Many people take pictures of Beirut. But not many people take pictures of Beirut like Ayla Hibri does. The artist's work is being featured in an upcoming book called, "POV Female Beirut."

The first thing that’s different about Hibri’s work is that she shoots exclusively on film. Not digital made to look like film, mind you. It’s film - just film, with all the depth, graininess, and damage that medium entails.

"This is what photography is supposed to look like," Hibri told "Digital files don't last forever, negatives do. The whole point is for it to surpass time and technology, to survive and to exist as something physical."

Hibri’s work seems almost to be located in a limbo between loss and disappearance – in Beirut she snaps modernist buildings that have been mostly (but not completely) destroyed, or an Ottoman-style house subsumed by plant life. “I have a lot of anger towards the new tasteless buildings that are poisoning the city,” she said.

Looking at Hibri’s photos may transport you to another era -- one before we had instagram and camera phones. Back to a time when you would take your rolls to a developer, and pay them money, and wait, anxiously to find out: did the pictures come out? Do I look fat in them?

Shooting on film isn't cheap -- but Hibri compares the cost of film to what a painter might spend on canvases.

(One exception: Hibri shoots photos on instagram using her phone. 'It feels like cheating if I don't!')

There’s a deadpan sense of humor to much of her work. She often plays with text, and obsessively documents patterns she finds in different locations. She recently began shooting a series of photos of the “Fuck Turkey” graffiti in different spots in Bourj Hammoud. (Ironic for a photographer who now spends much of her time living in Istanbul).

Beirut has shaped Hibri’s work in ways she continues to explore as an artist. She was raised here and returns frequently, always with cameras in tow. In Beirut, she said, she feels free to shoot in an aggressive way – no need to be polite. “When I'm exploring Beirut, I am exploring myself and all the things that have affected me and made me who I am, directly and indirectly.”

But Hibri has no plans to return to Beirut full-time.

“I like being away from Beirut. When you are away from it, you miss it, you talk about it all the time, you describe it, imagine it and yearn for it. It's more romantic this way. And then you come back to it and try to record it all, the good and the bad. You use the city to express yourself and come to terms with what you've become when you were separated.”

You can check out more of Hibri’s work on her website. Head to Papercup in Mar Mikhael on Thursday, May 28 for the launch of the book,"POV Female Beirut", a collection of photos by female photographers, including Hibri.

All photos courtesy of Ayla Hibri.

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POV Female Beirut Gathering (Book Launch)


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