Tag Archives: Lebanon

Marco Longari: TIME Picks 2012′s Best Photographer on the Wires

Of the millions of pictures moving through the news services, or “the wires,” in 2012, an astonishing number have already proven unforgettable. Distinctive images of daily life in Pakistan from Muhammad Muheisen, an Islamabad-based chief photographer for the Associated Press; unexpected visual stories from Jerusalem-based AP staffer Oded Balilty; uniformly strong work from Reuters’ peripatetic Goran Tomasevic (who in the past 12 months shot in Congo, Afghanistan, Syria, Kenya, Somalia and Egypt); Spanish-born Manu Brabo’s searing photos from Syria — over and over again, the wires provided signature photos from unyielding conflicts, rebellions and upheavals the world over.

But even in this celebrated company, the work of Agence-France Presse photographer Marco Longari stood markedly apart. The Italian-born Longari’s pictures from across the Middle East in 2012, from Egypt and the West Bank to Gaza and Syria, were at-once unflinching and authoritative. The unspeakable anguish in the face of a Palestinian mother holding her lifeless daughter, killed in an Israeli air strike; the passion evinced by thousands of Egyptian Christians praying for their ancient homeland; a Syrian man engaged in the most quotidian of tasks — carrying groceries — and yet hunched against a sniper’s bullet that might, at any second, take his life; the deceptively idyllic scene of a boy tending to his horse in Gaza City: in quiet moments and in terrifying, violent environments, Longari made picture after picture this year that mattered.

The Jerusalem-based chief photographer for AFP in Israel and the Palestinian territories, Longari is a graduate of the Istituto Superiore di Fotografia in Rome. In the late 1990s he covered the unrest in Kosovo before moving to Africa, where he served in Nairobi, coordinating the agency’s East African coverage. He chronicled the seemingly endless crisis in Darfur and shot the 2008 Russo-Georgian war. But it was in the Middle East in 2012 that his work transitioned from powerful to indispensable. There is, simply, no way to envision the upheaval across the region in the past year without his work. It is that central to how the world sees (and will remember) this deeply unsettling year.

The 47-year-old Longari recently told TIME that, from his perspective behind the camera, 2012 was “another year of revolutions, protests, violent acts and sheer madness. [It seems] like humanity has lost its bearings, yet again.”

He spent most of his time in Cairo, arriving early in the year, on the first anniversary of the start of the 2011 revolution. There, he was greeted by street violence and chaos.

“It was a sad scene,” he told TIME. “All the energy and the expectations of the young people with whom I shared long days and nights in Tahrir Square the year before, all was being hijacked and taken away, lost in political games. It has been difficult to find images that made sense … that were not simple repetitions of what was done a year before.”

The Egyptian presidential election in May was again, he says, a time of some optimism, with Egyptians voting in large numbers — some of them for the first time in their lives — in a country finally, tentatively experiencing what a real multiparty election can be.

“The shift in the visual landscape,” he notes, “was important, a chance to tell a positive story, whatever the outcome. Fire is still burning under the ashes,” he adds. “People on the streets are still ready and willing to settle scores.”

The West Bank and Gaza, meanwhile, is a story Longari been covering for almost six years. “Crossing the border” into that part of the world, he says, “is shifting into another gear — a different tension, but still a real tension. It’s a landscape I’ve looked at for quite a long time now. I have tools to understand it.”

Incredibly, from a year of countless telling moments, Longari recalls a specific, revelatory instance of professional camaraderie in Gaza that stays with him.

“I was waiting for casualties to arrive at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City after an air raid,” he told TIME. “Phone lines with Jerusalem [where his wife and two children live] went dead. It took me some time to compose myself and get back to the routine of doing what I do. But in the faces of the colleagues around me, I recognized what my face must look like every time a bomb or a rocket falls near their families. Photography is compassion — and that scene in Gaza was the most humbling lesson in compassion I’ve experienced in my career.”


TIME’s previous wire photographers of the year:

2010: Pete Muller of the Associated Press
2009: Mauricio Lima of Agence-France Press



Matilde Gattoni: The Swallows of Syria

Editor’s note: The people in the story have been photographed with their faces covered and their names have been changed for security concerns. For the same reason, the exact locations in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon where the interviews took place have been kept hidden.

They were five, their faces covered with masks. They broke into the house and went upstairs. Few minutes later, they came down with my son Ali, handcuffed. linkwheel . They brought him away with no explanation. ‘Keep your mouth shut, or we will kill you’ was the only thing they told me.

