In her professional life, Lama Mattar Bardawil is a PhD holder and University Professor in Nutrition. Alongside her Academic and Research Career, Lama is also a passionate and soulful Photographer. She’s been immersed in the World of Arts, painting since a very young age. Lama developed a growing interest in Photography five years ago and has been honing her skills through a mix of self-teaching, seminars and workshops in Paris, Monaco and Beirut.
Lama won multiple prestigious International Awards, the latest of which : Second Prize PHOTOMED LIBAN (January 2016) and Finalist at the Byblos Bank Award for Photography (September 2015). Today, she’s now bridging the gap between Arts & Science.
The beauty, the power and the grace of the Human body fascinate Lama. She’s been highlighting it in her photography as a valuable object of Art in various surroundings.
Her main focus is nonetheless on Identity, Social Belonging and Stereotype. She recently finished working on « Inked Minds » a Portraiture study of tattooed individuals in their own environments, which she will be Exhibiting at the Institut Français Gallery, Beirut, Damascus Road from the 7th of September 2016, till the 30th of September 2016.
As a Photographer also active in Beirut, Lama is in a constant search for diverse profiles of people to portray in their intimacy. In one frame, her striking photos tell infinite stories about the person’s social identity, life, environment and character. Lama believes that by showing distinctively people’s inner circle, she would break the stereotype built around appearances and fight the stigmatisation that certain people suffer from.
Kamsyn took the chance to sit with her for an Exclusive talk prior to the Opening Reception of her show « Inked Minds » for a smooth chat around her (i) Passion for Photography (ii) the Styles she chose to Explore (iii) the Tools she uses in her Craft and most importantly (iv) the Challenges she faced and the Success she achieved as a Woman Portrait Photographer in the Levant.
Why are you attracted to Portrait Photography in particular ?
I have always been intrigued by the identity of people and how each one of us tries to be unique while belonging to different social groups. Portrait photography is the Royal Gateway to prospect people’s feelings of belonging and inner worlds.
Which Photographers inspire you most ?
Why did you choose tattoos as your main subject ? What do you feel it conveys ?
In Tattoos I see primarily Body Art rather than just an Identity label. It’s a sign of assertion of oneself and of a whole universe. So many life stories are esthetically forever engraved onto the skin. They are a means of Expression, not a label. Tattooed people come from all walks of life and are strikingly very different. It’s this diversity & contrast that I chose to Portray.
What camera & Lenses did you use ?
The Canon 5D Mark III, EF 24-70 mm lens f/2.8L II USM . I have always loved working with Canon DSLR Cameras: the sensor performs wonderfully in Low-Light conditions and this Lens in particular gave me the latitude & sharpness I was looking for while shooting in confined spaces.
What did this project bring to you as a person ?
First it helped me have a better understanding of Human nature and Social dynamics related to Identity and Differentiation.
On another hand, photographing the people I met was a great opportunity for me to interact with them as they came from different backgrounds. Finally it helped me express my own conviction that Individuals are in reality very different from the inherited label that society imposes on them. People are free to have different views without being automatically labeled or stigmatized by others.
As a Woman Photographer also active in the Levant, what were your main challenges ?
The challenge was in the treatment of this sensitive subject related to the body and to the identity. Also it’s a road I had to explore by myself and get in very close circles with people I didn’t previously know: I entered their homes, their intimate space, discussed with them their stories, their secrets and the memories etched on their skin.
And your main Success ?
I gained their trust and that is capital. Many of them are sometimes forced to evolve in society like chameleons.
What advice could you give to young amateurs wishing to go professional?
Do what you love doing in terms of projects without thinking that this has been done ! Do it your way. Focus on the projects that come from your own feelings, your gut. Don’t ever worry about having the photos that please or sell easily. Finally, fame is tricky, don’t look for it for the sake of it. It will come eventually if your work is genuine and coming from an authentic place of Truth & Passion.
Visit the Expo at Institut Français, Beyrouth, Rue de Damas 7th of Sept at 6h30 pm till 30th of Sept 2016.
Kamsyn, September 2016