AFAC convened the fourth round of grantees for the Arab Documentary Photography Program (ADPP) for a workshop in Beirut 4-8 April. The workshop was the second for the group of nine grantees who, for the past 8 months, have been paired with distinguished mentors to develop their projects and benefit from one-on-one discussions. The nine photographers worked on finalizing their photo stories and presenting them to their peers and mentors for an open discussion and feedback.
The participating projects from six countries were: Djinni Diaries by Btihal Remli (Morocco), Live With It by Sima Ajlyakin (Syria), Hoshmar by Mohamed Altoum (Sudan), In Their Place by Rawan Mazeh (Lebanon), The Circus of Life by Fethi Sahraoui (Algeria), Room With Seven Roses by Tarek Haddad (Lebanon), We, The Living Dead by Ahmed Gaber (Egypt), Moon Dust by Mohamed Mahdy (Egypt), The Way to Hell by Hesham Elsherif (Egypt).
The workshop was attended by representatives from the three collaborating organizations: Susan Meiselas, President of Magnum Foundation; Bertan Selim, grants and collaborations program coordinator at the Prince Claus Fund; Noelle Flores-Theard, program associate at Magnum Foundation; and AFAC’s executive director Rima Mismar. The workshop was coordinated by Jessica Murray from Al-Liquindoi.
ADPP invites Arab photographers to explore a range of non-fictional methods of visual storytelling; from classic documentary photography to experimental narrative styles, incorporating different media elements such as video and audio.
Photographers covered subjects that touched on the personal as well as social and political issues affecting the region. Topics shed light on transgender rights, post-war memories, corruption and crony capitalism, rural rituals, culture and celebrations, mysticism and stigma surrounding suicide.
The grantees spent three days on editing and finalizing their photo stories with their mentors, who are prominent figures in the regional and international photography scenes: Randa Shaath, Eric Gottesman, Tanya Habjouqa, and Peter van Agtmael. The last two days of the workshop saw the grantees presenting their semi-final photo selections to their peers, mentors and representatives of the collaborating organizations.
During the presentations, grantees expressed their ideas for sharing their works with a wider audience beyond gallery walls, bringing about social change and highlighting the importance of the image as a tool for free expression. Feedback from mentors and representatives from collaborating organizations ranged from artistic critique, to context and messaging criticism, which opened the floor for more in-depth discussions about photography and self-expression in the Arab World.
ADPP encompasses not only a grant but also training and one-on-one mentorship to accompany the photographers in articulating their photo story. The importance of this initiative in the long-term is to develop a network of authentic and diverse local photographers and to stimulate dialogue with photographers from outside the region who are engaged and working on the region.
Co-launched with the Prince Claus Fund and the Magnum Foundation in 2014, the annual mentorship program has so far benefited 37 photographers. AFAC intends to continue this program for another two years, due to the great interest it generates from artists, partners and donors.