Transfixed by Beirut’s very distinct, yet consequential reality of the dense city and its open sea, Lebanese photojournalist Marwan Tahtah’s recent body of work ‘The Sea Leaves Us When We’re Gone’ portrays a contradictory, melancholic, and hopeful society.
Home to individuals from diverse social, cultural, and economic, backgrounds, the last accessible public beaches in Beirut are a haven for people seeking solitude in a chaotic environment jeopardized by expropriation and dangerous levels of pollution. Captured over a span of three years these photographs are a visual representation of Tahtah’s attachment to Beirut and the Mediterranean coastline.
Growing up during the civil war, Marwan was a witness to the destruction that conflict created. Recalling his childhood, the then seven-year-old Tahtah observed the bombing and burning down off a neighboring building. A volatile scene that many have grown accustomed to, Tahtah was able to capture a mental image that he says “was the first photograph he ever took.”
An incident that he considers to be the primary influence on his love for photography, Marwan soon found the image burned in his mind imprinted on the pages of a magazine. His unconscious need to become a photojournalist began to develop slowly. Photojournalism has an artistic aspect; it is a form of communication that Tahtah uses to open conversations about environmental, social, cultural, economic and political issues.
Deciding to work in the news at seventeen, Marwan took his first photography course at the Russian Cultural Center and landed his first job in Al Sharq newspaper. Joining the mandatory army service as a photographer allowed him to develop his skills and distribute his photographs to several magazines, newspapers, and agencies such as AFP.
Working for Lebanese newspapers since 2000, Marwan’s nineteen-year dedication to the medium has allowed him to work on projects managed by the ICRC, Goethe-Institute and other organizations. In June 2016, he received a Masters Degree in Photography from the École Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie in Arles, France.
Over the years Marwan has been able to develop distinguished work that is rooted in both his love of art and storytelling. His series ‘Behind The Veil’ focuses on the predetermined expectations placed on veiled Lebanese women who struggle with the freedom of choice to remove their veils. These women face a challenging patriarchal society that some are scared to stand up to.
Continually working on developing photographic material that echoes his reality, Tahtah’s latest body of work ‘Perfect Homes for Leavin’ tracks the return of Syrian refugees to their land. By illuminating the individuals and only focusing on their personal belongings, Marwan allows his viewers to look at refugees with fresh eyes. These photographs are exhibited Image Festival Amman. The Exhibition runs till April 30th.
Through his photographs, Marwan sheds light on diverse issues that many are not conscious of. By spreading awareness and striving to create truthful imagery, he hopes to offer a new and positive perspective on topics that are often disregarded.