Compiled of and representing personal memories of the four years he spent living and working as a photojournalist in the Middle East (Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq), Discordia is a new self-published book by Magnum photographer Moises Saman. In a close-up and visual representation of Saman’s experiences, the photographs often exude a sense of ambiguity, depicting the ‘fleeting moments on the periphery of the more dramatic events’ that were photographed for editorial publications. Presenting the continuation of daily life in amongst violence and uncertainty, the book is a ‘personal comment on the complex nature of this period, and the ever-blurring line between victim and perpetrator’.
“These photographs were taken while I was working as a photojournalist in multiple countries in the region for publications such as The New York Times, The New Yorker, and TIME magazine. Over these years, the many revolutions overlapped and in my mind became one blur, one story in itself. In order to tell this story the way I experienced it, I felt the need to transcend a linear journalistic language, and instead create a new narrative that combined the multitude of voices, emotions, and the lasting uncertainty I felt.”
Riot I, collage © Daria Birang and Moises Saman
Approaching photographic material in a variety of ways, with long and complex photographic sequences devoid of captions, the book is described as ‘an unexpected and less straightforward journalistic representation of the Arab Spring’.
Alongside a mixture of double page spreads, juxtapositions, isolated images and provocative image comparisons, the book also includes a series of photo collages by Dutch-Iranian artist Daria Birang.
Composed from Saman’s photographs and ‘grainy cut-outs, the collages explore the repetition of human gestures and theatrics that Saman saw repetitively during the events.
“The editing process for an assignment is very different than that when I’m editing a longer narrative. A book in particular needs rhythm, and, as such, I felt that Discordia had to incorporate the quieter pictures that offer more context, the photographs that sometimes are overlooked in the editorial process because they capture moments just before or after the main event. With the collages, the aim was to literally cut out the subject from the context of the photograph and focus on the theatrical body language and expression of the protesters during clashes, rather than opt for the best single image that captured the action.”
Young protestors take shelter behind a barricade during clashes with Egyptian police on the second anniversary of the Revolution. Egypt. Cairo. January 2013. © Moises Saman/Magnum Photos
Bags caught on a tree along a desert road on the outskirts of Gafsa, western Tunisia. February 17, 2013© Moises Saman/Magnum Photos
A man stands with his dog in Sur district in Diyarbakir, the main Kurdish city in Turkey. January 5, 2015 © Moises Saman/Magnum Photos
A makeshift swing made with a plastic chair remains inside a mosque that was occupied by Syria Army soldiers in the front line of the Salahedin district. SYRIA. Aleppo. March 25, 2013. © Moises Saman/Magnum Photos
A Qaddafi supporter holds a portrait of the Libyan leader as fireworks go up in the background on a soccer field in a suburb of Zawiyah where government minders took a group of foreign journalists to attend a staged celebration. LIBYA. March 9, 2011 © Moises Saman/Magnum Photos
Camels at a camel market. EGYPT. Birqash. April 22, 2011. © Moises Saman/Magnum Photos