Ismail Hamdan

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

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Anwar Amro

 

After graduating from Lebanese University , with a major in Business from the Faculty of Business Administration, Anwar Amro secured employment in a government position. After several years as a government employee he made the decision to pursue photography as a fulltime career. In his photographic images Anwar strives to unveil underlying truths buried beneath surface realities. In addition to his photography Anwar conducts photographic workshops that stress development of conceptual intent. 

  As an adolescent Anwar collected and treasured photographs, preferring being photographed to assuming the role of photographer. Initially he pursued photography as a hobby. Eventually the hobby transformed into a life long career. As his career progressed he developed a passionate desire to immortalize moments in time with his camera. His passion for ‘capturing events’ has, all too often, led him to the edge of life and death during tumultuous military encounters and civilian upheavals.

 Anwar’s assignments have taken him to all regions of Lebanon , Russia , China , Jordan , Syria , and Iraq during both times of peace and war. His photographs document numerous bombings in Lebanon , uncountable demonstrations, sports events, cultural and artistic activities, as well as the intrinsic beauty of nature. At one point during the war, while traveling south to photograph, he encountered a mass of frightened civilians running towards him. Unaware of the cause of the fear, he proceeded forward. As a photographer he does not have the luxury to run from danger, rather he must immerse himself in it.

 Anwar believes that “Photographs are the most powerful form of communication. Photojournalism is a dangerous occupation, but it is a necessity. Photographs transmit indisputable messages. When reading a newspaper the photographs are the first item that grabs the reader’s attention. Photographs are ‘read’ before reading the articles.”

 Anwar Amro believes effective photographs incorporate elements that supersede shallow beauty. The suffering of children is often a central theme in his photos. He believes that an image of a child is more influential on the human psyche than any other subject matter. Anwar equates his camera with his identity, to the extent that his wife is jealous of his devotion to his camera. He views the camera as more than an instrument. The camera is his friend, his companion, his infant that he must never abandon. He compares a photographer without a camera to knowledge devoid of imagination.

 As a photojournalist his primary objective is to deliver truth. He approaches his photography objectively, abstaining from interjecting personal opinions and beliefs. His political opinions and views are confined to his home. When presented with the choice between assisting someone in peril or taking a photograph he considers it of paramount importance to take the photo first, stating “If I don’t take the photograph I do not perform my job. I am a photographer not a doctor. Although photojournalists are trained in first aid procedures my priority is to take the photograph first and assist the victim second.”

 Various regions in Lebanon ban press agencies, unaware that press agencies are not aligned with political factions. The political and social instability in Lebanon has not influenced Anwar’s choice of assignments within the country. As a photographer employed by multiple press agencies he is not limited by regional boundaries.

 Anwar Amro advises the new generation of photographers to “Ferociously read newspapers, study millions of photographs and extensively research the internet. The new generation can learn from the experiences of the older generation. Knowledge comes through preparedness.”

 As a photographer Anwar Amro has encountered numerous tumultuous and traumatic situations, yet through it all he remains true to his photography and career. His passion for photography and compassion for the human condition are evidenced in each of his photographs.

•           Name and Surname:              Anwar Amro

•           Place of birth:                        Al Ghoubaire, Lebanon

•           Date of birth:                         November 3, 1961

•           Agency Employment            AFP (Agence France – Press)

                                                          Al Khaleej el Emirates Newspaper

•           Length of Career:                  1989 to present.

Ali Saif El Deen

Ali Saif El Deen has been employed as a photojournalist for Al Khaleej el Emirates, the leading daily newspaper in Lebanon , since 1999. In 1975 he began his studies in cinematography. Unfortunately, due to political unrest and economic hardship, he was forced to discontinue his academic studies. Ironically, the very cause of his suspended studies provided the impetus for his unfaltering commitment to a life long career in press photography. Undeterred by his circumstances, he advanced his photographic skills through participation in photographic workshops, photography organizations and personal research.

 Ali considers photographs analogous to testimonials. He asserts that “Photos are the prevailing force for actualizing life. The photographer is the spectator and the photograph is the witness.”

  Ali maintains that the most politically corruptive and socially destructive period in Lebanese history occurred during the civil war, at which time photographers were subjected to kidnapping by the military, confiscation of cameras, and targeted for beatings and assassinations. He states that “The interference of the militia in the press and media took a horrendous toll on the future of Lebanon . The militia conspired the death of the president, George Semerdjian, and other beloved leaders and colleagues and concealed the truth from the public.”

  Ali Saif el Deen asserts that “The goal of the photographer is to capture the hidden elements surrounding an event and to expose them. By so doing the social and political veils are stripped away. The photograph is a guide meant to inform and disclose. The photograph communicates the photographer’s intellect and awareness. The photographer is the messenger of knowledge.” He considers the camera to be his most significant companion, trusted friend, and ticket to the battlefield. He equates the disappearance of his camera with the loss of a body part.

 

Religion, color, race, and gender are insignificant distinctions for Ali Saif el Deen. The only distinction he makes between human beings is “…those who breathe and those who don’t. Those who breathe have emotions.”  He views his position as a photojournalist during times of war as second to assisting those in danger. He photographs as much and as often as possible but states, “I can take a picture and lend a hand at the same time.” Consciously aware that he could end up a victim, he steadfastly refuses to terminate his risky and life threatening profession.

