A few days prior to the anniversary of the Lebanese Civil War, the newly formed Beirut Center of Photography decided to honor this date on Tuesday, April 11 at Station Beirut, by screening three documentaries which featured three photojournalists of the war: Aline Manoukian, Patrick Baz, and AUB’s own photojournalism professor, Georges Azar.
In 2016, photojournalist Baz, wildlife photographer Michel Zoghoghi, as well as Serge Akl, the executive committee at Photomed Lebanon, formed the Beirut Center of Photography, managed by none other than first woman photojournalist in Lebanon, Aline Manoukian.
The BPC’s objective is to “put Beirut on the map of world photography and visual art,” as seen on their Facebook page.
More than a hundred people attended the screening, forcing the BPC to use two different rooms in order to fit all the attendees. Locals, as well as foreigners from all ages attended the event.
Starting with Azar’s documentary “Beirut Photographer,” the night went on with “Recollection” and “Under my Skin” portraying Manoukian and Baz’s paths respectively. The screenings were followed by over an hour of Q&A with the audience.
While Azar’s documentary was partly realized by him, the other two were realized by German journalist Christina Foerch Saab, who was also a guest speaker. What regrouped all three photographers was their own portrayal and experience of the war.
Although this common point brought them together for the screening, they have different, and sometimes opposite views, of their role as photojournalists and their way to deal with what they have witnessed.
While Manoukian’s documentary emphasizes the legacy and emotional heritage of the memories of the war, Azar focuses on the relation with the subjects of his pictures, even thirty years after the war.
Baz’s documentary tackled a topic often ignored in the war reportage domain, which is the aftermath of the war, and the post traumatic disorders that come with.
In the era of social media and instant sharing, war pictures often appear on the newsfeeds, but few realize the emotional trauma the photographers go through to obtain such a picture.
During the Q&A, the audience questioned the ethics behind the career of photojournalism, the reason why they chose this specific career, as well as the importance of creating, and maintaining a collective memory of the war.
“I don’t think we can heal from the war,” Manoukian answered when asked if the documentary helped her deal with the memory of the war.
“The film in itself no, but talking about everything I’ve been through, yes,” answered Baz.
Azar on the other hand said, “the process of making the film was the most cathartic episode of [his] life.”
Technical problems delayed the start of the event, but a proper Lebanese event wouldn’t be considered successful if it didn’t have some sort of complications.
Due to the success of the screening, the BCP decided to organize a second screening of the three documentaries, set to happen on April 23, at the Station too.