This past September, Betty Ketchedjian was announced as winner of the 2018 Byblos Bank Award for Photography, a prestigious award now in its seventh edition that recognises emerging artists who have made an impact on Lebanese art and visual culture through their photographs.
This year, over 150 artists registered for the prize online, which were eventually narrowed down to a list of 10 finalists: Adonis Aoun, Christina Assi, Laeticia El Hakim, Lamis Hakim, Najib Hilal, Rhea Hleihel, Betty Ketchedjian, Hadi Moussaly, Melanie Mrad and Loukman Nasreddine.
As every year BEIRUT ART FAIR (BAF) and the jury president select the 10 finalists following careful consideration. A world-renowned jury of photography professionals is then formed to choose the winner. The 2018 jury was led by Tristan Lund, who serves as the Discovery Section Curator at Photo London.
After deliberating and reviewing the finalists’ work, this year’s jury voted Betty Ketchedjian’s series “Namesake” as the winning submission for its bold and innovative approach to photography. Ketchedjian’s winning series of photographs investigates the history of her family name, albeit in a way that attests to the irrecoverableness of the past.
The photo series principally focuses on the matriarch of the Ketchedjian clan, the life of her grandmother, including many of her personal belongings, household and domestic items, which accordingly become imbued with a sense of meaning. Drawing a parallel between these seemingly mundane, everyday objects, with that of her own life today, the photos evoke a desire to understand the eponym of her family name but done in a very delicate, poetic and thoughtful manner, one that likely appealed to judges on account of being so deeply personal.
The autobiographical and emotional character of the prize-winning series hints at the power of art and its ability to examine intersections of history, social change and memory. A task also taken up by some of the world’s foremost Arab intellectuals, including Edward Said, whose autobiography Out of Place: A Memoir describes his own feelings of dislocation and exile, from Palestine and Lebanon, but done in a way that mixes an archaeology of the past with an analysis of the present.
The jury also recognised Ketchedjian’s work for its ability to reflect on the fateful often fragile relationship between social and political history from an intergenerational perspective, “The theme she chose and how she presented her narrative, the visual signature of her work and its artistic value earned her the prize,” Mr. Lund said.
Since 2012, the Byblos Bank Award for Photography has played a crucial role in fostering artistic output in Lebanon by providing young artists with access to the art market, expertise from galleries and collectors, as well as media amplification and promotion of their work. Throughout its seven editions, more than 600 photographers submitted nearly 4,000 artistic photographs to the competition; seven different juries composed of international experts selected 75 finalists, who exhibited their work at the BEIRUT ART FAIR; six winners received extensive mentoring programs ahead of their first solo exhibitions, hosted and organized by Byblos Bank.
As winner of the Byblos Bank Prize, Ketchedjian will receive a generous mentorship program under renowned French artist Aurélie Pétrel and a solo-exhibition of her work at the Byblos Bank Headquarters, in addition to a catalogue and a dedicated media campaign.
“The Byblos Bank Award for Photography was a great experience for me, notably because I got the chance to meet the other finalists and some of the jury members in person and got valuable feedback from them. Also, having my work exhibited at the Beirut Art Fair meant a great deal to me,” said Ketchedjian. She concluded: “And with it, the memory of her grandmother will certainly live on for generations to come.”