Documenting both the ordinary and the extraordinary, renowned Franco-Syrian photographer Ammar Abd Rabbo is considered one of the most prominent photojournalists of the Arab world.
Signing over sixty magazine covers, his photographs have appeared in Time Magazine, Paris Match, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, and Asharq Al Awsat to name a few. Abd Rabbo’s work has been syndicated in the world’s most extensively circulated publications, meriting him numerous awards and accolades over the years.
Born in Damascus in 1966, Ammar lived in Libya and Lebanon before relocating to France in 1978. Inspired by his journalist father, his love of storytelling propelled him to train in Libération newspaper, Canal+ tv channel, and L’Express magazine. Throughout his journey, he stumbled upon individuals from Sygma photo agency who encouraged him to take up photography.
Realizing that the medium is a transcendent, powerful tool of communication that breaks all language barriers, Abd Rabbo’s photographs got published in Japan, Chile, Mexico, and other countries from around the world. Freelancing for several agencies such as Sygma, Sipa Press, and Abaca Press, Abd Rabbo established a small photo agency Balkis Press.
Muammar Al Gaddafi, from the series, Follow the Leader | Photo Courtesy of Ammar Abd Rabbo
Entitled ‘Follow The Leader,’ Abd Rabbo’s body of work presents a rare collection of fifteen portraits. Whether inviting or repugnant, each portrait deconstructs these powerful individuals, proving that they are merely human who share common feelings, vulnerabilities, and experiences of the general public.
Abd Rabbo’s fascination with power lead him to photograph some of the most powerful, influential, and remarkable individuals. Over the years, Ammar was commissioned by magazines, and newspapers, to capture intimate portraits of Arab and international leaders such as Benazir Bhutto, Muammar Al Gaddafi, and Queen Elizabeth II to name a few.
Ammar’s work focuses on not only politically charged situations and people, but it also encompasses the documentation of world-renowned celebrities such as Michael Jackson, as well as the acclaimed scientist and theoretical physicist Steven Hawking.
Another facet of Abd Rabbo’s work is his photographs that document the wars of Syria, Lebanon, Libya, and Iraq. Although he is not eager to cover such conflict zones, he believes it is necessary to chronicle the narratives of the people who have fallen victim to such cruel atrocities.
To decompress and recover from the draining coverage of the war, Ammar photographs events such as Cannes Film Festival, El Gouna Film Festival, and Paris Fashion week, capturing portraits of A-list celebrities such as Salma Hayek, Sylvester Stallone, Patrick Dempsey, and Owen Wilson amongst many others.
Captivated by the bare human body, Abd Rabbo’s multifaceted work includes oeuvres that deal with identity, nudity, and censorship in the Arab world. Inspired by the concealed imagery found in magazines and billboards across the region, “The Naked Truth,” is a body of work that integrates several creative mediums. In collaboration with Syrian calligrapher Aqeel, Ammar uses his photographs, hand-drawn texts, and ornamental looking paintings, to create work that masks the prohibited details of his images.
Using terminology from the fifteenth-century Arabic sex manual written by a Muslim spiritual leader “The Perfumed Garden of Sensual Delight” Abd Rabbo uses satirical descriptions to stretch the boundaries of representation and restriction.
Dealing with the numerous core issues present in societies worldwide, Abd Rabbo latest multilayered body of work also questions the notions of stereotyping, and the preconceived notions that are intuitively formed by individuals.
Ammar continually pushes the boundaries by shedding light on a multitude of topics, using photography, and other media outlets such as the videos published on Daraj a digital platform that aims to connect new journalists with new readers. By spreading awareness, with his equally controversial, thought-provoking, and beautifully captured imagery Abd Rabbo hopes to break the barriers that are hindering the Arab society.