Uncovered through the eyes of Lebanese photographer and writer Samer Mohdad, the photograph of an orphaned boy carrying the bullet pierced portrait of his murdered father is strikingly expressive.
Composed with sharp and bold contrasts between light and dark, the socially, and politically aware photograph, from Mohdad’s body of work ‘War Children, Lebanon 1984 – 1992’, echoes the many beguiling narratives of the innocent lives that were affected by the cruelty of the Lebanese conflict.
Falling victim to the gruesome bloodshed battles that broke out in Beirut in 1975, the then ten-year-old Mohdad and his family had to seek refuge in Aley, a village located in Mount Lebanon.
Influenced by his mother, a well-known poet, Mohdad’s love for the medium flourished after he understood that poetry could be translated visually. Almost seven years later, during the Israeli invasion, Samer fled the country and relocated to Belgium.
Compelled by his professor Roland Castro, Mohdad joined L’École Supérieure des Arts Saint-Luc Liège where he obtained his degree in photography.
Throughout his educational journey between 1987 and 1989, he traveled to Lebanon, Algeria, and Syria in an effort to capture the other side of war while searching for his lost Arab identity.
Upon graduating, Mohdad won a photography competition organized by kodak, for schools which landed him the opportunity to get his work reviewed by many curators and well-established photographers at Rencontres d’Arles, in France.
In 1988, Mohdad began working for Paris-based photojournalism agency Vu, notably producing features on the Other side of the Lebanese civil war, the Beirut prison, and the children of the civil war.
After meeting with Charles-Henri Favrod the founder of Musée de l’Élysée in 1988 in Lausanne, Mohdad found himself injected into a group of Swiss photographers who met with renowned American photographer Richard Avedon for a portfolio review. Both Impressed by his work, Mohdad’s photographs with made the front page of newspapers in Switzerland the following day.
Landing his first solo exhibition at the Elysée Museum in 1990, Mohdad was commissioned for a series of photographs on the Swiss army during the country’s 700th birthday for a book and exhibition entitled “Voir la Suisse Autrement.”From then on, his photographic career took off.
Despite having his work part of collections of prestigious museums and institutions around Europe, USA, and the Middle East, Mohdad struggled to find his grounding as a Lebanese or an Arab photographer as there was no category specifying such work from the region.
In 1997 in Beirut, with the help of Fouad El Khoury and Akram Zaatari, Mohdad created Arab Image Foundation a non-profit organization hosting an acquisition of photographic archives from Arab photography pertaining over 600,000 photographs to date.
Mohdad’s work is humanitarian. It combines photographic technique, communication, and a profound understanding of the fundamentals of art to chronicle a side of war that is often forgotten; his work focuses on documenting and preserving the Arab identity.
As a war child himself, his first body of work ‘War Children, Lebanon, 1985 -1992′ deals with the intimate feelings and encounters he experienced during his childhood. Shot in West Beirut, the mountains, Bekka Valley, and South Lebanon, the series deals with the losses that result from the sinister acts of war.
While Mohdad’s second book entitled ‘Return to Gaza’ tells the story of exiled Palestinians who were able to return to their land, Samer’s ‘Mes Arabies’ uncovers the stories of continually defeated Arab individuals around twelve countries.
In his fourth publication ‘Assaoudia’, Mohdad documents the lives of Bedouin women who are living freely in the deserts of Saudi Arabia.
Samer’s fifth photo book tells the tale of reconciliation between Lebanon’s Druze and Christian communities. Part of the EU and government-sponsored AFKAR program. ‘Mes Ententes’ questions the ability of the returnees who are working hard to rebuilt their lives in villages that have been destroyed during Lebanon’s conflicts.
‘Beyrouth Mutations’ is the title of Mohdad’s sixth book combining both photography and writing. Mohdad offers a twenty-five-year contemporary history of Beirut’s constant transformation during and after the 1975-90 conflicts.
Mohdad released his latest book ‘Voyages En Pays Druze’ in December of this year.
Quite different than the previous publications, the novel is based on writing rather than photographs. Consciously choosing to omit pictures was essential for this book. Rather than visuals, Samer describes his imaginative photographs with his words.
An autobiographical narrative inspired by his spiritual journeys and life experience, ‘Voyages en Pays Druze’ is a novel that aims “to fill the historical gaps of this community that many are not aware of”.
Mohdad is currently working on a new book Entitled ‘View from My Window Here and Elsewhere.’ A series that deals with the recent upheaval of social media and the deceptive manipulations that photographs portray. The publication will also include a translated poem written by his mother some years ago.