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Places That Shaped Today's Middle East Left Panel Centre Panel Right Panel

About the Work

Legend has it that St George defeated the Dragon where the bank now stands by spearing it through the throat from his horse and then trampling it under the hooves, finally killing it with his sword. Perhaps Hirari's assassins had chosen this site deliberately.
In 2006, a UN report, sponsored by the USA and the UK, implicated Syria in the murder. Syria vigorously denies complicity.

Left Panel: A painting on wood of St George and the Dragon. I photographed it in a domed church at Ezra'a in Syria. Built in 515 AD, it is the oldest known church dedicated to the saint.

Centre Panel: The new HSBC Bank built amid the shell-blasted rubble of Beirut. Behind the security barriers,but not visible, was an extensive armed cordon surrounding the bank. I couldn't get any closer with my camera without being waved away by guards brandishing sub-machine guns.

Right Panel: a shrine of books assembled to the memory of the assassinated Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik Hirari. While Prime Minister, Hirari used his private company to rebuild much of central Beirut including the HSBC Bank. His motorcade was blown up by 1000 kg of TNT on 14 February 2005 on the Rue Minet al Hosn, at the very place it passes this bank.

Places That Shaped Today's Middle East

The news coming to us daily from the Middle East give us the impression of a battle zone continuously erupting with violence and mayhem. The photojournalist or news broadcaster's job is to seek out the news-worthy event. Rarely do they focus on the quiet before the storm - the moments between events when ordinary life continues.

While travelling through Lebanon and Syria in 2006 - it struck me that the day-to-day reality of people living under those conditions differed greatly from the news-worthy images sent to us via our media. Most of the time very little was happening. What was of the real interest was how the people there lived out their ordinary lives in a landscape scarred with traces of its violent past and present.

It was the ordinary sitting side-by side with the extraordinary that became the subject of Places That Shaped Today's Middle East. Delving into the regions more distant past I tried to trace that legacy through to the present day - excavating the present situation for evidence of a place's historical resonance while somehow capturing the stillness of the quiet before the storm

″I still use the same approach to my work: I get an idea, think of the title and then make the work. So not much has changed since 1964″

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