Another set of photos from Beirut that I found as old attachments is this series I’d apparently taken for the long-defunct outlet “Hibr.me.”
It depicts GREEN THE GREY, a “public intervention” in June 2011 meant to celebrate green spaces in a city in desperate need of them, or what @beirutgreenproject‘s co-founder Dima Boulad would later call a “peaceful protest” to coincide with World Environment Day.
Patches of grass were laid out in car-centric Sassine Square and we spent the afternoon hanging out. It was as simple as that. It pains me to reflect on just how utterly prosaic the politic instantiated here was.
So many familiar faces too, some I knew, others I would come to know, and all eventually left behind.
The only reason I still have these photos is because I’d been building a blog on another long-defunct platform called Posterous, which promised to make blogging easier by allowing you to email it your posts to be automatically formatted. That service very quickly shut down, forcing me to migrate what I could to a WordPress that I eventually shut down myself, as well.
My blog was called GEONAFSIYA, my play on “psychogeography,” where “psyche” + “geo” writing became “geo” + “nafas” feeling in my Arabic rendering. Nafas shares the same root as the Biblical “nephesh,” incidentally. It means soul.
The soul of places. The platforms and brandings and technologies have changed, again and again, but it would appear that I keep circling around the same thing, wherever I might be.
I suppose I was engaging in photojournalism here, but I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t conscious of that at the time. I was simply documenting a moment I found to be incredibly important.
As I write this, a song is playing on my headphones:
“Where are you now?
Who will show me how?
Where are you now?
Who will show me how?”
What am I experiencing when I pour over photos like these? I’d like to believe it’s something like what a scholar I read referenced in a book the other day calls “reflective nostalgia.” It’s the sort of looking-backward that “accepts the fact that the past is, in fact, past, and rather than trying to recreate a special past experience, savors the emotions evoked by its recollection.”
“This acknowledgment of the irretrievability of our autobiographical past provides an aesthetic distance that allows us to enjoy a memory in the same way that we enjoy a movie or a good book.”
I’d like to think I’m enjoying looking back at these faces and spaces.