Title: Sweet Talk: Commissions (Beirut) _ Solidere, 1994-1997
In 1984, as a budding photographer, I was surprised to be hired by a cousin who led a local right-wing militia, to photograph various storefronts. It was my first “professional” job. I proceeded to make pictures not unlike those of Eugène Atget and Walker Evans, my favorite photographers at the time.
In 2019, after my cousin's death, I was contacted by his wife who gave me a paper box containing dozens of my storefront photographs from the 1980s. She proceeded to tell me that her husband's work during the war years consisted of "convincing" businesses to pay his militia's "protection fees." And that those who refused to do so suffered various violent ends.
She also disclosed that the stores I had been assigned to photograph as a teenager were precisely those of owners who refused to pay. She apologized on her husband's behalf and gave me back my images.