Photograph of Beirut Port after August 4th explosion taken by Ammar Abd Rabbo

Taking up this issue’s theme of ‘The Diary of an Artist in Confinement Interesting Times’, Selections invited artists to share their thoughts on work, art and life in general since the beginning of the year.

What image(s) illustrate(s) 2020 for you so far?

“The empty streets of major
cities. Among my photos,
Paris… And among other
people’s images, Mecca,
Vatican City, Times Square. It’s
truly the ‘novelty’, the unusual
sight of 2020. Of course, the
images of the Beirut blast will
also remain in our minds.”

 

 

 

 

During a Zoom session
During a Zoom session

The memory of this time for me is that so many events have been cancelled, and so much time spent doing almost nothing, with blessed ‘out of time’ moments with family and loved ones. Will this happen again?

The year 2020 for me is surreal, masked, a paused year. During this time, I decided to do what I do best: shoot photos. I documented lots of Paris’ usually crowded streets, now empty. The tools I have been using are different cameras, my eyes, Zoom software, and various masks!

The “lockdown” itself was an unprecedented moment, where everything was halted, no more deadlines, no rush. Of course, I was still sending and receiving emails, but no-one was in a hurry anymore. People were either taking their time, or realising it was useless to be too fast and running. Also, there were some rituals to set with the family, to ease staying all together, as there was no more rhythm of travelling and coming back, going to work, to restaurants, to theatres, etc.

The whole moment made us all realise the importance of art and culture. We all needed music, movies, books, photos, paintings to fill this empty time. I went back to Garcia Marquez’ Love in the Time of Cholera, and I always love reading poetry. I have to admit I faced some issues focussing during this year, and poems are easier to focus and travel with. It might be the year when the power of art was at its height of importance. When you stop running, stop making money, banks block the money you already made, what is left? The magic of culture, the richness of art, the beauty of what we create.


All photos are courtesy of Ammar Abd Rabbo.

A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS #53


Ammar Abd Rabbo portrait
Ammar Abd Rabbo portrait

Born in Damascus in 1966, Rabbo lived in Libya and Lebanon prior to ultimately residing in France from 1978. As one of the Arab world’s most important photojournalists, his work has been published in the most widely circulated international publications, from Time Magazine to Paris Match, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, and Asharq Al Awsat, where his work graced more than 60 magazine covers. From a 20-year career, his portfolio has amassed intimate portraits of heads of states, as well as world-renowned celebrities such as the late ‘King of Pop’, Michael Jackson, and includes war coverage in Iraq, Lebanon and Libya, as well as high society events such as the Cannes Film Festival and Paris Fashion Week. Rabbo’s virtual exhibition on the photosharing website Flickr has had more than two and a half million visitors.

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