Thursday, September 10, 2015

The finalists of the 2015 Byblos Bank Award.

Work by Nasri Sayegh

This year 90 candidates applied online on  by submitting 7 photographs each for a chance to win the fourth edition of the Award. The Beirut Art Fair and the president of the jury Dimitri Beck, Editor-in-Chief of Polka magazine, selected the ten finalists: Charles Assaf, Yara Bsaibes, Tarek Haddad, Lina Hassoun, Lara Karam, Elsn Lahoud, Lama Mattar Bardawil, Mahmoud Merjan, Nasri Sayegh and Carmen Yahchouchy.
The winner will be chosen by a jury composed of renowned experts in photography, including Artistic Director Thierry Van Biesen, co-founder of KA collection Abraham Karabajakian, renowned photographer Roger Moukarzel and gallerist Vanessa Quang, in addition to Dimitri Beck.
Byblos Bank Award for Photography was initiated in 2012 as part of a fully fledged photography program. The latter was strategically put into practice to support photography as a stand alone art form in Lebanon.
I have personally seen the entries of this year, and found myself mesmerized by Nasri Sayegh's entry. What he does, in his own words, is this: "Beirut nights can be beautiful, but often they are bitter, and nothing casts a darker shadow than the derelict Murr Tower, still dominating the skyline as a relic of our uncivil wars. Encamped by soldiers, the obelisk is off-limits to photography, but I am not a photographer. Rather, I write with images, and only my night-time wanderings could yield the fleeting views that tell the story of this permanent mausoleum to a pernicious amnesia".
I love the haunting "unphotographic" yet very telling state of his work, how everything seems serenely sad (even resigned to the sadness as a matter of fact). Blurred and almost out of focus, his images display little or no technique (either willingly or by chance), yet in their primary unworked nature give a more detailed feeling of the lassitude that haunts the city that is Beirut when the party is over or has not yet started. The Murr tower has cast its length on the work of Nasri Sayegh, and the feeling of smallness vis a vis its imposing skeleton keeps this melancholy in perspective, an eternal friend, one in whose shadow we bask in safety, for better the devil we know that the one we don't.

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