Google had been bugging me about my cloud storage for a while before I finally clicked the link the other day to hopefully free up some space; a couple of scrolls later, I was punched in the gut with attachments in emails I’d long forgotten about, with files and photos I thought I’d lost forever, including these from a project I worked on with a then-anonymous blogger in 2011. You read that right – an anonymous blogger; this was 2011, after all. More on that later.
Thank God for metadata because I simply have no recollection of ever using a Canon PowerShot A710 IS, which these were taken with, apparently. Maybe I borrowed it from my dad; I just don’t remember nor know what happened to it.
In any case, it’s a heartrending little set of even-then nostalgic photography, documenting the crime scene of a heritage home in the midst of demolition. I remember the space very well, right on the edge of downtown Beirut, a city that hasn’t stopped changing in the 12 years since I took these or the 5 since I’ve been back.
I didn’t read the emails. I think I’d find the experience too cancerian. But if I did, I think I’d recall how this collab was for the blogger’s university project in Paris; some kind of video projection with audio about le néolibéralisme or what have you. I couldn’t find the audio, but the very last email promised that they’d be sent next, but yk, the internet sucks in Lebanon, “haha.”
I think these images make me wistful because they represent a lot more than a city in flux; they capture under glass relationships that have faded and enthusiasms that have waned. And I guess, one day, this grid will serve as the same; yet more digital detritus of a life from dust to dust.
But dust keeps on circulating, never to be utterly destroyed; would you believe me if I told you that her blog was called “Sleepless in Beirut”?
I didn’t know where the winds would send me when I stood on the edge of that city’s gentrification machine and took these photos, but somehow, I think, it was always meant to be here.
More photos from Beirut, 2011. These were obviously taken in portrait orientation, but when I downloaded the files, they appeared as landscapes. My preservationist impulses make me want to share them as they saved, but apparently instagram automatically figures it out from the metadata; please turn your phone sideways to see them horizontally, the way I see them now, and as they ought to be remembered.
Last one from this set of photos I took in 2011 for my old friend, the anonymous blogger once known as Sleepless in Beirut.
I eventually met her, and quite cinematically too, arranging our rendezvous at a theatre that was screening films made in 48 hours.
Let me tell you this: this Clark Kent had a very, very good disguise. Saying more would ruin the mystique, but I’m pretty sure that she could have kept that blog going for years without anyone guessing her identity.
Would you believe that I still follow her on Instagram? I don’t think she even knows I exist.