Born and raised in Lebanon , Mahmoud Zayat’s memories from childhood and his adult years are filled with the brutality of war. After majoring in Political Science at Lebanese University , Mahmoud began a career as a news reporter and a second career as a portrait photographer. After establishing himself as a proficient and well respected reporter and photographer he made the decision to pursue two distinctly different career fields: reporting and photojournalism. For Mahmoud Zayat the camera serves two purposes: to document the brutality of war and to escape from it. Both of his careers full fill his lifetime dreams and ambitions.
“A career as a photojournalist is a complete divergence from a structured and ordinary life. Life threatening situations are commonplace. On many occasions my career path has taken me to the verge of death. One near fatal event occurred in 2003 in Moukhayem Ain Al Helou. I am normally cautious in the face of danger, but exceptions do occur, and this is one of the exceptions. I left my camera near a car. I later realized that the car was going to explode. In spite of the fact that I knew the bomb would explode at any moment, I had to retrieve my camera. Immediately after I grabbed my camera and snapped a few photographs the bomb exploded.”
Mahmoud Zayat states, “A brilliant photograph delivers the authenticity of an event without any extraneous input from the photographer. The camera is an integral part of my life. I can best combat war by holding my camera, not a weapon. I do everything possible to help injured people, regardless of who they are. Aiding others is a natural human reaction and responsibility. As a photojournalist my job is twofold: to capture photos of vital events and to aid others. Photographs play a significant role in exposing truth to the world and photographers are the source of these disclosures. The one subject I won’t photograph is raised white flags, symbolizing surrender, because I do not believe they are symbols of surrender. Photographs are stories for others to read.”
In Lebanon , the political instabilities have consistently presented obstacles to the progression of Mahmoud Zayat’s career. Mahmoud clarifies this by stating, “Politics in Lebanon create a form of racism based on religious factions. The continual political reconstruction is similar to me taking a tissue out of my pocket, and every time I remove it there is a different religious sector written on it. Photographers are banned from different zones due to the misconception of politicians that photographers belong to political parties.”
Mahmoud Zayat’s family is supportive of his career choice, even though they are well aware of the dangers. They share their ideas and opinions prior to Mahmoud submitting his work for publication. Mamoud, grateful for their contributions, asserts, “Two eyes are better than one.”
Mahmoud Zayat states, “I am addicted to photography. I would not feel complete working in any other profession. I would feel a great loss and void without photography. My goal is to continue photographing the remains of the past. A photographer can not afford to freeze up, even momentarily, regardless of the situation. A photographer needs to be responsible to the demands of his career and, while doing so, respect others.”
By Sevana Semerdjian