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Myriam Boulos: What’s Ours (2023)
Myriam Boulos: What’s Ours (2023)Photography Myriam Boulos

‘Resistance and tenderness’: Myriam Boulos’ portrait of political rebellion

Inspired by Nan Goldin and Daido Moriyama, What’s Ours is the photographer’s acclaimed debut book documenting a decade of personal and political revolution in Lebanon

If there is one picture from among the series of arresting photographs in Myriam Boulos’ debut monograph which truly encapsulates the spirit of her work, it has to be the book’s striking cover image of two women kissing. “I believe this image contains everything I look for in photography: textures, proximity, resistance and tenderness,” the rising Lebanese photographer tells Dazed. 

What’s Ours (published by Aperture) tells the story of a city and a society in the throes of revolution, captured in Boulos’ distinctive style. Shot over a decade – from 2013 to 2023, when Boulos was in her 20s – the diaristic images distil significant moments during this prolonged period of political and civil unrest. “In October 2019, Lebanon witnessed an unprecedented popular mobilisation that brought together people from different sects, social classes, regions, and nationalities, calling for the fall of Lebanon’s political elite,” Boulos explains. “The uprising was triggered by systemic corruption, repression, growing inequalities, and signs of an imminent economic collapse.”

While this body of work, in which the personal and the political are inextricably entwined, chronicles a revolution – beginning at the 2019 protests against government corruption and austerity and culminating in the Beirut port explosion of August 2020 – it also functions as a visual memoir of defiance, courage and rebellion on a much more deep-seated level. “It is a documentation of intertwined revolutions and attempts of liberation, that go from the intimate to the political,” Boulos tells us in a conversation over email. “The title refers to anyone who is fighting any type of normalised oppression. Family, friends and strangers… As an Arab woman, I always try to deconstruct photography’s colonial and patriarchal practice and to challenge the conventional ways of representing our region in photography.” 

Among other images depicting personal acts of resistance, Boulos and her friends would take nude pictures in the streets of Beirut as a way of reclaiming the space and their freedom. “Taking pictures naked in the streets was a way for me to go from feeling like a stranger in my body and in my city, to feeling so present in both,” she explains. “As a neurodivergent woman who masks a lot, I have always admired – almost envied – people who exist in Beirut’s public spaces as if they were in their own living room.”

During the process of accumulating the series, Boulos didn’t necessarily conceive of it as a body of work. Rather, the act of taking pictures was a means of managing her feelings and mediating and transmitting her experiences. “Taking these pictures was a coping mechanism, a way of expressing myself, and a way of documenting to keep a trace and communicate with the rest of the world,” she says. “During my first years as a photographer, I would experience everything through photography. It was my way of approaching life. Photography is a way of getting closer to things, but also a way of putting boundaries. It is also a way of sharing an intense moment with other people, and then being able to spend hours, days or weeks processing this moment while processing the images through editing, retouching and sequencing. Photography was made for my obsessions. It is a way of exteriorising and organising my mind; a way of expressing myself and communicating with other human beings. Some people use words to be heard, I use images.” 

What’s Ours is a life-affirming, absorbing, world-making photo book; a future classic of the genre. Similar to the seminal photographers she admired while growing up, Boulos’ work delineates the territory of its own imaginative terrain and invites you to enter the world it presents. “Nan Goldin, Helmut Newton, Lisette Model, Diane Arbus, Araki, Daido Moriyama and many more, they all mix the personal and the political through aesthetics that are liberating in themselves,” Boulos concludes. “I love it when a photographer has a universe that is so strong that we don‎’t know how they do it, it’s like magic.”

Myriam Boulos: What’s Ours is published by Aperture and is available here now. 

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