Prior to 2004 Bilal Jawich was employed by Cultural Agenda Magazine for nine years. During this time he became increasingly dissatisfied with the surface quality of an entertainment magazine. In 1999 he traveled to Italy with a photography tour group. This trip served as the catalyst that cemented his resolve to become a photojournalism.. In 2003 he studied photography at the Russian Cultural Center . It was at this time that his hobby of photography transformed into his profession.
Bilal Jawich believes that “Photographs unlock the door that leads to culture and knowledge. Photography can be likened to a cinema. People are continually influenced by photographs whether they are aware of it or not.” Bilal perceives photojournalism as the key that opens doors to contact with eminent politicians and prominent colleagues that would otherwise be locked.
Bilal Jawich refrains from interjecting his beliefs in his photographs, rather, he exposes the subject for what it is. He shoots photos of anything that grabs his attention with the foreknowledge that many of his photos may not be published. He asserts that “The power of a photograph resides in the eye of the photographer, not the camera. A photographer’s weapon is the camera, just as a journalist’s weapon is a pen. An outstanding photograph attracts attention regardless of the content, be it nature, war or daily activities. A successful photo accurately delivers the emotions housed within the subject matter. A powerful photo must speak for itself. He states “I photograph for a purpose, to deliver a message to the world”.
While photographing during times of war his priority is to help a person who needs assistance before photographing. However, if a supporter comes along to aid the victim he continues shooting photographs. He acknowledges that he too may need aid some day, saying “An injured person does not care who is helping, what is needed and wanted is help.” He experienced two events involving military conflicts, one of which was in Nahr el Bard on May 7, 2006. He considers the May 7 conflict more dangerous and risky than the July 2006 war. During the May 7th war he was targeted by snipers and barely escaped during a volatile situation.
Bilal claims that “Many Lebanese politicians and leaders mistakenly believe that photographers are spies or intelligence agents working for political factions. Due to this false perception photographers are viewed as the enemy”. Bilal has no qualms about photographing politicians engaged in unlawful acts. He claims that “Photographers are deeply enmeshed in the psychologically and physical traumas of war. Agencies do not force or obligate photographers to risk their lives, this decision is made by each photographer. The acts of war are a vital component of my photography. Documenting these acts can hurt the enemy more than bombings”.
His family does not influence his decision as to whether or not he will take a risky assignment, the decision ultimately rests with him. He says, “If I allow others to determine my actions it would be impossible to continue in this career.”
Bilal Jawich’s message for the Lebanese people is that “The world of photography covers a broad range, and by so doing, encourages dialogue for expanded discussions and debates. Most Lebanese are unaware that photographers help society by exposing problems to the world. Many consider photographers as suspect and perceive them as the enemy. This false assumption infringes on the photographer’s liberty and ability to follow through with assignments. The general population expresses more interest in the name of the agency the photographer works for, in order to categorize them politically, than in supporting their efforts to photograph. The blame for the publics distrust lies with the broadcasting system which manipulates some photos for the purpose of political gain. Hence, the extreme dislike of photographers and misunderstanding of the important role they play in society”.
• Name and Surname: Bilal Jawich
• Place of birth: Beirut , Lebanon
• Date of birth: 1970
• Agency Employment: “La Revue Du Liban” weekly newspaper, ??
“Al Akhbar” newspaper. Formerly “Monday Morning”??
• Length of Career: Since 2004.
By Sevana Semerdjian