feature only photos taken during FRAME events” and can include their biography, and links to their website and social media sites.

Sfeir acknowledges how photographers are also benefiting from the safety that comes with photographing as part of a group. “Through a past statistic, over 60 percent told us that this initiative has allowed them to photograph in neighborhoods they don’t usually visit. When trying to photograph in tricky areas, as we’ve experienced here in Beirut, knowing you’re not alone provides a sense of safety and confidence.”

FRAME is growing, its managers say. “We are currently developing partnerships with organizations and individuals in several countries, who will take part in future Marathons and organize collective photo actions of their own.”

“We are very pleased to announce the launch of an independent chapter of FRAME in Yemen led by two extraordinary young women – Bushra Al Fusail and Nina Aqlan.”

A large-scale Photo Marathon is planned to take place at the end of September. Several collective photo actions are scheduled for 2016 with details to be announced soon.

“We believe the language of photography has the ability to transcend language and cultural barriers and that the collective documentary model is a positive way to highlight both similarities and differences across places and cultures pertaining to specific concepts and themes,” Ali said.

Check out the agenda for the first collective photo action happening this Friday and

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 25, 2015, on page 2.




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