Lebanese photographer and globetrotter Charbel Bouez was chosen by International Corporate Events, a Lebanese events company, to represent Lebanon at the prestigious Expo Milano 2015, in Milan. For the occasion, he created 15 staged photographs representing various regions of Lebanon and their heritage, traditions and lifestyle. His photos will be exhibited at Lebanon’s pavilion under the theme “Cuisine: the Lebanese Art and Soul” until October 31.

Beirut.com sat down with Charbel Bouez to discuss his experience at Expo Milano and his vision for Lebanon.

Beirut.com: How where you chosen to represent Lebanon at Expo Milan 2015?
Bouez: I was approached by ICE (International Corporate Events) to exhibit my photos about Lebanon at Expo Milano 2015. I was really excited [about the opportunity] and worked hard and thought thoroughly about how to portray a better image for my country so as to attract visitors and tourists to our [part of the] world. I guess my hard work paid [off].

Beirut.com: Why was it important to you to illustrate the theme: Lebanon's culinary heritage, traditions and lifestyle?
Bouez: Lebanese citizens have had an identity problem after the end of the civil war. This identity problem is quite scary since it is directly affecting every town or village in Lebanon. No doubt that the cultural diversity is an interesting added value to this country, but unfortunately nowadays it is no longer defined. I think Lebanon is losing its face, or worse, its soul.

Beirut.com: Why did you decide to stage and not photograph people in their natural element?
Bouez: Staging photos was the best solution for the concept I was working on: portraying a specific region’s culture and food in one single photo. After deep research, I was able through staged photos to create an identity by choosing the appropriate props and also by guiding the subjects. It is very easy to shoot people and culture in their natural element, but my goal was to offer a reference point for people unfamiliar with the region.

Beirut.com: Can you tell us more about a great moment you had shooting your photos?
Bouez: Doing the Jiyeh photo shoot was a lot of fun and unexpected. I got in contact with some local surfers to see if they were interested in doing the shoot with me. I knew that the coming Saturday night they where having a barbecue and camping on the beach after their surfing day, and knew it would be a great opportunity for my shoot! You probably noticed the cauliflowers being cooked by the surfers in the photos. Cauliflower is not often used in the Lebanese culinary traditions but they grow in this region and I was informed that they were planted in a field not far from the coast on one of the surfer’s plantations. That’s why we decided to include them in the photos.

Beirut.com: How do you choose props/actors for your photos?
Bouez: I usually scout the region several times before a shoot to meet locals and ask them if they have any interest in being featured and if I can borrow interesting props and/or furniture they own. Sometimes I get the props from some other places or rent them. It is definitely not easy to convince locals to pose, or to let stylists prepare them for the shoot, but it is a lot of fun.

Beirut.com: What are your future plans?
Bouez: For the coming year I would be more than happy if my company, Charbel Bouez Visual Communication, continues to grow. I will be continuing this series of staged photographs across Lebanon for as long as it takes. I hope to cover all the Lebanese regions and to finally release a book offering a new vision of Lebanon. Last but least, I am preparing two solo exhibitions: one in Lebanon and hopefully another one in Paris.

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