The image I had in my memory from 8 years ago, driving down Nabatieh’s main roads and seeing Hezbollah’s flags and banners of their leader Hassan Nasrallah, some of his allies and others of dead soldiers who fought in the ’06 war, these banners fluttering in the breeze, did not change at all when I went back in 2016. Everything is still the same as the last time I visited. The quietness and stillness right when you go through the regular checkpoint driving from Beirut to Nabatieh chases you throughout the drive. You feel like you are driving into an open, well organized military base where soldiers have no uniform and little military discipline. You do not know with whom you are talking. Is it a regular citizen or someone who works for Hezbollah.
When I visited Nabatieh 8 years ago I was not there to photograph it, so I did not realize how problematic it would be to be there as a photographer until my recent trip. The main reason it is an issue, is because you do not know with whom you are talking—an innocent bystander, or an operative of Hezbollah. You are always worried that your gear will get snatched away from you and are routinely held for interrogation.
As an outsider I noticed that people are less trustworthy and always feeling worried and anxious when they see a newcomer, especially a photographer. No one wants to share his or her story; no one wants to talk about anything related to Hezbollah or the war. This has created this kind of distance between me and the life in Southern Lebanon that I wanted to capture. There was a lot of restrictions on what to photograph and what not. From specific streets to neighborhoods, and people. No one wanted their photos taken which is extremely odd from my past experiences as a photographer.
When I visited the South of Lebanon 8 years ago, I noticed signs while driving around that either say “this area is clear from land mines” or “Land mines are still under investigation.” It has been 10 years since the war now and there are still organizations like Generation Organization for Demining (POD) and The Mines Advisory Group (MAG) to clear the area from land mines that Israel planted across the southern region.
These images were taken spontaneously and in stealth most of the time: due to the prohibition of photography in most public spaces. This is a story based on my own experience as someone who grew up in Jordan, seeing Southern Lebanon as an outsider.