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By George Awde
A great city – especially when it sprawls without real limit, like Beirut – can quickly dazzle us with the height of its towers, the noise of its avenues, the density of its crowds. Even though George Awde makes photographs in the heart of a Middle Eastern metropolis, this is not the image of the city that he seeks to transmit. A chaste, unblemished light – fit for the world’s first morning – shines even between skyscrapers and amidst piles of debris littering half-abandoned construction sites. His scenes often take place immediately after rain, as if a thunderstorm had washed Babel clean. Fragile flowers wedge up through cracked concrete.
The Syrian children and young men who people these images also seem to belong to a world made new, strangely recalling Christophe Honoré’s beautiful contemporary reinterpretation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Their partial nudity does not so much appeal to desire as hold social roles at bay. Their togetherness, the tenderness which unites them, is that of utopian communities. George Awde seeks out the first impulse of being-in-the-world, far from the illusions that fascinate “advanced” societies. That’s why the gazes of his subjects have something so deep and serious about them, rendering insignificant the forced cheeriness of magazine portraits.
George Awde photographs refugees, forced to come to Lebanon to escape the war dragging on in neighboring Syria. But he respects them too much to reduce them to their political status or to cast them as actors in a scene rich with suffering. Awde restores to these models their full dignity, their singular beauty. Their large somber eyes do not ask for our pity, with all the condescension and clear conscience that would imply: rather, they call for our brotherly admiration.
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