Torn, Folded, Curled is a working term used at the Arab Image Foundation to categorise heavily damaged photographs that require special care in storage and preservation. It is also the title for a project started with photographic research at the Foundation followed by a publishing residency at PlanBEY that resulted in photobookworks and an exhibition in Beyrut (Makan, 2015). Bayroumi, Super-Private and Today source from three photographic collections that are temporarily stored for preservation, whilst awaiting its full digitisation and cataloguing. Art as Research methodologies support an archaeology of the contemporary past, and reflect the way these orphan photographs exist in a phantasmic connection with Middle East history, chance and everyday life.
Based in Beirut’s Mar Mikhael, Makan was a residential apartment before its conversion into a project space. Relying on the domestic feeling of the site, the gallery was retrofitted into a furnished apartment and the photobook works integrated within a site-specific installation. The staging of a narrative within an out-dated domestic interior invited the audience into an intimist reading of the scenes evoked in the printed pages.
This effect is visible with Super-private, six photobookworks sourced from the work of an amateur photographer known as RS. Photographing in the early 1950s in Beyrut, he left his work in film rolls that were never developed during his life time and are shown here as photobookworks for the first time. The ‘real-life’ apartment setting provides the ideal backdrop for a visual script that emerges in the staged scenes for the camera where his friends and lovers feature as characters in a photo-roman noir. More about the book here
Another bookwork in the exhibition is an investigation of press photographs and papers rescued from the offices of political newspaper Al Yom. Founded by Afif El Tibi in 1937, considered the father of Lebanese journalism, the newspaper was attacked at the outbreak of war in 1975, and the journalists given 30 minutes to leave the offices. The repository lay hidden until the editor’s death in 2005 when it was found outside his house. Heavily damaged, the materials are photographed as they were found: torn, folded and curled. The resulting publication is titled Today (torn folded curled) and the images are accompanied by sentences from the novel ‘A L’ Ombre d’ Une Ville’ (1993) by Elie-Pierre Sabagg, creating a photo-text that is a reflection on memory, photography and the city.
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The Bayroumi Collection has been temporarily held in storage boxes at the Arab Image Foundation waiting to be catalogued and re-housed in safe archiving environment, until it is ultimately digitised and made available for online access. It was brought in by AIF member Akram Zaatari, from the studio of Mohamad Bayroumi in Saida, Lebanon and it is still being researched. It is a collection of approximately 4600 negatives of 35mm format, packed in cardboard boxes and plastic bags. More about the book here
Rositta explores what the definition of ‘photobook’ is: using one single image from the RS collection it is formatted for the dinner table, a humorous twist of the coffe-table book. The photograph is rendered bitmap, a process usually leading to the photo silkscreen surface a condition that is eschewed here in favor of high contrast laser printing, and placed under a transparent acrylic cover with pink stickers.
More about the book here