By Eveline Gerritsen
My love for Beirut, and especially the Lebanese people, is endless, and last September I was lucky enough to fly back to Beirut to work on a photo documentary named Beirut’s Silhouette. The documentary contains stories with different angles that tell more about the distressing situation in Lebanon. Lucky? You might think it is a very bad idea to go to a country where 75% of the population is living in poverty because of the economic crisis since 2019, where there is no petrol nor electricity and most shops and restaurants are closed. At night Beirut feels like a ghost town.
However, I consider myself lucky that I am able to make these trips; that I am able to speak to a lot of inspiring people, create wonderful content and be able to create awareness about the situation in Lebanon. But I was extra lucky because thanks to Fujifilm South Africa I could use the Fujifilm X-T3 camera. I am a lover of prime lenses and I had a 50 mm lens that I could use to click my portraits with.
After arriving in Beirut, I could finally experience how good the camera would work for me as a documentary photographer. First thing I noticed is that a lot of people thought I was shooting analogue because of the retro-looking (and weatherproofed) design of the X-T3 camera. I was extremely happy with the ability to personalise settings for the buttons on the camera. There are buttons and dials galore on the X-T3, each of which can be customised for quick access to your often-used features and settings, so you’ll lose less time to the camera’s menus.
Locking the shutter speed and ISO dials was very useful, since I have to place my camera in and out of my bag so often. While looking through the viewfinder I could easily use the joystick to select my focus points, which for me is so much easier than the system I had on my previous camera. So even something simple as a joystick made it way easier to click images in a limited amount of time.
My main focus during my trip was about the work of butchers in Beirut and how they try to maintain the tradition of a family business. I spoke to five different butchers and they all explained that staying open during this economic crisis is more complicated than during the Civil War in the 1980s.
Another part of the Beirut’s Silhouette is about four ambitious musicians who try to pursue a music career in Beirut. I spoke with them last year, after the enormous blast, and they told me how the cultural sector in Beirut was slowly dying. One year later I spoke with them again, and even though many of them got married, their lives became harder and harder. They are all looking for ways to leave the country and how they can earn dollars so that they can take care of their parents. This is because since the start of the economic crisis, most of the elderly don’t have any access to their savings anymore. The government and the banks decided back then to freeze all dollars and give limited access to the Lebanese pounds in bank accounts.
I also drove all the way up to Tripoli to join one of my friends, Samkeh, on a film set for a Dubai comedy programme. There I took a lot of behind-the-scenes photos. It was extremely hot that day, above 32°C, and while I was cooking, I noticed that the X-T3 stayed cool and could handle the heat.
Overall, it was a wonderful experience, and I am so happy that Fujifilm South Africa gave me the opportunity to try out their X-T3.