Carla Henoud is a journalist and a photographer and works for a French Lebanese daily newspaper L'Orient-Le Jour. Her pictures for the last three years are specifically about the Corniche (Front Sea) in Beirut, including an exhibition and a book 'Le Chariot de Farah' in 2018. Carla's love for this place shows in her photographs, capturing sweet sceneries set on Beirut's famous Corniche, always featuring the big blue skies and the people giving the viewer that sense of emotion.
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you become interested in photography?
I was born in Beirut, Lebanon. Lived for ten years in Paris, France, during our 'civil' war, and came back home late 90’s. I started taking pictures at 16 years old, with my Canon AE1. Then I studied advertising at the Lebanese Academy of Art (ALBA) and developed this passion since then. As a journalist, photography became also part of my work, as it tells story as well as my words do.
Your photographs, your exhibition and book “Le Chariot de Farah,” a fictional tale set on Beirut’s famous Corniche. What was the inspiration?
As a reporter, I had the opportunity to interview a man called Ali who used to work on the Corniche and sell orange juices on a wooden cart, as his father and grandfather used to do. But the authorities forced him to stop and destroyed it. As I was taking pictures of this and Corniche for about 3 years and had important material and archives I could use, I decided to write my own story inspired by Ali's. Most pieces of the story and the characters are taken from my own family, and I replaced Ali with Farah, a young woman working in a man's "field".
Le Chariot de Farah starts in the 60's and ends in 2018. It describes perfectly what Beirut was and still is. Or maybe what we are fighting for, keeping it a mixed city where people from different backgrounds and religions can live together peacefully.
What is it that you enjoy about documentary photography? Explain your technique? What do you want to express through your photography? And what are some of the elements you always try to include in your photographs?
I find it challenging to go to the same place and discover new things about it. That same place is like my theater; it is the same background with different characters, variant lights, various stories, etc.
The corniche by the sea, in Beirut, is my place of choice; it probably is the only spot in Lebanon that reunites people from different social classes and religions, in perfect tolerance and harmony. This is how Lebanon should be!
Apart from its symbolic aspect, the corniche is also the scenery I always like to capture at all hours and in different seasons. It includes everything I choose to have in a picture: the sea, the sky, the human element and the street. It is urban and nature photography in one.
Therefore, my personal challenge is to ‘cast’ the right human element at the right time in this existent scenery. I have been doing this for 5 years now before issuing the Book “Le Chariot de Farah” in October 2018.
As for the technical part, I always carry light cameras to move easily. I also use wide angles and/or 50mm. No zoom lenses! I prefer getting closer to my subject, establish a quick contact, build trust that might lead to a conversation. No photoshop ever! I remain as close and intimate as possible to what I see. The angle I choose to snap the picture will make the difference.
Being a journalist and a photographer, my purpose is to tell stories through my lens and share (new) emotions.
What is it like photographing on the streets of Beirut? How has the pandemic affected you personally and your photography?
I enjoy going to the same place over and over again (the Corniche) and I always find inspiration. Always able to find and show something new, to discover new people, to meet others that I discovered during all these years and listen to their stories. And share all that. The sky, the sea, a person, are very important in my pictures. And most of all emotions.
Beirut is a living city, so many beautiful and sad things are happening there since 2019. It’s a beautiful destroyed city one can only be passionate about. I love its old buildings, windows, people, sea. I love to find and show beauty in ugliness. It gives hope…
During the pandemic, and different lockdowns (currently in a lockdown at time of interview) streets become empty and the sky, the shadows, the colours are so pure. I just miss people…
Do you have any favorite artists/photographers? Who do you think has mostly influenced your style?
Henri Cartier-Bresson, "un classique” who was able to take great pictures with his 50 mm lens and no photoshop (which I never use). I like also Bruce Gilden, Robert Frank, Vivian Maier, Joseph Koudelka, Martin Parr, Seydou Keïta (even if his pictures are mostly in a studio).
Are there any books that you have read that have inspired your creativity and that you would like to recommend to us?
Do you have a favourite quote/lyric/saying that especially resonates with you?
“Keep walking” is a motto I often bring back to help me cope with what we Lebanese are going through for so long and especially these last two years.
Does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? What camera do you use? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length?
I use a Leica D-Lux, a Fujifilm W-T1 and a Sony. Some are good because, also, they are light and easy to handle. Some are too complicated for street photography where you don’t have time to adjust. I prefer wide angles or a 50 mm lens.
When you go out photographing, do you have a concept in mind of what you want to shoot, or do you let the images just "come to you", or is it both?
When I go out, all my senses are wide open (like a cat!) and just waiting and hoping for the encounter. In the back of my mind, I am always looking for places, people, a mood and a story.
Have you ever been involved in the creative world before photography?
At school, in Paris, I made a short movie with friends (Super 8). A friend, Stephane Drouot, was playing the role of 'director'. He became famous a few years later and got a Cesar for a short movie he wrote and directed late 80’s. He unfortunately passed away…
What are some of your goals as an artist? Where do you see yourself or hope to see yourself in five years?
My goals are to sharpen my eye and emotions even more, to always improve myself and always be surprised by what I do and what I see. I need, now more than ever, to always seek for beauty during these hard times the world and we Lebanese are going through.
Are there any special projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?
After my first book 'Le Chariot de Farah', a fiction with pictures of the Corniche, issued on October 2018 with an exhibition in Beirut, I am planning to do something more with it, as a series or a movie (with of course the help of professionals in this industry). And then start another personal project where I can mix writing and photography. Let’s hope we will have better days in Lebanon to be able to do so…
“When I am not out photographing, I (like to)…