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.

Friday, 23 July 2010

The angle of the dangle

Taking the award for possibly the coolest press conference to date (probably the only 'cool' press conference, in fact) was the launch of Dinner in the Sky in Beirut. We were only given champagne, but corporate parties or people scared of flooding can part with enough cash to eat for a year at ground level in exchange for the experience of some serious aerial mastication - Michelin starred chefs, the works. Not sure if it tastes better at 40m high but it's certainly premium fun. Just don't invite someone with a weak bladder. This feature is running in Jazeera airline's August inflight magazine, so they had to photoshop everyone's champagne glasses out as it'll be out during Ramadan; kinda killed the bottom shot as it was nicely filling the space next to his elbow but there ya go.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

At the races

Beirut's horse racing track or the 'Hippodrome du Parc de Beyrouth', to use its official title, is an oasis of history in a city that is barely recognisable from 10 years ago. To walk from the busy highway through it's grand gates for the first time is akin to discovering some ancient paradise - pseudo roman ruins, bushes and towering pine trees float in a lake of trimmed grass, ringed by the dark sandy track. Ascot it ain't, but the concrete stands and formica chairs still waft a hint of the French colonialism which built the place back in 1918. The same old dudes sit in the same old chairs every weekend, unless, that is, they're standing up screaming at their horse.

There's seemingly no visible sign to divide between the 'cheap seats' on the left and the exclusive smoking lounge tucked away in rarified air-conditioned exclusivity, but the unspoken class segregation takes place with impeccable efficiency. Slinging a camera or two around your neck means you get to see the show from everyone's seat, should you chose to, and the race track presents an interesting microcosm of the country's social strata. This place is a goldmine for pictures, so there might be a few more of these to come.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Life is hard...

Sometimes as a photographer and a journalist you get asked to do things that take great courage, to take one for the team... such as trying one of France's oldest champagnes, Ruinart, which is about to forge it's way into the highly competitive Lebanese drinks market. After carefully checking numerous 'flutes' throughout a mind boggling maze of creative canapés (foamed cheesey potatoes or champagne dipped in dry ice, anyone?), I can happily say it's safe to drink. Lebanon, you're welcome. Below, the founder of the feast, Ruinart's Jean Marc Galot.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Fadlallah's funeral

The Guardian had this to say about Lebanon's most senior Shiite cleric, who died of a longstanding illness on Sunday and was buried today. Hundreds of thousands of mourners jammed the streets of Haret Hreik, a suburb in South Beirut on what felt like one of the hottest days of the year so far. The guy in the last frame is misting the crowds with a much welcomed water hose - not so great for cameras. Haret Hreik is usually off limits for photographers who don't have a very good reason to be there, so it was nice to actually be assisted by the Hezbollah officials who'd usually be taking a very different view.

A nausea-inducing stop motion video of all the day's frames is here - first attempt at this, needs some tweaking but it gives you an idea of the scale of the day.