Penned by Dani Arbid (writer, Director of Barakunan)
In the photograph: Dani Arbid
Photo © Ayla Hibri
In Walid Nehme’s embrace of the intimate we encounter an essential chaos, subdued in the comfortable coexistence of black and white. The image that follows resists the static qualities of photography through a purposeful disembodiment of time. As if each photo were staring back with an air of importance. No doubt, this importance stems from Walid’s own experience, drawn into the web of his subjects, placed elegantly in the ruins of their time. We are relieved of the burden of wondering: who is this speaker, daring to expose their most intimate faces? In a context where images of children playing often exists as an early indication of their suffering- their inescapable displacement in the moronic struggles of our time- in a region that renders quiet, the sublime, Walid’s work probes an essential space between the living and the lifeless, between the silence of distance and the orgiastic turmoil of immersion.
Dwelling in a distance that is both comfortable and abrupt, one might ask, what is the reason for his reluctance? Why won’t he dive? Is he protecting himself, or is he shielding us from some pain or deep perversion- within the world, within himself? This is the decision the artist must make. To become the subject, implicated in becoming what they have perceived, or to admire the subject from a distance, free from implication. Distance presupposes two parts- a parallel of the dichotomies inherent to our world. Who is the subject of these portraits, we ask? The image the author wants us to see, or is it the author themselves- wishing to be seen in the reflection of what they have gathered? We crave to jump into the photograph, to absorb all that is revealed through loss. He is saying: look, here is a scene so sacred I am almost afraid to touch it, to change it, to disturb its slumber. As if to say, I am afraid for your sake, but also for mine. Perhaps if we never take the leap, if we refuse the desire to grasp the moment before us- to live inside it- then we will never have to give it up- we will never lose it, as we can never lose what we never had. In this case we may never understand it. In the artist’s case, it may not understand him- the man behind the camera, watching from afar. The voyeur is thus shielded from the pains of that which lies at the heart of their subject.
In the absence of a continuous peace of mind, what can be more fitting a focus but a slight recline into the intimate- to meet the shadow of our force? Two men naked in the salon, generations apart. Is it desire to be read in the eyes of our subjects? Or is it a sincere apprehension of future pain? A father losing his son - a boy losing his father; a family torn apart by discord and dissension. How many homes lie in ruin in the countries we occupy? The author condemns us to seeing what we try hopelessly to put aside- what we have achieved in our brief time. One might say the photos are normal, normalized in their embrace of sentimentality and portrait. Distinctly lacking in color- or variations of tone- one might say they were common pictures, that do not escape into the sublime. In which case one might ask, how does one normalize pain? The artist seems to have found a way. To hold with piety the profanity of everyday life.