On December 2018, I was informed by two of my Libyan journalist friends about this photography competition about Libya that was organised by a “German company” (Candid foundation and Zenith Magazine). Although I was intimidated by the requirements that included photos from Libya but the title of the competition took all my attention and raised my chances of trying to the point I believed that one month in Libya with my camera should be enough for an entry.
The fact that I live abroad does not make the connection between Libya and I any lesser. Surprisingly, the bond went stronger as when you can see it from distance, the vision field becomes wider, the nostalgia is greater per each mile away and the chances of meeting curious non-Libyans about your country must prepare you for answers. So the competition’s title (Libya Uncharted) was the perfect one to express my feelings towards my country under it using the frozen photons I saved in my laptop from there.
It was the first round out of six, under the theme: Identity. The maximum photos a photographer can submit was 12, and that was the number of my entry’s photos! As I found many potential options in Libya’s photos folder on my device that can represent what identifies Libya or at least what Libya means to me! The aspects I have covered are not necessarily related but they all focus on important historical, cultural, artistic and social Libyan details. I tried to gather the elements from stones, buildings, going through humans portraits from different ages to animals. “Connections” or “وصلة” was the title I chose to represent my photos as a one gallery, with a main description that elaborated the idea behind the title, and I quote my last lines of it “.. In the details lies the identity, under the dust of the past lies the solution, and in linking all this, we reach.”
On February 15th 2019, I received my happiest email of the year. Despite not having the highest number of public voting but the judges had another opinion, “Connections” won the first place in the first round of the competition under the theme: Identity. The excitement was completed by the prise of visiting Berlin to attend the ending ceremony of the competition and the opening of the photo exhibition. Visiting Germany was a dream in 2013. Until it was taken from me and to cancel Goethe Institut – Düsseldorf approval admition letter that I had applied for the time I hoped to finish my studies there. However, this time I am actually going but as a photography competition winner which in a way has resuscitated the dream.
I haven’t participated in any of the following rounds, but I checked all the entries of each and encouraged my photography enthusiast friends to give it a try. The experience of finding the fitting photos for the theme itself is fun and worth the participation. Besides it is self-rewarding once thoughts and info searching were done. The knowledge that both the participant and the viewer can gain about Libya is priceless. And that was the reason why I followed the charting journey till the last round on October 2019.
68 Hours in Berlin
A Turkish Airlines flight full of sleepy eyes and excited hearts, has landed on TXL airport on the 10th of December 2019 at 13:35. It vomited a Libyan photographer to step on a European ground for his first time, more excitingly that ground happened to be of the most inspiring city for him, the phoenix that rose from the ashes, Berlin.
I was welcomed by a Candid foundation employee’s smile, Ms Magdolin at the airport who took me to a cozy hotel at Turmstraße 25. The temperature of 3° Celsius was the second to say welcome (or more accurately to give a slap) on the poor Libyan’s face who have spent his last four years in a tropical-weathered winterless country. The night came early and made Brandenburg Gate light up along with the Christmas lights.
The second day and first of the program started with a visit to the Memorial of The Murdered Jews of Europe, and the museum underneath. Then we headed to the Reichstag Building where the country’s decisions are discussed, voted for and made. The inside tour was guided by Ms. Clara who works in the parliament and with her, political talks have never been more fun to listen to. The lunch was in an Italian restaurant that exuded authenticity then we rushed to Reporters Without Borders office to have our arranged meeting with Mr. Christoph Dreyer who started out with identifying the NGO and describing their principles and goals. He was more than welcome to answer a cascade of questions about freedom of press concept and ideas.
Libya Uncharted Photo Exhibition
The gallery was at Torstraße 66 while its official opening was in the evening at 18:00. It started with a welcoming, informative and inclusive word by journalis and MENA expert Mr. Mirco Keilberth, then continued to address the photos and the winners who made it to Berlin that day.
I was no exception from the other winners to present myself and tell the stories behind my photos, right after getting encouragement from the founder of Candid Foundation and the editor in chief of Zenith magazine Mr. Daniel Gerlach to introduce myself first. Although my winning work consists of 12 photos, but only three of them were chosen to be printed out and displayed in the gallery which is open from the 10th to 20th of December 2019. The night was rich in networking and universal laughs despite the skin colour difference. The cherry on the top of that warm night was actually a Pizza at Papà Pane di Sorrento, one of the best pizzeria restaurants in Berlin.
On my last full day of the trip, we were driven to Zenith Magazine office in Berlin to conduct our video-recorded interviews. Another Berlin city tour was waiting for us, but my Libyan rebellious instinct was urging me to skip this one and go solo with my camera and Berlin. no tour guide in photography is better than getting lost.
Winners Panel Discussion
The evening was booked to have the panel discussion for the winners that was hosted by journalist Ms. Asma Labidi, to talk about our experience with photography and journalism in Libya. As well as elaborating about our ideas and what we have learnt from this win and exposure.
The discussion ended with a question & answer session from the audience who asked important and insightful questions that triggered some critical thinking. and by the open buffet later I had to say goodbye to all the great people who were behind this amazing project that opened my eyes to a different aspects of art and journalism, hoping not to be the last.
Berliner Frozen Photons