Tuesday, 21 December 2010

A damp day in Alex

 I was in Alexandria on some freelance assignments a couple of weekends back and managed to arrive pretty much at the exact same time one of the worst storms the city has seen in recent years. Western tourists are a bit thin on the ground at this time of year so I think I was something of a novelty for the locals. Fortunately, this translated in a positive way and people seemed very receptive to having their pictures taken by this strange, wet, whitey.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Of ministers and men, machines and magazines

A bit of an odd- ball collection but it's been a busy few days. First up is Lebanon's Finance Minister Raya Hassan, followed by welding in the Bekaa Vaalley, cardboard recycling and, finally, Samia el Solh, editor of the newly formed women's 'business and empowerment' magazine, Push, the first ever issue of which came off the press yesterday.

International Herald Tribune

International Herald Tribune is the "global edition of the New York Times," so having a picture printed in it (that'll be the wee tiny one on the right) from my recent trip to Lebanon's southern border feels pretty gosh-darned premium. That's Josh Wood's uber-massive story it's running with.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

The thin blue line

 Nepal was one of the first countries to supply troops to the UN mission in Lebanon, sending five observers to the country in 1958. Today this modest mountainous country is responsible for the longest section of the UN demarcated 'Blue Line' between Lebanon and Israel, much of which crosses farm land - always a sensitive area when villagers can't harvest crops on land that has been in their families for centuries. I spent an afternoon running after a Nepalese unit as it patrolled such an olive grove, along with journalist Josh Wood for an upcoming piece in Esquire and maybe even the International Herald and Tribune, which would be nice.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Sewage on Beirut beach

Looks nice, yeah? Shame that the lovely reflection is in fact coming from a pool of stagnant water which flows freely from a storm drain straight onto one of the few remaining public beaches in Beirut.
These were for a massive story Executive is running this month by Sami Halabi about the myriad problems within Lebanon's water sector. Sounds boring, but when you've been waking up wondering if you'll have water today for the last few months like many here in Beirut, it makes for a compelling read – in short; government is shit, resources are mismanaged, usual story. I'm sure Sami will have the more eloquent version on his blog soon.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Zabaleen feature for Esquire Middle East

So Esquire gave me and Josh Wood a whole 8 pages for our feature on the Zabaleen. Awesome. Cannae wait to see this in print, which won't be too hard now as they've finally managed to get the Middle East edition on the shelves over here.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Flags for 'Amjad

A love of Mahmoud Ahmadenijad seems to go hand in hand with an insatiable appetite for vigorous flag waving. If somehow the authorities could have tapped the collective kinetic energy Lebanon's flag wavers over October 13th &14th, Lebanon's shitty power situation (3hr+ a day blackouts) could have been solved for good. Hundreds of thousands of grateful Lebanese, mainly Shiaa, filled stadiums in Hezbo stronghold suburb of Herat Hreik and the southern town of Bint Jbeil, which were both fairly well flattened by Israel in 2006 and rebuilt with Iranian cash. And they sure did love waving them flags. I guess when someone's payed for your home to be repaired, horrific human rights abuses far from home can be conveniently overlooked.

Also, if anyone says Hizbullah don't know how to party, then show them this video. I'm expecting a reality-talent TV show appearance anytime soon.

Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah addresses Herat Hreik's Al-Raya stadium

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Tyrant on the tarmac

Everywhere I went over the last two days Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad kept turning up (usually about three hours later than expected). It got a bit embarrassing in the end, we ran out of small talk and just had to avoid making eye contact. It's been exhausting but premium fun, more photos to come...

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Angelo Gaja

Angelo Gaja, apparently quite the luminary of Italian fine wines, was in town to introduce his top-class tipple ($360 a bottle, anyone?) to the Lebanese market. Not providing tasters for thirsty hacks was shockingly remiss...

Friday, 8 October 2010

Good morning Lebanon!

 Alright, so the top one, Chabrouh dam in the mountains above Faraya, was taken in the evening, but the three below required hauling my lazy hide out of bed before sunrise to drive to Harissa,  overlooking the Jounieh bay just north of Beirut. Mornings are great for the soul but for the body, not so much.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Zabaleen - Cairo's unsung heroes

It's the flies that strike you first, followed swiftly by a chorus of curious young voices: "Welcome! What's your name?" and the reserved gazes of the slum's older residents, wondering what this next bunch of whiteys wants with their lives.
More than 60,000 Zabaleen, mostly Coptic Christians, live in Manshiyat Naser (Garbage City) beneath Cairo's Muqattam cliffs. The Zabaleen, literally 'garbage people' in arabic, have made their livelihoods from recycling Cairo's refuse since the 1930s. Despite recycling some 80% of the refuse they collect, the Zabaleen get little or no thanks for their service to the city and often live amid intense squalor.
I visited the Zabaleen one afternoon last week during a trip to Cairo with Middle East reporter Josh Wood after watching the fantastic documentary Garbage Dreams which follows the Zabaleen over a number of years. I can't quite put my finger on why, in these situations, I'm (literally) a pig in shit but that afternoon was the most rewarding and engaging of our entire week's trip. The Zabaleen fulfill such a worthwhile (if unglamorous) role, it was an honour to be able to document their work. Knowing I was able to get a taxi and a shower afterwards probably helped.

Friday, 27 August 2010

In the Guardian...sort of

Above is the picture that didn't get printed by the Guardian along with a story about labour rights of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, which my good friend and esteemed colleague Mr Richard Ian 'Art' Hall had published in last week's Guardian Weekly. The kid on the right is seven-year-old Hasan Hameid, who wants to, but sadly probabaly will never get the chance to, be a doctor.

A publication from back home is a something of a holy grail for us, so congratulations are in order. Anyway, they said they didn't have the budget for my photo and ran a subscription wire picture instead.

However, every cloud has a silver lining and freelancer Ahmed Moor, who worked with Rich on his Guardian story wrote a piece for the Guardian website's 'Comment is Free' section. He needed a mug shot and happened to be filing from our office, so I was more than happy to help him out and, hey presto, got a picture on the Guardian's website. One day it'll be the big one beneath with my name on it. Below is another picture the Guardian didn't like (it chopped his hair off), but it's my favourite of the three frames we took by my office window.

The new Palestinian labour law also came up at Executive this month, below is my favourite shot from a series I took for our story.

Sunday, 22 August 2010


These women hang out in front of the UN building in Beirut, protesting the fact that their sons were kidnapped during the civil war; those still living languish somewhere in the depths of a Syrian prison. Every day they maintain their vigil in the hope of some kind of closure. Syria withdrew from Lebanon five years ago but there has still been no official word on their missing sons, just scraps of hope from fellow inmates who have been released.
Anyone good at French can read more about in Sebastien Malo's article for Montreal broadsheet La Presse.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Airbag upgrade

Possibly my most eye-opening assignment to date, but chances are these shots will almost certainly not get used for the story on health tourism they were intended for – not the kinda thing you want to see with your toast in the morning! After getting me all smocked up, the guys at the clinic were quite happy for me to snap away. The dehuminisation of their patients was probably more unnerving than the gory details; these guys were true comedians and it was easy to forget that there was a real human being amidst all the cutting, poking and stuffing. It was an implant replacement – whip off the nipples and shove in a bag filled with salt water. And all before lunch.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Austere Akkar

Akkar, Lebanon's northenmost region, was pretty much an extension of Syria until their soldiers withdrew in 2005. It's stunningly beautiful but is pretty much goddarn penniless. The three people here are all involved in or own small businesses which have been given a helping hand by Relief International to get their projects off the ground and bring some much needed dollar into the area.