The Beirut-based photographer Roï Saade discusses his viral image of Lebanon’s ongoing protests
This photo was taken on a bridge in Jal El Dib — which is on the north side of Beirut — on October 23. This particular day was very interesting, because there was some sort of momentum due to a lot of soldiers and citizens joining the roadblocks. It’s an image of two people under the flag, and I think there was interest in this photo because it has a sort of resemblance to René Magritte’s image of a couple — covered in a cloth — kissing.
A good image strikes a balance between geometry or form and content. I think my image is visually interesting and not something you see every day; it’s a bit mysterious — you don’t know who is under the flag. There is a symbolic element of unity with no reference to sectarianism, and people relate to that. My images are not quite photojournalism — they do not describe a certain event — they’re more about ideas that I relate to or have experienced.
I felt that there might be hope in change and I felt the need to document or archive the revolution, as I wanted to be part of it regardless of the end result. I also wanted to connect with people who I don’t feel have the same hopes and way of thinking as I do. I thought, like many, that I’m living in my own bubble. What was on my mind most of the time was the idea of what it means to be Lebanese — which is an ongoing question, because things are divided.
When I was pasting this image on walls in Downtown Beirut, a few questioned the motive behind the photo. Knowing how everything is politicized and labeled in Lebanon, it was interesting to see that people want to know the meaning behind something. In general, I’m a photographer who believes in images that you can relate to. I don’t like to caption my images in a descriptive way. I prefer for people to interpret the images the way they want, based on their experiences.