Tabet and Daher went to a place in Beirut that was known as a cruising zone for those in search of gay sex. They took pictures of the men they encountered and of each other. Since the time these photos were taken the park has been closed due to a private development project.
What does the landscape in these photographs represent for you? The City? The Dream? Both, how?
This series is very referential to pictorialism and landscape photography. Landscape in this instance represents liminal space where transgression can occur. I am interested in margins be it in the literal sense (the photographed space is at the edge of the city) but it is also at the edge of myth and at the frontier of the public and the private. It is both representative of the city and the dream, meaning it is the space where the city’s impulses and urges are released.
You talk about the risk--especially for the female body--of being in the space depicted in the photographs. Do you see the traces of this risk in the photographs? If so, where?
There is risk but mostly it is about the woman body occupying a predominantly male space and disturbing its gender dynamics. In the photographs the woman is both subject and object, in front and behind the lens. The camera in this instance acts both as a seduction tool and as an instrument of power. Power roles are reversed.
What do you imagine that the people in The Reeds want? What do you imagine that they are looking for?
That was actually one of the questions I asked the people in the Reeds. Why do you come here? I often received a romantic answer: I come here to look at the sea. A romanticism and a reference to an idyllic place that was very much in discrepancy with the rawness of the sexual games. This added yet another layer of ambiguity with regards to the landscape; what is the relationship between what is imagined (utopia) and how its actually experienced? It also raises questions about language and gender in relation to seduction and sexual predation.
Born in 1983, Lara Tabet is a Lebanese visual artist and pathologist. In 2012, after finishing her residency in Clinical Pathology at the American University of Beirut Medical Center, Tabet completed a one-year full time program at the International Center of Photography in New York and was the recipient of the Lisette Model scholarship. In 2013, she received the Daylight Photo Award Juror’s Pick for her project The Reeds, in collaboration with Michelle Daher. Her work has been featured throughout the Arab world, USA and Europe. The composition and presentation of her photographs clearly demonstrates her background in pathology and inspects the legacy of trauma in Lebanon. Her most recent work contemplates the relationship between the individual and public/private space in connection to gender, sexuality and identity. Her voyeuristic technique explores the human body and its relationship to the city by confronting the interaction between the body and the ideological state apparatus.