Stemming from an inherent need for the preservation of one of the most mysterious religions, ethno-photographer Jack Dabaghian’s latest body of work highlights the timelessness of the Druze culture. Currently exhibited at Beittedine Palace, and in collaboration with the Institute Francaise in Deir al Qamar, “Les Maîtres Du Secret” offers a unique view into a community that
has been in the shadows for over a millennium.
Born in Beirut, former photojournalist Jack covered conflicts around the region such as the Iran/Iraq war and the conflicts in Lebanon, Palestine, Rwanda, Zaire, Algeria, and Iraq. During his many assignments, he photographed a sub-conflict that took place at the Chouf District during the Lebanese Civil war.
Fascinated by the secrecy of an unaltered society for many years, Dabaghian was determined to tell the stories of the close-knit, and cohesive community. A project that took over two years to complete, Jack isolated himself for weeks trying to understand and research the history of the region, the Druze religion, and the history of photography during this time.
Looking into archival companies, image banks, photo agencies, institutions, and museums, Dabaghian found a few images related to political stories and burial ceremonies but no real documentation about the Druze community.
Discovering that the first photographs of the Druze found in quantities were from the 1920s, Jack realized that there is a substantial visual historical void in the documentation of this society and decided to fill it by focusing on the period between the 1860s and 1900s.
Able to re-visualize the untold histories of the Druze, Dabaghian utilized an early photographic technique invented in 1851. Commonly used in the mid-19th century, the wet-collodion process, requires nitrocellulose, acids, alcohol, and other chemicals that seldom exist.
A dangerous and risky technique that he is trained to dabble with, Jack took safety precautions to avoid any accidents. Placing these chemicals in coolers, wearing gloves, and a breathing mask, he traveled with a lab that he set up for every image he photographed.
Bringing together portraits, landscapes, and still life images, Jack immerses his audiences into the heart of a culture that is so well protected. By blurring the lines between the past and present Dabaghian’s photographs have a certain enigmatic aura about them. They transport the viewer into a timelessness that has not been experienced before.
“Les Maîtres Du Secret” is currently being exhibited at the Beittedine Festival. The exhibition will run until August 10.
A talk organized by Beirut Center of Photography revolving around the same body of work will take place on Monday, July 22, at Artnub Beirut.