Sitting on the porch of her new house in the Bekaa Valley, the Eastern Lebanese region bordering with Syria, Somaya struggles to hold back tears while recounting the last time she saw her son alive. Three days after his arrest, Ali’s corpse was found in a ditch near Talbiseh, a small village close to the Syrian city of Homs. He had eleven gunshot wounds in the stomach, the left arm was broken and both kneecaps had been removed, she says. Following her son’s death eight months ago, Somaya moved to Lebanon, where she is trying to cope with the nostalgia of her beloved country and the desperation of a mother that cannot get peace. Ali was a simple taxi driverhe didn’t like politics,” she says. “During the protests against the regime he used to stay at home because he didn’t want to run into troubles. Since his death, I pray to God every day to rid us of Assad.

Somaya’s story is not unique. Since the start of the revolution against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, more than one hundred thousand civilians (at least 114, 955 according to UN agencies) have taken shelter in Lebanon. According to the UNHCR, the majority are children and women. Most of them are housewives, but there are also students, teachers, retirees and widows. In order to flee from a revolution that has slowly escalated in a full-scale civil war, many have crossed the border illegally, defying the bullets of the security forces to save the lives of their children. Today, they live scattered between the Northern city of Tripoli and the myriad of small villages along the Syrian border. This war is a heavy burden on our shoulders. Many of us have lost husbands and sons, and now have to take care of their families on our own, explains 27-year-old Rasha, who fled the village of Soran on March 1 and is now hosted with her family in a stark two-room flat in the Bekaa.

Like her, tens of thousands of Syrian refugees (more than 31,095 according to the UNHCR) are still unregistered and live in desperate situations. Hosted in basements, farm sheds or tents, they survive thanks to the rare food rations delivered by local NGOs. The Lebanese government, which never signed the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees and does not have a specific legislation to deal with them, has so far refused to set up proper refugee camps for Syrians, out of fear that they might be infiltrated by armed groups and rebels, as was the case with the Palestinian ones in Lebanon during the 70s.

Many of the women refugees in Lebanon live halfway between prisoner and ghost, trying to avoid contacts with the local population for fear of being caught by the agents of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia militia and political party allied with Assad that constantly scours the country for dissidents. Every time my husband is late at night, I become hysterical, says Samira, 28, her dark, expressive eyes gleaming on her olive skin. Until six months ago she used to live in Hama with her four kids, the eldest of whom is only 11. Her husband, an opposition supporter, had already fled to Lebanon months ahead. During her lonely nights when Hama was bombed by the regime forces, Samira’s only dream was to rejoin him on the other side of the border. One night, the long-awaited phone call finally reached her. The following morning, she made an 80-kilometer trip that lasted for 13, interminable hours, during which Samira had to change four cars and pay $400 to bribe the Syrian soldiers manning the checkpoints all the way to the border. Today, Samira and her family live in the outskirts of Tripoli, but their problems are far from over. The stairs of the dilapidated building they live in are filled with pools of water and piles of garbage, while their balcony overlooks a rubbish dump. The monthly rent of $100 is a prohibitive price for her husband, who is struggling to find a job in Lebanon and is quickly running out of money. We don’t know how to pay the next rent, she says, before busting into a flood of tears.

The families who managed to reach Tripoli are the luckiest ones. Predominantly inhabited by Sunnis, the city has become the main stronghold of the Syrian opposition in Lebanon. There, refugees can enjoy proper health services and a relative security, but in the Bekaa valley, the situation is totally different. Divided among Shia, Sunnis and Christians, the region has been the theater of several raids carried out by the Syrian Army, as well as arrests and kidnappings of Syrian political activists and opponents of the regime. Hezbollah controls much of the region, and gives a hard time to refugees and the people who are helping them.

Though grateful for their safety, refugees still yearn to return to their own lives and homes. Mona, a 28-year-old refugee who escaped from al-Qusayr together with her husband and two young sons, now stays in the house of a host family all day long watching television with the kids. But the Arabic teacher has not lost the hope of going back to Syria to start teaching again. Too much blood has been spilled for freedom, she says. If the revolution succeeds, I hope the next generations will not spoil its fruits. This is the message I would like to send to my pupils.

Mona is not the only one missing school: 16-year-old Zaynab comes from the neighborhood of Al-Khaldeeye, one of the opposition strongholds in Homs. Until last January, she was the best in her class. But Zaynab’s dream of becoming a doctor was abruptly put to an end when she was forced to quit school after some soldiers kidnapped, raped and killed three of her schoolmates. Zaynab now lives in Tripoli with her father, brother and a mentally-challenged sister she has to look after. When she receives food from charity organizations, she has to sell part of it to buy her medicines. Despite the hard times she is going through, her faith in the future is still intact. I was expecting the revolution to be brief and successful,” she says. But I am still hopeful. Assad will fall soon, and we will be able to go back to Syria victorious.

