THE BREAKDOWN Ibrahim Chalhoub — ‘In the Shadow of a Dwindling Economy’

Ibrahim Chalhoub is an AFP photographer. (Supplied)
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Updated 02 July 2020

THE BREAKDOWN Ibrahim Chalhoub — ‘In the Shadow of a Dwindling Economy’

The AFP photographer talks us through his viral image of a woman standing next to her empty fridge in Tripoli, taken this year as Lebanon’s financial crisis worsens.

This project is actually a team effort. It started from our regional office in Cyprus, where the head of the photo department, Mario Goldman, wanted to show the level of poverty in a dwindling economy. So, we asked, “What would really make a picture show something like this?” We wanted to take people into the houses of others — those who are mainly poor and hungry — and see what’s inside the house. And to show that type of hunger or lack of daily basic requirements, why not look in the fridge?

This picture was taken in a poor neighborhood in Tripoli called ‘El Kobbeh.’ The woman that you see is 60 years old. She lives alone in a one-room apartment that’s not hers — a man gave it to her to live in. She’s not able to buy food. Traders usually give her leftovers of vegetables and fruits so she can sustain herself on a daily basis. I never met her before, but when I was speaking to friends around me, they knew the houses of people in need and this lady was one of them.

I was able to reach her and told her that I would like to take a picture of her with her fridge open and she said, “No problem at all, because poverty is not a sin.” She told me that she previously had a bigger fridge, which she had to sell. She took the money to buy some food and a smaller fridge.

I was measuring the light, doing all the technical stuff and I took one click — and that was the photo. What touched me about this photo was the woman’s face. She has a face that tells you, “I am weak and nobody is around to help me and I’m alone.” I’m not showing someone in the street begging or taking food from the trash — it’s a lady living in her apartment, and you can feel sadness and darkness in this picture.

After the picture went viral, I received lots of comments from people who were sad, saying: “What is this government doing and how could people live like this?” NGOs have contacted me and a girl called me telling me that she wanted to fill one of those empty fridges. The reaction to this photo was extraordinary.


‘Gladiator’ star Russell Crowe pitches in to rescue blast-hit Beirut eatery Le Chef

Updated 13 August 2020

‘Gladiator’ star Russell Crowe pitches in to rescue blast-hit Beirut eatery Le Chef

  • Oscar-winning Crowe said on Twitter that he made the donation “on behalf of Anthony Bourdain”

BEIRUT: Hollywood star Russell Crowe said Thursday that he donated funds to help rebuild a blast-hit Beirut restaurant on behalf of late food icon Anthony Bourdain, who loved its traditional dishes.
The decades-old Le Chef restaurant, located in the heart of a trendy Beirut district, is a beloved neighborhood place renowned for its home-style cooking.
It was blown to pieces by the August 4 explosion that killed 171 people, wounded at least 6,500 and ravaged swathes of Beirut.
The Oscar-winning Crowe, best known for his role in the 2000 action film Gladiator, said on Twitter that he made the donation “on behalf of Anthony Bourdain.”

“I thought that he would have probably done so if he was still around,” Crowe said of the celebrity chef and travel journalist who committed suicide in 2018.
“Hope things can be put back together soon.”
Crowe’s $5,000 donation was made on a GoFundMe page set up by fans of Le Chef, a restaurant popular with tourists as well as locals in the Gemmayzeh neighborhood that was among the hardest-hit by the explosion.
The online fundraiser raised nearly $11,000 in less than 24 hours, just $2,000 short of its target.

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Le Chef is where Bourdain had his first meal when he and his crew where trapped in Lebanon for a week in 2006 because of a month-long war with Israel.
It is featured in the highly-praised Lebanon episode of his ‘No Reservations’ series.
“Really good food, very traditional,” Bourdain says of the restaurant in the show, calling it a “nice mix” of old and new.
It’s a “good first meal in Beirut.”