BEIRUT: Lebanon is not a huge country. New tower blocks jostle for space with Roman and Phoenician remains, Crusader castles, Ottoman palaces and a Modernist structure or two.
It’s little wonder, then, that trees and such have such a hard a time. Nowadays Lebanon looks a little smaller.To honor of Lebanon’s rich cultural heritage, while raising environmental awareness, Lebanese photographer Jean-Claude Bejjani has created a photomontage, one that assembles Lebanon’s many national treasures.
Part of a larger exhibition entitled “Lebanon in 3-D,” this enormous Photoshop vista-on-flax – displayed on what event organizers boast is the world’s largest 3-D billboard – is currently on display at Ajami Square in the Beirut Souks.
At first glance the billboard is an incongruous thing – a chaotic jumble of ruins and statues plastered on the side of the Beirut Souks like an enormous advertisement, curiously deployed bands of red and green rendering the image perpetually out of focus.
It is only once 3-D glasses are donned that the image springs into focus and the full impact of Bejjani’s collage really hits home.
On the left a bright yellow cable car – abstracted from its usual ambit, between Harissa’s towering Virgin and Jounieh’s throbbing, multifarious nightlife – makes its way serenely over the sea between Raouche’s Pigeon Rocks and the 13th-century Crusader sea castle, usually situated in Sidon.
To the right of these newly displaced landmarks, a small patch of dusty earth boasts a host of monuments.
One of the two figures lying prone at the foot of the Martyrs Statue appears to extend a pleading hand toward the statue erected in honor of assassinated Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Ain al-Mreisseh.
Behind them, the imposing doors of the Grand Serail tower above everything, including the six remaining pillars of Baalbek’s Jupiter Temple, the tallest ever erected.
A flourishing cedar tree spreads its wide branches from Baalbek on the left to Beiteddine on the right.
The beautiful courtyard of Beiteddine Palace in the Chouf Mountains is augmented by a statue that looks not unlike the ascetic rendering of Khalil Gibran more often seen gracing the courtyard of the Khalil Gibran Museum at Becharre, in the Qadisha Valley.
The photograph is completed by the Roman arch at Tyre and the ruins of Byblos and Anjar.
Bejjani has found room for these too, along with half a mountainside and a whole village, perched precipitously on the side of a plunging cliff to the far right of the billboard.
If nothing else, the photographer has made efficient use of the space.
Upstairs on the second floor of the shopping mall, thirty of Bejjani’s less surrealist photographs of Lebanese landmarks are also on show, taking the viewer on a three-dimensional tour of the country’s most interesting locations.
Bejjani’s work does a good job of reminding the viewer that for a small country, Lebanon has an incredible wealth of history and natural beauty.
In a summer when the country is suffering from the lowest number of tourists in years, this is no bad thing.
Though the sites Bejjani depicts in 3-D do not reside in quite such happy proximity, those inspired to visit the actual locations will find that they aren’t actually that far apart and that – contrary to what the billboard might suggest – the normal rules of perspective and gravity still apply there.
Jean-Claude Bejjani’s “Lebanon in 3-D” is up in Ajami Square and Arwam Street in the Beirut Souks, Downtown, until Sept. 22.