Her optimism is not shared by other refugees, who are feeling the burden of the never ending clashes, deaths and deprivations. I don’t know how this war will endwe cannot even understand who is fighting whom anymore, complains Badia, a 51-year-old woman who came to Lebanon to cure her daughter who suffered brain damages during a raid of the security forces in their house in Bab Drieb, Homs. If this is the revolution, if it means that I am not able to go out of my house to buy a piece of breadthen I don’t want it. Or, as Rasha, the young Syrian girl from Soran, puts it: It doesn’t matter who wins this warSyria women don’t have rights from the day they are born. As a Syrian woman, I don’t know what freedom means.


Matilde Gattoni is a photographer based in Dubai and Lebanon. Her work often focuses on issues related to water around the world.

Matteo Fagotto is a 33-year-old freelance Italian journalist based in Dubai. He focuses on African and Middle Eastern issues through reportage and feature stories.


Pictures of the Week: September 14 – 21

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From continued anti-American protests around the world and the Pope’s visit to Lebanonto the honoring of Aung San Suu Kyi in the U.S.and the Duchess of Cambridge’s tour of the South Pacific, TIME presents the best images of the week.

Pictures of the Week: August 17 – August 24

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From violent clashes in Lebanon and wildfires in Spain to a disabled beauty pageant in Thailand and a Kids’ “State Dinner” at the White House, TIME presents the best images of the week.

Photographer #448: Rania Matar

Rania Matar, 1964, Lebanon/USA, is a documentary photographer who was born and raised in Lebanon and moved to the USA in 1984. Her career started as an architect before studying photography at the New England School of Photography. She concentrates mainly on women and women’s issues as identity and religion both in the US as in the Middle East. In 2009 she released the book Ordinary Lives and this spring her second monograph, A Girl and her Room, will be coming out. This series, inspired by her eldest daughter, focuses on teenage girls within their own private spaces. Both the forthcoming book and her younger daughter were the inspirations for her latest body of work entitled L’Enfant-Femme (the Child-Women). She portrays young teens and pre-teens without giving them instructions apart from not smiling. Due to the freedom the girls have to pose in their own way; they portray an array of emotions and clues to their true self. The angst, confidence and/or body language reveal their sense of selfhood and the developing sense of womanhood. As the teenagers still fluctuate between being a child and a women, Rania asks herself whether “they are meant to see themselves as little girls, teenagers or as young women?” Since 2002 she has also been taking photographs of her four children showing the various stages of their lives. The following images come from the series L’Enfant-Femme, Christian Arabs and Family Moments.

Website: www.raniamatar.com

William Daniels, Edith Bouvier Arrive Safely in Lebanon

LightBox has just learned that William Daniels, who was on assignment in Syria for TIME, safely crossed the border with wounded Le Figaro journalist Edith Bouvier into Lebanon Thursday. Daniels was present in the war-torn city of Homs during a bombardment by Syrian forces that killed journalists Rémi Ochlik and Marie Colvin on Feb. 22, just one day after Daniels had arrived in the country. He was unharmed but Bouvier suffered serious fractures to her leg; the two appeared together in an online video the following day, pleading for safe transport so that Bouvier could receive medical attention. Today, more than a week later, they have finally made it out of danger. French President Nicholas Sarkozy announced publicly that the two, who are French, would be escorted to their embassy in Beirut—and TIME received a more personal confirmation of the good news: Patrick Witty, TIME’s International Picture Editor, got a text message from Daniels. “We are out,” he wrote, “and Edith is safe!”

Manolo Espaliú, Lo blanco

Manolo Espaliú, Lo blanco

Manolo Espaliú

Lo blanco,
Faraya Mzaar Ski Resort, Lebanon, 2009
Website – Espaliu.com

Photographer #339: Anoek Steketee

Anoek Steketee, 1974, The Netherlands, is a documentary photographer with a unique approach. In her series Dream City she visited, together with journalist Eefje Blankevoort, various amusement parks. She went to Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Rwanda, Colombia, Indonesia, China, Turkmenistan and the USA. The parks form a universal backdrop to the large differences in cultural, sociological and political contexts. She stages her subjects and her lighting is impecable. In 2011 Dream City was released as a monograph. For the series Frontstage she visited Iran on several occasions between 2003 and 2006. She wanted to explore to what extend the image of Iran had been created by the western media and the Iranian propaganda itself. She asked passersby to pose, again using flash lights and giving the people directions. By using this technique, the people in the images become individuals with a story, while the Islamic Republic and the revolutionary ideology faded into the background. The following images come from the series Dream City, Frontstage and Holy Sepulchre.

Website: www.anoeksteketee.com