25 March 2019
25 March 2019 - Selected by PHmuseum
Combining portraiture with images of nature, Poline Harbali reflects upon the memory of meeting her Lebanese grandmother for the first time in nearly two decades – a personal take on how territories create boundaries between people.
I hadn't seen my grandmother in 17 years. Separated first by fear, then by passports, then by legal papers and finally by a 7-year-long war, we eventually did meet in 2017, for 24 hours. She kept asking my father if I would like to get some rest, as I had travelled from Canada to the Middle-East for just 20 hours, to stay looking at her face for one day before taking my flight back. But as I travelled for a long but safe trip, she travelled by car, for a short but stressful journey from Damascus to Beirut.
I knew the road well, I mean, on Google Earth, as I had planned many times to go to Syria to see her. But this time, it was for real. I was watching my cellphone, asking myself "is she at this point right now? Is she there? Is she safe?" This road from Damascus to Beirut sounded threatening before, but now, its just a sweet, deep memory of her body travelling from one point to another one. It was autumn, the light was very soft, the flowers were starting to fade, and trees were in-between blossoming and fading. We swallowed the spring and it became autumn. How much I love autumn.
Did those 24 hours happen in real life? I'm sure they did not. Even if her face disappears from my mind as a vaporous, ambiguous memory, I still have those trees, those pictures of flowers. Those are for real. It exists in the real world, between the virtual map of the road and the blurring idea of her blossoming face.
Words and Pictures by Poline Harbali.
Poline Harbali is a Syrian-French photographer currently based in Canada. She considers virtual communications as an artistic medium, exploring geopolitical mutations and their impact on human lives. Her first work Mémoires de Famille has been published by The Eyes and shown at La Maison Rouge in Paris. How Much I Love Autumn will be exhibited at Künstlerhaus Lukas in Ahrenshoop in June 2019. Find her on PHmuseum and Instagram.
This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PHmuseum curators.