Italian photographer Gabriele Basilico (1944-2013) is considered one of the most important documentary photographers. For nearly forty years, he has looked at cities around the world and developed a reflection on landscape photography. The “Retours à Beyrouth”exhibition, which presents for the first time the four photographic missions carried out in 1991, 2003, 2008 and 2011, documents the progressive reconstruction of the city and bears witness to the photographer’s great affection for the Lebanese capital.
In 1991, the initiative of the Lebanese writer Dominique Eddé, led the Hariri Foundation to finance a documentary campaign on downtown Beirut, then almost destroyed after fifteen years of civil war. Participating, freely, were Gabriele Basilico, René Burri, Raymond Depardon, Fouad Elkoury, Robert Frank and Josef Koudelka. A landmark book and exhibition followed.
Gabriele Basilico liked clear, structured, closed projects, and hardly ever retraced his steps. Beirut was a notable exception for him since he went there four times, he photographed there in black and white and in color, and even exhibited part of his photographic investigation there. He had the project of publishing a book bringing together all of his four trips but he did not have the time. It is therefore the first time that this work is shown in its entirety and that, on this occasion, Contrasto editions publishes the reference work. We find in this visual investigation which was developed over twenty years the characteristic and rigorous approach of the former architecture student. A permanent reflection on the meaning of frontality and camera angles of view, a desire to decipher the urban space and to make it readable. Gabriele Basilico was not a war photographer and he did not know, at first, how to approach the destruction of the center of the Lebanese capital. After the reportage and the direct confrontation with the ruins, he decided to follow the process of reconstruction. A form of optimism.
Christian Caujolle, artistic advisor
Gabriele Basilico : Retours à Beyrouth
February 1 – May 14, 2023
Le Château d’Eau
1 place Laganne
31300 Toulouse, France