In the search for the mythic in the great ruins of ancient Lebanon, I found it along the route in equal measure.
Through my photography in the Middle East and Eurasia, I examine the contemporary meaning of the monumental during a period of substantial cultural and infrastructural development across what was once the Silk Road. The monumental visible today, in addition to comprising the ancient wonders of Lebanon’s Baalbek or Jordan’s Petra, includes construction projects, agricultural endeavors, amusement parks, and individual industry. The regions are transforming as a great tourism program sweeps across mountain ranges and steppes, tourism often equated with opportunity in areas where opportunity seems a vacant premise.
I approach this industry of tourism as an intersection of commodity and art, of sublimity and fetishization, and of hope and fatalism as individuals, communities, and nations present themselves to a global public and to this solo female traveler. In places of strife, poverty, and lack of basic infrasture like clean drinking water, I am told repeatedly that tourism is the only possibility for an improved future. I am never told this with resentment; people look outward to foreigners with great welcome, reserving critique for failing internal systems. With neither irony nor glorification, I attempt to portray the dignity, the abject, the grandeur, and the forlornness of a part of the world whose polyglot spirit, before overwhelmed by paranoia and fundamentalism, once made it a major learning and commercial center of the world. To lace the sublime and the degraded tightly together, my aesthetic marries Transcendental painting, Sebastião Salgado-style reportage, and European conceptual industry photography in the vein of Berne and Hilla Becher. My hope is that the viewer comes to understand this part of the world as layered, magnificent, under pressure and in both routine and chaotic transformation.