Nighthawks

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Nighthawks [naithɔ:ks] : people who hang out late by the night. (1, Nighthawks): painting by Edward Hopper (1942, oil on canvas, 84.1 x 152.4 cm, Chicago, The Art Institute, 1942.51). || (2, Nighthawks at the Diner): album by Tom Waits (1975, Asylum Records) || (3, Nighthawks): photographs by Gregory Buchakjian into Beirut’s night.

In the aftermath of the war that shook Lebanon in Summer 2006, political and social tensions inside the country were explosive. Partying became a way to escape an anguishing reality. The underground scene emerged more ferocious than ever. I started going out with a compact Leica, my first digital camera. The lens captured more intimacy close ups than dance scenes, illicit products consumption and bodies in explicit erotic postures. As I was one of the partygoers, not an outsider photographer, nobody raised any objection to be shot.

In 2008, a selection of the images was brought up into the Nighthawks exhibition (the title referred to Edward Hopper’s painting). At the show’s preview, many trendsetters were surprised with their own images, not finding them glamorous or daring enough. The mood was melancholic and gloomy. Visiting Beirut a year later, Beaux-Arts Magazine’s assistant chief editor, Anne Picq, saw in these images “war photographs”. In 2011, when the curators of Noorderlicht Photography Foundation undertook the selection of Metropolis: City Life at the Urban Age, they included Nighthawks in the chapter “Deficient,” describing them as snapshots of a “hostile city, where man-made problems make a decent life more difficult” and where “the dream has become a nightmare”

In retrospect, Nighthawks documents a particular momentum of nightlife in Lebanon and intervenes in a fluctuant time in photographic history, after the development of digital photography and before the rise of social media, smartphones and selfies.


related texts:
- Beirut by Night A Century of Nightlife Photography, 2015


selected reviews and interviews:
- Anne Picq, Beaux-Arts Magazine, 01'2010
- Daniel Philips, The Daily Star, 20'06'2008
- L'Agenda Culturel, 23'07'2008


exhibitions:

- Beirut, Comme des Garçons Guerilla Store, May 21 – June 20, 2008 

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- Groningen, Noorderlicht Photofestival 2011: Metropolis - City Life in the Urban Age, Aa Church, September 11 - October 9, 2011
 
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related projects:
- Office Dada Vidéo, 2013


 ©gregory buchakjian. all rights reserved