Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Maryam, Syrian living in Lebanon, Bekaa Valley, August, 2009


Here she stands, an Arab girl beyond her years. Her name is Maryam.

Earlier in the week, her portrait is made as she presents herself in between chores. As she is the oldest girl of the family remaining at home, with her older sisters in the fields picking vegetables, all the duties are her responsibility.

She washes clothes, she cleans the home, she collects water, she helps her mother with the cooking, she serves the family, she takes care of her little sisters and she manages the home in the absence of her mother.

My photography in this collection of tents began before her birth. Her two older sisters were also photographed by me. One is married now with her own children and one is soon to be married; both have reached an age that excludes the possibility of photography.

On this day, she decides to have some fun. She collects a pair of sunglasses and a wonderful piece of fabric. She uses a pin to hold the piece in place and stands for her portrait. She is the oldest of the girls being photographed and shows it. She stands proud, unmoved by the men watching. She is an example for the younger girls watching, balancing the fine line between independence and tradition. In this moment, she is free of all chains, she is beyond all walls.

After the photography, we find ourselves alone, walking back to her home about fifty meters away. She is walking to my right with a continuous smile. I look at her and say: 'you are my sister, you are my daughter.'

Without a single second of hesitation, Maryam responds: 'you are my father, you are my uncle, you are my brother.'

If there is one moment in my photography that can be selected as my inspiration, this is it.