When Walls Become Abstract Art: A Fresh Look At Beirut And Its Architecture

"It is not about what you see but how you see it." These are the words Lebanese photographer Serge Najjar uses in his Instagram bio, and the quotation is a perfect description of his talent and his work.

Originally from Beirut, Serge grew up drenched in Lebanese culture and surrounded by a variety of buildings: in ruin, under construction, and under re-construction. Since a tender young age, Beirut and its vibrant energy have been the photographer's primary source of inspiration.

An abstract aesthetic

Constantly seeking unique architecture to capture, Najjar's photos are minimalist, abstract and colorful, turning walls into abstract art, with shadows that add to the depth of the images and human figures are barely distinguishable. Totally captivated by his environment, Serge takes all his photos on daily walks through the city, getting lost among the various facades, caught between new modernism and ancient city.

The city is clearly full of inspiration, as it seems to be becoming home to more and more young architects and designers. Last November, Beirut opened the Aïshti Foundation, whose work has been recognized the world over. The city is beginning to fill up with repetitive, geometric forms, high-color patterns and modern buildings. As Serge Najjar explains to Lens Culture:

"Every Saturday I drive my car towards a destination, still unknown, and guide myself by my instinct, by light and by whatever attracts my eye.

At some moment, I stop. I position myself. And then all I have to do is wait for something to happen.

In most cases, what captures my attention are the architectural details. My aim, then, is to try and get closer to abstraction (within the real world). I try to look at my everyday surroundings with a new eye."

He practices his art within his environment to the point of transforming it. In an interview with Wired, Serge says more about his city:

“Beirut is a wonderful place for an architectural freak like me. Construction has been booming since the end of civil war and the country has a rich variety of buildings. Photography made me realize that I didn’t know my country as well as I thought I did – that it was possible for me to look at it with a new eye [and] redefine what I saw through my lens in a subjective way."

The simple act of photographing what he sees around him offers the photographer a new perspective on the world, thinking about the angles, shapes and shadows, playing with the light and darkness. And we have to say, his method is clearly a success.

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Rédactrice en chef de Cheese et ex-Sorbonnarde, on ne m’a pas demandé si j’aimais le fromage avant d’arriver ici. Mais j'aime bien le fromage, donc tout va bien.