Bird’s eye view
Zahle-born photographer Clement Tannouri shows the richness of Lebanese landscapes through his images. He speaks to LT on taking photos from above, his love of the West Bekaa and why he returned to his homeland
Clement Tannour i’s photography is like a love letter to the landscapes of Lebanon. His work follows the changing light and seasons, showing flocks of sheep as the r ising morning sun hits the green fields, blankets of wheat that stretch as far as the eye can see dur ing har vest time in the West Bekaa, and pines that delicately stand on spindly trunks. He also shows Lebanon’s r ich lands from an aer ial view, which, af ter being inspired by renowned photographer Yann Ar thus-ber trand, has become his trademark. In a helicopter, with the Lebanese army in tow, he captures views from above of vast green forests that still cover much of the countr y; the patchwork of agr icultural fields of the Akkar region and traditional red-roofed houses in villages that perch on the mountainside. His photographs of fer a dif ferent perspective, showing scenes that are easily missed while dr iving along highways.
PHOTOGRAPHY RUNS IN THE BLOOD.
“At two years old running around with a camera was a casual act. When flipping the pages of a photography album in France and seeing these beautiful photos of Lebanon, a sensation overwhelmed me. This sensation urged me to capture beautiful moments when I visited Lebanon with my parents. Captur ing Lebanon’s beautiful scener y gave me that satisfaction and pushed me to fall in love again and again with photography.”
TANNOURI WAS DRAWN BACK TO LEBANON BECAUSE OF HIS LOVE OF THE COUNTRY.
“I feel that I have a lot of potential that I need to exploit on Lebanese soil. I wanted to contr ibute to spreading Lebanon’s beautiful image to the outside world. I know that it may be hard to believe, but, in France I felt too ordinar y; a boiling energy kept drawing me back to Lebanon. I think it was the cr y of help that I heard [from] Lebanon, a cr y that I couldn’t ignore knowing that I had the adequate tools to help in spreading Lebanon’s breathtaking beauty.”
HE FINDS LANDSCAPES AND WILDLIFE REJUVENATING.
“As you can imagine, it’s God’s most exquisite painting. When talking about nature, it’s pure and ever changing. You never have the same scene; nature changes within seconds. Ever y minute is precious, ever y scener y is special and ever y photograph you take is unique.”
HIS FIRST PHOTOGRAPHY TRIP IN A HELICOPTER WAS IN 2006. IT PRODUCED THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS HE’D EVER TAKEN.
“It was a difficult task since a specific author ization was needed and [there were] many complicated procedures to follow. I took many photographs that I thought were not good enough. You could say that for me the whole tr ip was disappointing; I was passing through a difficult time and couldn’t see things clearly. I was mistaken [though] because af ter a while, and when examining the photographs again, I realized that they were some of the most beautiful photos I had ever taken in my life. They remind me of ver y intimate moments and revive many emotions.”
IN THE SKY EACH SECOND IS PRECIOUS.
“Photos taken from above are so sacred. There’s collaboration between [me] and the Lebanese army that needs to be highlighted and a lot of mental concentration. The margin of errors should be null. You can never pass through the same scene and shoot at the same angle twice noting that the landscape changes within minutes depending on the weather and wind’s speed. Many natural factors come into play. In addition to the mental concentration there is a physical endurance [involved] since the wind’s speed and intensity are relatively high.”
FOR TANNOURI, CHOOSING A SHOT IS NOT ABOUT THE BEAUT Y, IT’S ABOUT FEELINGS.
“98 percent of the time the intensity of the scener y is what motivates me to take the photograph. This may sound odd, but it’s the secret dialogue that I have with the scene. [It’s the] secret stor y that it holds, the secrets that need to be revealed.”
THE WEST BEKAA HAS A SPECIAL PLACE IN HIS HEART.
“It is by far the most magical place to take photos. It has an extraordinar y beauty and the nature is just breathtaking. Mount Lebanon is pleasant as well but ever y time I go and shoot in the West Bekaa I get carr ied away by its allure.”
Tannouri catches Jounieh Bay at the golden hour