Beirut is not—or rather is no longer—a beautiful city. Not, at least, in the way one might say that Paris or Rome are beautiful. Even people fascinated by the Lebanese capital bemoan its destruction, first by the war, then by unbridled redevelopment in the neighborhoods that made it so charming until the 1970s. The old palaces and three-arch houses, typical of the Ottoman urban middle class of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, have given way to modern buildings.
And yet when night falls Beirut changes. The lack of public lighting, the cool air, the absence of traffic jams, the lively streets…all this gives the city a new look. It is this Beirut that Giulio Rimondi, a young Italian photographer sensitive to the human dimension of his subjects, photographed from 2009 to 2010: “I worked at night because the semi-darkness erases the frontiers between districts, which are so different from one another in daylight. The streets are quieter, and some are almost deserted.
Something of pre-war Beirut comes to the surface: it’s as if the old city discreetly survives under the new one.” It is suspended time that Giulio Rimondi wanted to record on film. This explains why he chose black and white, tight framing, blurred images, and scenes of waiting. He achieved his aim, producing images that are timeless but not disincarnate. Beirut nocturne captures what is, by nature, impalpable: the atmosphere of a city.
Guillaume de Sardes
Guillaume de Sardes is a photographer, writer, art historian and curator of the 2017 Photomed festival in Beirut.
Giulio Rimondi, Beirut by Night
January 18 – February 8, 2017
Rue Mgr Toubia Aoun
Marfaa D5. imm 1301. 5th floor