One on One

Serge Najjar

2 Mins read
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Photographer


Nadine Khalil: How ar e you looking back at the 4 Augus t explosion in Beirut in terms of what it means for the country as a whole

Serge Najjar: I think that the bomb that went off in the city is the purest expression of the negligence of Lebanon as a nation. Now its people, its good people, find themselves trapped in the dark games of their leaders

NK: Do you see it as a d efining t urning point in the h istory of the country and, if so, how did we get her e?

SN: There is so much work to be done and the real work is again being blocked by our corrupted leaders. As Lebanese citizens, it seems that we have forgotten how to exist outside the realm of politics and politicians. Even those who have tried have failed because their confessional and religious affiliations are used against them by the political system. Let’s remember that our leaders are in fact warlords who never actually became anything else. I believe Lebanon will not get better unless we, the people, can regain our country’s leadership and put the warlords aside.

NK: What roles can artists and creative communities play in thisdebacle?

SN: Luckily, until now we have succeeded in preserving our freedom of expression. Creativity and inspiration shouldn’t be impinged by any obstacle and I don’t think anyone should accept censorship or threats to their creative work. The fight now is for us to retain our rights in expressing ourselves freely and unconditionally. I believe this is the way forward for artists and creative communities. We shouldn’t make any concessions to our freedom of expression because without freedom, Lebanon doesn’t exist.

NK: Do you th ink th is lates t disastermight affect the nature of your work and the kind of distance you create from your subjects?

SN: Honestly, it’s hard to tell now. I just feel that these horrific events have filled me with an anger and determination. The only picture I was able to take after the explosion was that of a young boy, sitting on an open window, from which one could see stairs leading towards nowhere. He wears a t-shirt emblazoned with: “Dear Santa”, and has an uncertain gaze in his eyes. This is how we all feel today. We want to believe in something greater and even though it seems very difficult, we must keep looking towards the light.

NK: Your photographs often adhere to a grid and ther e’s the sense of extreme control or precision in the composition and symmetry of your work. Do these minimalis t, clean façades reflect a pas t or future Beirut?

SN: Both! These façades comprise Beirut’s identity. They belong to its past and future and no one can take anything related to our cultural heritage away from us. We must protect our history because we can’t fight for a decent future if we don’t preserve our roots. I don’t think that Lebanon’s freedom is an accident of history. We need to preserve this soul of the country.

Amit Varadrajan is a staff writer at Canvas, covering news, politics, and culture
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