A Cell In The Sea

It all started in a wintery weekend in February in Beirut, I felt like going out and taking some photos photos, I was chasing the sun, and I spotted a group of men bathing by the sea, they were from different ages, 30-70s, tanned, muscled and tattooed, they looked like burned out characters from some old novel. I took their portraits, laughed and left. But the thought of coming back stayed on my mind.
A year later I went back, the men were there, actually they are always there, regardless of the weather, of which day of the week it is, or what’s going on in the city behind them. I started walking around with my camera, taking photos from different angles and I spotted a group of mid-aged men, sitting on a rock, it looked like a secluded spot from the rest of the space. From distance they looked kind of dangerous, and rough, though they waved to me and I approached them. They were overwhelming. They had oily skins and big strange tattoos. They asked about the camera, they wanted to know if I was a journalist or a reporter of some sort. I assured them that I was not and I’m only taking these photos for a personal project. They offered me beer, and started to joke and play while I took photos without asking them personal questions, just small conversations, n’ laughs.
On my second visit, I brought with me the photos I had developed for them, they liked them. That made communication smoother and they seemed more relaxed. They started to make different jokes about the way they look, this helped me notice the bond between them and how complex free they can be. I noticed that one of them was talking on his cell phone, he was talking to his friend in jail, and then he passed the phone to the others to salute their mate in detention. How is this possible? How can you talk to a prisoner on a cell phone? I was curious to ask. The answer was a laugh…and the discovery that these same men were all in prison, ex-convicts. They shared the same cell, the same life for years, and now they come here everyday sit on this rock drink beer, laugh and contemplate the sea.
That was enough for me to realize that this group is my main point of interest in this scenery.  The way they come on their scooters, the way they sit together, drink together, joke, and tell stories about prison and their lives.

I am interested in pushing this work further; I want to find the perfect balance between the poetry the scene imposes on me, and the urge to reflect on detention and its effects on humans.

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