Ismail considers his camera to be the source of sustenance for all areas of his life. Prior to his first day of employment at Al Anwar newspaper he never even held a camera. Encouraged by family members, he enthusiastically threw himself into studying the fundamental principles of photography and immediately sought to excel at his new found career. Holding the camera for the first time brought him a sense of completeness and resolve that he had chosen the right career path. He describes photography as being an exciting and exhilarating profession introducing him to unexpected experiences every day. He states, “New places, new risks and new adventures grab my curiosity and motivate me. The camera leads me on unpredictable and stimulating routes.” Despite photojournalism being a dangerous career Ismail was immediately drawn to it. He views his career as being invested with a great social responsibility, to deliver the truth.
He claims that it is impossible to remain neutral while photographing, stating, “After all, everyone has instincts.” Nevertheless, he tries not to take sides unless something profoundly touches his sentiments. In this event he attempts to ‘penetrate his thoughts” into the photograph. According to Ismail Hamdan the meanings in the photographic images should overpower obvious beauty. He states, “A photo should reveal ultimate reality. Therefore, it should be composed of rich resources that accentuate the underlying content. To manifest truth a photographer needs to transpose his feelings into the photograph.”
Ismail recalls an incidence during the war, “I was trying to get fuel before leaving Anwar. This was at a time when Eastern Beirut was out of fuel. Suddenly, out of nowhere, militias blocked me. After questioning me and finally identifying me as a photojournalist they permitted me to flee. Fear and intimidation can not sway my commitment to my career.” He sees his role as being that of a messenger, his purpose being to seize a visual message and deliver it to the world. He believes that lending a hand to injured and wounded people is the responsibility of the First Aid workers; however, he will provide assistance after performing his job.
Political instabilities in Lebanon have negatively impacted Ismail Hamdan’s career. He states, “Some politicians prevent photographers from entering certain zones, believing the photographers are against the politician’s principles, and opinions. Politicians are unaware that photographers do not belong to political parties. Ismail adds, “Photographers have access to people with notoriety, such as popular personalities in the arts and theatre. Photographers need to use good judgment as to which pictures could be detrimental to someone’s personal life and career and which wouldn’t. Photographers need to think before they act.”
Ismail’s number one priority is his career. Nothing can deter him from delivering the truth with his photographs; not fear for his welfare, concerns of family members, or any other manmade or natural made obstacle. He states, “My career has changed a lot over the years. As it is now, photographers are denied the freedom to photograph. They are neither valued nor respected. Photographers are the spring board of reality. Photographs are the manifestation of truth, evidence of every incident that has occurred throughout Lebanon ’s history. Unlike the news, photographs speak the truth. Photos leave footprints.”
• Name and Surname: Ismail Hamdan
• Place of birth: Beirut , Lebanon
• Date of birth: July 6, 1954
• Agency Employment Al Anwar Newspaper
Al Chark Newspaper, Verdun , Beirut , Lebanon
• Length of Career: Since 1973