These photographs were completed during four years of travel in Lebanon, which began in 2011. My first trip was quite short and as a result the first photographs I made can be seen as a simple form of note-taking; a way to familiarize myself with what I was experiencing. The images I made in 2011 became the basis–not only for my understanding of the changing landscape–but also for the structure of the society. I left knowing that I needed to return, which I was able to do in 2013. In the meantime, I had gained more knowledge about the country and came with more time and the privilege of having both a teaching position, and a travel grant,. Under these circumstances, I gradually became more embedded in society. Inspired by remarkable exchanges with colleagues, students, neighbors and artists, I began to respond to the environment.
History, as it was related to me, resonated in the places I moved through or spent time in. Surreal encounters and abstract particulars, echoed verbal depictions of present and past situations. Although the photographs are not obviously about community, the interwoven spaces resonate with the underlying tensions that pull at the country. Together, the images exemplify a condition, they are atmospheric. Singly, the photographs are a visual collage of overlapping, wanderings outside the edge, reflections and openings, thereby setting up a place for the story to evolve from. In their complexity, the photographs express a presence; in absence, the individual components or details react to each other, framing a narrative.
Ultimately, I was able to weave together a narrative that embodies a singular impression of the place and its people. On their own, these photographs may appear elusive, abstract, out-of-place. As a whole, the series could not be from anywhere else.
In the spring of 2015, I returned to Lebanon, in order to verify whether the images I had put together were still valid. I was able to make several more photographs to complete the series. If we take a look at what has happened in summer of 2015, with demonstrations uniting the population in their demands for basic infrastructure in their society, meaning water, electricity and trash removal, I feel confirmed by what my photographs have been able to say.
What interested me then and what always interests me is the way that humanism reveals itself in the everyday. The quotidian becomes history and it is this supposedly modest or anonymous history that actually makes our world. I make photographs after I come to an understanding of what I experience. These photographs are not of moments, but of conditions, of states of affairs.
In June 2016 the publication “Confined Space” was released by Gallery Rautenstrauch and Anke Ehle-Barthel and published by Bücher und Hefte Verlag, Leipzig
all images copyright © Laura J. Padgett 2013-2020