Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Face of Understanding, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, Summer of 2008


Those of us truly understood by others will recognize this face, for this is the face of understanding. Some say that we are fortunate to meet one such person in our lifetimes, but it has been my experience that almost every single street on my travels has revealed this face to me. While every single street has also revealed much of the opposite, those of understanding are etched into my mind. The others just faded away as fast as they appeared.

This young girl has been present in my work since the first days. She is an economic refugee from Lebanon, and her family works in the fields as migrants. Her father also happens to be the Chief of the local community, and is the person to whom the Lebanese farmers go when they need workers for their fields. He is a brother to me and has always protected me from the dangers of photographing the girls. While he is traditional in his customs, he also is quite aware of my work and promotes it with his soft yet powerful guidance.

An example of this is what happened previous to this image. I had finished photographing the girls in his camp when he asked me to take his family to visit his eldest daughter. This came as a complete surprise to me, that he would put his complete trust in me and send his wife and girls with someone other than himself in a car. The shock was also evident on her face, as she loaded her younger sisters into the backseat of the car.

The entire time we drove I looked into the rearview and saw this exact expression, and had to concentrate on the road while also reveling in the moment. She never spoke a word, even as we arrived to her sister's house and she sat for this portrait. Here was a young girl living as a migrant from another land, living without running water and a toilet, showing me that she understood me perfectly, that she understood my purpose in her life with complete clarity.

Throughout the years we would play a game between us, whispering our thoughts somewhat out loud in the middle of the chaos around us, almost like we were moving in slow motion while everyone around us hurried along. These have been the most memorable for me, and tell me that it is time to visit Lebanon in 2015.