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 the exhibition at Makan/ PlanBEY (Beyrut. Oct- Nov 2015).
The exhibition follows a process of photographic research at the Arab Image Foundation, during a two-week residency in June 2015. The resulting bookworks capture different photographic collections that are temporarily stored for preservation, whilst awaiting its full digitisation and cataloguing. They reflect haphazard ways institutional photographic collections exist in a limbo, in a phantasmic connection with history, chance and the everyday.
The bookworks were editioned during a subsequent residency at PlanBey’s publishing studio in October and shown at Makan, the imprint’s project space. Based in Beirut’s Mar Mikhael, Makan was a residential space before its conversion into a project space. Relying on the domestic feeling of the site, the gallery was we retrofitted into a furnished apartment thus integrating the photobook works within a site-specific installation. The staging of a narrative within an out-dated domestic interior invites the audience into a more intimist reading of the works located within the scenes evoked in the printed pages.
This effect is visible with ‘Super private,’ a series of photobook works sourced from the work of an amateur photographer known as RS. Photographing in the early 1950s in Beirut, he left his work in film rolls that were never developed during his lifetime 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.
More about the book here
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 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