Fouad Elkoury

The Museum Crossing

1982, printed 2018

Sorry, no image available

Not on display

Fouad Elkoury born 1952
Inkjet print on paper
Image: 500 × 749 mm
Purchased with assistance from an anonymous donor, The Mikati Foundation and Maria and Malek Sukkar 2019


This is one of a group of photographs in Tate’s collection from an extensive photographic series by the photographer Fouad Elkoury entitled Lebanese Civil War 1977–84 (Tate P82392P82407). The series comprises both colour and black and white prints; Elkoury would often simultaneously shoot a scene with two cameras, producing a colour and a black and white proof of the same image. Taken between 1977 and 1984, the photographs document a period of time in the artist’s native Lebanon that was marked by intense violence between the Syrian army and the Christian militia, as well as the intervention by Israel in territorial aggressions and disputes. The series expresses the internationalisation of the conflict, yet Elkoury adopted a marginal visual strategy, choosing to depict what went on behind the scenes rather than the main warfare and military actions. Scenes of daily life include unexpected or makeshift resources and situations. Previous sites of leisure become sites of memory, and spaces that were once central to the urban infrastructure become temporary spaces of transition. The photographer’s memory seems to come into play, so that the images create a point of stability between destruction and reconstruction, as if the symbolic act of photography as recording the past could gradually heal the sense of traumatic emptiness. Eventually, by methodically avoiding any sensationalist depiction of the violence of war or the loss of life, and by elevating anecdotal detail to a sense of crystallised permanence in his images, Elkoury’s series offers the viewer a poignant insight into his diary of the war – one that is far removed from photojournalism and closer to that of a visual storyteller.

Elkoury established himself as a photographer with an international reputation through work that adopted a Baudelairian flâneur’s attitude to exploring memory in relation to territorial debates and shifting politics through photography. His series Beirut City, exhibited at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris in 1993, demonstrated his distinctively acute vision in documenting the ruins of the Lebanese capital city. Palestine, l’envers du miroir 1996 is another series that extends his relation to territorial politics while expanding his Lebanese work to other key Middle Eastern locations and conflicts. Distinct from photojournalism or reportage, Elkoury’s approach to documentary demonstrates a balance between nostalgia and testimony, conveying both the past and the present and a larger visual culture and memory that references cinema, literature and painting.

The photographs from Lebanese Civil War exist in editions of five. Each is individually titled with a descriptive title that indicates the subject of the image and often its location. Some are marked with the date and month on which they are taken, others just the year. When displayed as a group, their slight variation in size, different orientations and the mix of colour and black and white create an overall dynamic effect.

Further reading
Maymanah Farhat, ‘Capturing Beirut: Fouad Elkoury, Be…longing’, The Majalla, 2011,, accessed 10 July 2016.
Negar Azimi, ‘Mute Witnessess’, in Fouad Elkoury: The Lost Empire, exhibition catalogue, Third Line Gallery, Dubai 2014.

Morad Montazami
June 2016, updated July 2018

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