In his series on Lebanon in the 1980s, the photojournalist Yan Morvan sheds light on the various actors and sites involved in the conflict. His works can be viewed at Galerie Folia in Paris as well as in a book published by Photosynthèses (Liban, 2018, 472 pages).
A man is looking down on you, holding your gaze, as he strikes a brash, nearly arrogant pose, a machine gun cradled in his arms. Yan Morvan photographed this fighter while the civil war was ravaging Lebanon between 1982 and 1985. Exploding bombs, crossfire, bullets falling like hail stones… The photographer documented the everyday life of the civilian population in the war zone, posing them in front of the ruins of their homes. We see little girls playing in a bombed-out car; residents standing before the crumbling façade of their house; soldiers standing guard, guns at the ready and eyes alert. The images reveal a whole world suffering and struggling to maintain the appearance of normal life, even while the country is sinking into violence.
“It’s important that we look at these images today so we don’t forget,” says Yan Morvan, adding: “the scenes you are looking at don’t belong to me. I was there simply to show what it was like. My job is to show things.” The photographer’s task is to reveal the quintessence of an armed conflict and our own sense of helplessness before families broken by war, before children who have never known peace… The kids running around in the street have nothing to look forward to but a pile of rubble and a field of ruins. Yan Morvan makes his way into every nook and cranny of Beirut and, against all odds, manages to show that life goes on, for better or worse. Take, for instance, the image of a man walking in the street along a building reduced to a tangle of ruins. The photographer manages to find humanity where death and danger have their dominion. And amid torment, we can sometimes detect a trace of a smile.
By Jean-Baptiste Gauvin
Yvan Morvan, Liban, La Ligne verte
March 20 to April 27, 2019
Galerie Folia, 13 Rue de l’Abbaye, Paris, 75006 Paris