Lara Atallah: Moments of Emotion

Updated 14 June 2012

Lara Atallah: Moments of Emotion

Ayyam Gallery in Beirut is showing until June 20 the ‘Abandoned School Series’ by the exceptionally talented Lebanese photographer, Lara Atallah, which won second place at the 2011 Shabab Ayyam Photography Competition in Dubai.
Ayyam Gallery with its outlets in Syria, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates, is one of the most prominent galleries in the Middle East representing some of today’s emerging and established Arab artists.
Speaking about the exhibition entitled, “If Walls could Talk”, Atallah says that her aim is to tackle the issue, “the photography is a means not an end”. And that is precisely why “photography is a fine art, a medium of expression which permits one person to convey to another an abstract idea of a lofty emotion”.
Photographs can indeed represent abstract ideas despite the fact that the camera only captures the concrete reality. By choosing how to reveal or hide parts of a subject, Atallah expresses her thoughts. Through this subtractive process of selection, a photographer creates an atmosphere by choosing exactly how subjects are placed and how they interact with each other.
Atallah was born in Beirut in 1989 and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from the American University in Beirut. Since her graduation, her work has reflected her concern for social issues. She has been using different media from podcasts to writing and photography. She has lately expanded her work with a series of photographs recording everything from street vendors to construction sites, with the aim to capture the complex layers of Beirut life.
“If Walls Could Talk” features a series of 12 photographs taken within an abandoned public school on Bliss Street in Beirut. These pictures far from creating a sense of emptiness, loneliness and neglect bring to mind the happy memories of the school brimming with life. The walls, a blackboard with words still written on it, discarded desks and chairs, the majestic wooden staircase, all tell the stories, they have witnessed without the need for words.
These visual compositions not only record the past but they also help us understand more about ourselves and our life in this world. Atallah focuses on two social problems: Gentrification and modernization.
Gentrification refers to that silent, unobtrusive pressure which surreptitiously alters a landscape and its social history and pushes families out of their homes. When Atallah photographs the stunning wooden staircase with its intricate iron wrought work, she not only shows the loss of the city’s architectural heritage but also the loss of basic necessities such as a public school.
Modernization erases the soul of a place and this exhibition “If Walls Could Talk” highlights the social and economical costs of demolishing old schools, old shops and old houses.
This awesome series of photographs has been meticulously composed. Atallah has judiciously used color, the playful contrast of light and shade, as well as lines and shape, depth and unity, to create a stunning work of art.  
Here is a strong young artist who has something to say. Her photographs are not only aesthetically pleasing but they also tell a story.

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Anime adventure as Kingdom joins forces with Tokyo studio

Updated 19 May 2019

Anime adventure as Kingdom joins forces with Tokyo studio


CANNES: Anime, or Japanese animation, has been a favorite with young Saudis for decades and now the Kingdom is about to star in a feature-length production of its own.

Manga Productions, a subsidiary of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Misk Foundation, will collaborate with Tokyo-based Toei Animation to produce a feature film, “The Journey,” which will be partially set in the Kingdom 1,500 years ago. 

Toei, the studio behind animation franchises such as “Dragon Ball Z,” “One Piece” and “Sailor Moon,” will bring top Japanese talent to the project, including character designer Tetsuro Iwamoto (“Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney”) and composer Kaoru Wada (“Inuyasha”).

Manga is keeping many plot and location details secret, but has released a teaser trailer and poster revealing the name of the film’s hero — Aws.

A poster for the upcoming film. (Supplied) 

“The film is talking about old civilizations in the Arabian peninsula — a people who are trying to protect their city from a strong enemy,” Manga CEO Bukhary Essam told Arab News. “The hero has a backstory that no one knows and which will affect the destiny of the city.”

Animation work on “The Journey” will be done in both Riyadh and Tokyo, with 12 Saudis involved in story development, character design, preproduction, storyboards and coloring.  The film will take two years to complete and will employ a production team of over 330 people.

The joint production will help develop Saudi talent so that an industry can be built in the Kingdom, Essam said.

Manga CEO Bukhary Essam. (Supplied)

“Our ultimate goal is to transfer the technology and know-how to Saudi talents so that by 2030 Manga Productions will have the capability to produce animation by itself,” he said.

“Most young Saudis loved Japanese animation when we were kids. We believe it’s time to export our characters and our heroes to Japan and the world. We don’t want to only export oil and petrochemicals, we want to export arts, animation, video gaming and manga to a global audience.”

Essam’s love of anime and Saudis’ passion for the art form helped convince Toei Animation to take on the project.

“It’s not just a movie — it’s about cultural exchange and forming a connection between countries, Shinji Shimizu, Toei’s managing director, said. “Japan is at the top level worldwide, so we can help Saudi Arabia develop its animation industry.

“We Japanese don’t know much about the Middle East or Saudi Arabia, but we know that Saudi people love to watch Japanese animation.”

Manga is employing historical advisers to ensure the film captures Saudi Arabia’s authentic past, while a Japanese team has returned to the Kingdom to scout locations for the production.
According to Shimizu, the Japanese team sometimes gets carried away making designs look “cool.”

“The Saudi team will say, ‘no, it should be real.’ We give honest opinions to each other. Everything is being made with the suggestions and opinions of the Saudi team,” says Shimizu. “Japanese people are not familiar with Middle East culture, but as they make animation together, they learn from the Saudi team about their culture, language and traditions.

“It’s really fun for them, too. We have differences, but I realized from making this animation together that we’re all just human — we are all the same.”

The film will be released in both Japanese and Arabic, with an English version possibly to follow.

Manga and Toei’s first joint production was “The Woodcutter’s Treasure,” a 20-minute animation based on Saudi Arabian folklore. The team is also producing a 13-episode animated TV series.