BEIRUT: A rich photographic archive of Lebanon has surfaced in the most unlikely of places, when a London-based artist discovered a homeless Lebanese photographer had a previously unknown collection of more than 27,000 shots.
Emigrating from Lebanon in 1993 after 16 years working as a photojournalist during the Lebanese civil war, Diab Alkarssifi found himself sleeping on London’s streets with no recourse to showcase his long years of work.
Born in the city of Baalbek, east Lebanon, he moved to the Arlington residence, a hostel for homeless in Camden that has been operating since 1905.
At Arlington, the London-based Polish artist Ania Dabrowska had established “the creative space program,” a project aiming to use art as a way to reengage those who has been isolated by the society.
Attending one of Dabrowska’s workshops, Alkarssifi walked in with his two carrier bags, carrying a huge collection of his work; family albums and photographs from studios in Beirut, Damascus and Cairo.
Covering over 100 years of cultural and political history of Lebanon and the Middle East, the collection’s photographic prints, negatives and transparencies seemed to be a good tool to reverse Lebanon’s amnesia and tell more about the rich history of the country and the region.
Impressed, Dabrowska decided to launch a project that would combine Alkarssifi’s work in a book called “A Lebanese Archive,” to be published by the London-based nonprofit organization Book Works.
The project will also include several exhibitions and an archive to be established as part of the Arab Image Foundation Collection in Beirut.
Book Works has launched a fund-raising campaign on Kickstarter.com, a website that supports entrepreneurs and creative initiatives by raising the required cash to hit the market.
The project has so far raised about 5,000 GBP, but will not be funded unless it raises a minimum of 20,000 GBP before September 27, according to the website.
The present collection was all what survived of a much larger one, a big part of which is either still hidden or lost in Lebanon.
In parallel to “A Lebanese Archive,” Ania Dabrowska’s also created the “House of Homeless” ( Arlington Portraits), which is a socially engaged project positioned between conceptual photography and portraiture, which aims to challenge social stigma and stereotypes about homelessness.
Focused on memory, identity, social engagement and collaborative processes, Dabrowska’s work has toured many exhibitions world-wide, and has won the Observer Hodge Photographic Award (2003) and the Wellcome Trust People Award (2008-2011.)
The final exhibition for “A Lebanese Archive” will tour Beirut, London and Warsaw in 2015, as the project is projected to be completed by the end of 2014.
(The Daily Star )