Beirute 75-15

Beirute 75-15

Stéphane Lagoutte

A photographer falls in love with a Lebanese woman who brings him to her city, Beirut. He is astonished by the confluence of the present, the past, the historic and the archaic. He takes his camera, and in so doing he slips and sinks into the cracks.

Streets intertwined, figures watching from their windows, buildings riddled with painful memories. For love the photographer wanders. An abandoned luxury hotel, and beneath it, hiddean below the city, a nightclub asleep under a shroud of dust. Here, in the darkness, he stumbles on the negatives of another photographer, perhaps dead – the images of a ghost.

For three years the photographer walks these winding Lebanese streets. The images accumulate but it’s not enough. His images are sterile. Something is missing.

Back in Paris, he unearths, carefully, one by one, the old, forgotten negatives. Another life appears. Men and women dance, drink, talk, laugh and love. They are not scared, not yet. This is life before 1975. Before the civil war which left no one unscathed.

So like a couple who find one another after years of separation, today’s pictures lie on top of those of yesteryear. Beirut 1975 – 2015. In a superposition of time, two lonely souls meet and embrace. The photographer, Stéphane Lagoutte, creates an amplified and moving sense of the present.

His images do not show, they act. They do not stop time, they deploy it.