 

The collateral damage of war and the toll it has taken on the magnificent natural beauty of Lebanon has gravely affected Ali’s ability to preserve his beloved land in photographs. He states, “ Lebanon is an astonishingly beautiful country with many magnificent and notorious mountain ranges, including Bsharri and Ayoun Erghoush. Ayoun Erghoush, located near Al Arz, houses seventeen springs, water ponds and restaurants.” During peaceful times Ali Saif el Deen and his colleagues lead photographic tours into the mountains. One of his many tours took him to Maroon Al Raes on July 12, 2006, located on the border of Lebanon and Israel . While the group was resting and enjoying the fresh air after photographing suddenly bombs exploded on all sides of them. They found themselves enmeshed in a life threatening situation and, rather than seeking cover, used the opportunity to photograph the military violations. Returning to Beirut they encountered numerous destroyed cars and vehicles. The group barely escaped with their lives when a bridge was bombed immediately after their crossing. A relaxing photography trip in the country could have easily turned into a horrendous tragedy for everyone.

  He states that “A photograph is a true and sincere expression of all incidents that involve human interaction.” His hopes are that in the future photographers and artists will receive recognition and encouragement during childhood. His message to youth in the field of photography is that “Without a photographer there would be no television, a television is the photo itself. A photographer is the primary journalist for a newspaper. Exclusive articles without photos are pointless. A newspaper without photographs is the same as a school without teachers.”

•           Name and Surname:                 Ali Saif El Deen

•           Place of birth:                            Al Labwe, Lebanon  

•           Date of birth:                              1951

•           Agency Employment:      “Al Maw kef AL -Arabi” Nicosia                                                                  “Al-Raei Al Ordoniya, Lebanon

                                                                 “Al Rasd Al Loubneni”

                                                                 “Nide Al Watan”

Ali Lama

The art of photography played a major role in the lives of many of Ali Lama’s family members. He states that “As a young boy I accompanied my seven uncles to photographic studios to explore the basics of photography. Photography runs in my family, it is an art that I inherited. It inspires and awakens me. My ultimate goal is to master all aspects of photography.” Between 1994 and 2001 Ali was a studio photographer. In 2001 his career took a monumental turn when he was offered a position at Al Sharek and Al Safir newspapers as a press photographer.

 Ali Lama asserts that “A photo should convey a thought, and the photographer should emphasize the depth of its meaning. The camera is more than a friend. The camera delivers a message to society. A photographer should never be without his camera.”

  When photographing events during war Ali Lama considers his role as a photographer and assisting those in danger equally important, but his employment as a photographer mandates that he take the picture first. As a photojournalist during the 2006 war he was subjected to dangerous situations and daily atrocities. Although his family has the most influential and inspirational affect on his life he does not let their concerns for his safety determine his choice of assignments.

  Ali believes that the photographer’s role is to remain objective and deliver the facts. He asserts that “Photos are more influential than written articles”. His moral and ethical standards do not influence his ability to take photographs, but unfortunately, the political precariousness in Lebanon does. In his opinion “The political climate is the determining factor for whether or not I can take a photograph, and whether or not a photograph is published.”  

   Ali Lama’s message for the Lebanese youth is simple, yet deeply meaningful, “Love each other.”

 

•           Name and Surname:                   Ali Lama

•           Place of birth:                             Beirut , Lebanon

•           Date of birth:                             1976   

•           Agency Employment                Al Safir Newspaper, 2005-Present

                                                               Al Sharek Newspaper, 2001-2005

                    

•           Length of Career:                      Since 2001.

Marwan Tahtah

  Marwan TahTah’s childhood love of photographs and encouragement from  is uncle guided him towards choosing a career as a photographer. In his youth he independently studied the lives of photographers and photographic images. In 2005 he enrolled in the Technical College for Film and Video and attended a photography workshop at the Russian Cultural Center .

  Marwan TahTah considers the July 2006 war as his most dangerous time as a photojournalists. He recalls a disconcerting incidence when he entered the town of Al Dahiyet with an associate, one week after the beginning of the war, “It was nighttime and we were walking down the desolate streets. Often people on the streets are considered ‘hazards’ and targeted by the militia. At any moment we could have become a statistic. Fortunately, we escaped unharmed that night.”

  According to Marwan TahTah “An ideal photographic image should emphasize the moment the event occurs. Timing is of paramount importance. The meaning of the imagery in a photo can vary from one second to the next and determine the effectiveness and impact of the event. The camera is a window and the photograph provides the view for those who can’t personally witness the event. A camera is vital for uncovering truth”.

 As a photojournalist Marwan TahTah does not interpose his opinions in his photographs, rather he shoots his subject matter from different perspectives. He believes that taking photos and helping someone in danger are of equal importance, “My job is two fold. I need to work fast. I need to capture the event in photographs and help those in danger.”

  The political unsteadiness in Lebanon concerns Marwan TahTah because it is a deterrent to portraying the truth. He says, “People on the streets are leery of the camera. Photographers are often insulted and beaten. The photographer’s freedom is limited and this adversely affects their career.” As a photojournalist he is not numb to the horrendous events he encounters, in fact, he is highly sensitive and carries what he has witnessed with him. His objective is to accurately document the impact of the Israeli violence and aggression on the Lebanese land and people.

  His message for Lebanese youth is: “The new generation should learn from the past. Awareness begins at home, continues in schools and is nourished in universities. It is important for Lebanese people to be aware and alert so that the same deplorable mistakes are not repeated.”

•           Name and Surname:                 Marwan TahTah

•           Place of birth:                           Beirut , Lebanon

•           Date of birth:                            1981

•           Agency employment               “Al Akhbar” newspaper.

•           Length of Career:                      2000 to present.

By Sevana Semerdjian