Sunday, August 9, 2009

Lebanon, August 6, 2009

It’s time to visit Fatouma’s extended family. She lives a bit further away, in the Bekaa Valley. Her family is also Bedouin in origin, ones that have gained papers and have become Lebanese as well over time. Last year, the photography was difficult. My hope for this year is that time has changed people’s perspectives.

The first good sign is that Fatouma offers to be photographed first, a rarity. She is a shy girl and usually continues with her chores even when seeing me with her family in front of the home. This year, she tells me that she has a special outfit and that she wants to be dressed nicely for her portrait. It’s a little early and we decide to visit a small camp next door first. Fatouma’s older brother comes along to help, ending up sitting on the side watching the photography unfold. For him, this is a camp that is more foreign than for me, even though it is adjacent to his home.

We arrive and, just as expected, the men have failed to prepare the children for their portraits, especially the girls and the younger women. When they received the portraits on Monday, they promised to do so, perhaps as a gesture of goodwill after receiving the pictures. We have our work cut out for us and start talking to the girls, getting about half a dozen to gather for their portraits. They are a brave lot, with about a dozen men and a dozen younger boys standing around waiting for their turn.

We pick a white tent and make their portraits first, then walk over to a green tent for their color ones, in a smaller format. All of the girls are led by me and by their hand, to show them my support and to help them along with their portraits, most of them laughing all the way to the green tent because of this older man walking them by the hand.

After about an hour, we decide to head back to Fatouma’s home. While a couple of the men show us support, a few others lack the same, with certain remarks and expressions. They hear my displeasure at this response and my promise to bring the children’s portraits regardless. Only with this action will they realize hopefully that this work is for the benefit of the subjects, nobody else.

We walk back to Fatouma’s home and she is waiting, in her beautiful sweater, brown like her skin and her eyes. We find a spot away from the road and enjoy the making of her portrait; she ends up asking for ten portraits, thinking that each roll is a portrait. I oblige happily. The sky is the background and the mountains of Lebanon the landscape around us. It’s a wonderful ending to a difficult day.

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Halim Ina Photography