Why limit your camera to one city when you can photograph a whole country? That was the question that kick-started Humans of Lebanon. Sure, it required time, team and the right feeling. Their Facebook “About me” opens with a brief manifesto bearing a famous quote from Kahlil Gibran: “You have your Lebanon and its dilemma. I have my Lebanon and its beauty”. Not to be mistaken, though, for a mere touristic appeal: rather than the country guests, often it is the Lebanese people the true addressees of the invite – to capture Lebanon in all its beauty and diversity.
“We don’t choose where we come from but we can sometimes choose where we want to stay. Unfortunately, a good deal of Lebanon’s youth chooses to leave. In a (so far) small way, Humans of Lebanon wants people to stay”, says Joey Ayoub, one of the co-founders of the project.
Bastart: A photographic census of an entire country is a nice challenge. Tell us more about your team.
Joey Ayoub: We are two co-founders, me an amateur photographer and Krikorian Mher a professional. We’ve recently been joined by Karim Sakr, also a professional. Besides us, we accept contributions by virtually anyone, excluding only those that are off-topic. We felt that having more people meant covering a wider range of towns and villages in Lebanon.
B: Who are the humans you choose to photograph?
J: We try to include as many different individuals as we can, from the migrant domestic worker to the old farmer passing by. Anyone in between from all backgrounds and walks of life.
B: “Humans”, not “People”. What’s your point of view on this?
J: It may just be a linguistic technicality, but we wish to emphasize the universality of human beings. Perhaps it’s naïve of us to believe that but we honestly do. At the end of the day, humans are humans regardless of where they come from, what they believe in and who they wish to love.
B: Story + photo: which is more important?
J: I’d say both. The photo would feel incomplete without the story and the story tasteless without a photo. It’s a photography project after all.
B: Any long-term plans regarding your project?
J: Ideally, we’d transform Humans of Lebanon into more than just a Facebook page. Similarly to what Stanton did, we’d expand to more social websites and even publish books. Though at the moment neither I nor my fellow co-founder can afford to dedicate our full time to this project for financial reasons, this might change in the future. So our priority right now is to simply keep it up, gain a substantial amount of followers and just enjoy the general experience.
B: Humans of Lebanon in five words…?
J: Relaxed, open-minded, challenging and free.
B: Do you think the “Humans of” phenomenon is closer to Wikipedia or… Google Maps?
J: That’s a really interesting question. Its “anyone can participate” nature might bring it closer to Wikipedia but its goal to become a census might bring it closer to Google Maps. I’d say a mixture of both. If that’s not allowed, Wikipedia. :)
“Here’s a street photo taken at the biggest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, the well-known (for its 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre) Shatila camp. It illustrates the third generation of Palestinian refugees, enclosed childhood, friendship, hope. It’s about a home-sick community.”
“Meet Nazareth. He spends his life sewing carpets in a small shop located in Bourj Hammoud.”
“Avedis, lives in Sanjakh Camp which will be destroyed soon for a planned construction of a residential and commercial complex (St Jacques Plaza). He was telling me how this is influencing him and how difficult it is for him to move from his home since he lived in the same house his whole life.”
“Of the estimated 15 million Lebanese around the world, only 4 million permanently live in Lebanon. Diana, seen in Hamra after a Saturday night of partying, has been returning every summer since 1993, with the exception of the war summer of 2006. In the summers, the population of the country swells with tourists and the visiting diaspora.”For more information about Humans of Lebanon please visit the official Facebook page. For more information about the HO phenomenon read Ode to the Humans.
Words by Jurgita Po.Alessi